A Woman’s Guide to Dealing with the “Man Cold”

In order to help my fellow women, I’ve devised the following easy, 10-step guide to deal with your man when in the grips of a man-cold.

We’ve all heard of the infamous “man cold,” the one that knocks out the man in your life and makes him feel like he’s been hit by a Mack truck.
I’ve often wondered what makes this cold so different from all the other colds. How it is that these big, strong, virile men can be so crippled by the common cold.
And then I realized it’s not the cold. It’s the men.
I now understand why, when the kids come home contaminated, men distance themselves as soon as possible, and why, when men show signs of a cold at work, they get sent home immediately. Their male co-workers encourage them to go home so they don’t catch it and female co-workers understand that a sick man is not productive.
Ladies, this is serious. This is a big deal. The man-cold is not to be taken lightly.
In order to help my fellow women, I’ve devised the following easy, 10-step guide to deal with your man when in the grips of a man-cold.

Step 1: Understand that while this does, in fact, present just like the common cold – the cold you had last week, in fact – it is a much bigger deal.
Step 2: Know that while in this situation, you can NOT under any circumstances, let he who is sick, know that you know this. If you must express this sentiment to someone, please, call your mother. She understands.
Step 3: Sleep is the best remedy. Quarantine him to his bed. (Yes, I know this is often your bed, too, but it’s time to take one for the team.) For when he is sleeping, he’s not whining. At least not as loudly.
Step 4: Medicine and whiskey will truly make him feel better, even if he doesn’t need either. The placebo effect of Tylenol or Ibuprofen for his aches and pains is real. The whiskey will help him sleep, and stop whining. Refer to Step 3.
Step 5: Continually check his temperature to verify that he is, indeed, sick. Men feel comforted by knowing that their illness has a quantitative aspect. If the fever is climbing, they are getting worse. When it breaks, they are on the road to recovery.
Step 6: Don’t suggest a doctor. Men do not like the doctor. Even men with man-colds don’t like the doctor. When hearing the suggestion to go see a physician, they will say, “It’s not a big deal. It’s just a cold.” They don’t really mean it’s just a cold; they simply don’t want to see the doctor. Why? Refer to Step 2 and call your mother.

Step 7: Prepare yourself for the recovery. The amount of food that will be consumed once he begins to feel better will shock you. Lots of food will be required. You’ll probably need to shop, so plan ahead.
Step 8: Nothing else will get accomplished during the man-cold. Men cannot multi-task when sick. They can focus only on one thing, and that thing is getting better. Please, do not ask them to do anything else as it will hinder the process of getting better.
He will proposition you for sex, because he feels slightly better at that moment. But don’t ask for anything else because it’s just not going to happen.
Step 9: Enjoy the silence. It’s like poker night. You can watch whatever you want on TV, stay up too late reading your book, and have some time to yourself, periodically interrupted by checking in on him, of course.
Step 10: After he is well, there should be no mention of the cold. It is in the past, hopefully never to be repeated. Definitely clean the sheets, disinfect, change toothbrushes, etc., but not because there was a cold, because ‘it’s time to do these things.’
That, my female friends, is my suggestion on how to navigate the man-cold. I’m sure that our mothers and grandmothers did so with much more grace than I can generally muster. I generally catch the cold from the contaminated kids and then, despite my protests, the husband kisses me anyway. Then just as I’m feeling better – BOOM.
I strongly urge you to not share these tips with the men in your life. They don’t need to know all our secrets.
I have one son at home. I am going to try my darndest to stop this vicious cycle from continuing. At a young age boys are just like their sisters when they’re sick – cuddly and adorably pathetic. They just want their Mom. I’m not sure when this all changes. Maybe it doesn’t change.

Now that I mention it, maybe my mother-in-law will come out and take care of him next time.

My Husband Gets Too Much Credit for Being a Good Dad

For the benefit of all of our families, it’s time we come to see involved and engaged dads as an expectation, not an exception.

I think my husband gets too much credit for being a good dad. Before I come off as a complete cold-hearted witch, I should tell you that 99 percent of the time he agrees with me on this subject. The other one percent of the time occurs when he hangs out with a friend or two who never get up in the middle of the night with their kids or handle bath time. Then he wants extra credit for doing these things.

Sorry buddy, no soup for you.

It started just days after our first son was born when my dad told me, “Josh is a really big help with the baby, isn’t he?”

I was sleep deprived and hormonal and went on a slight rampage. “He’s helping me?! How about I helped him by growing his damn child in my uterus for 9+ months, then having major surgery to remove the kid from my uterus, and now keeping the kid alive with nothing but my own body fluids!”

I know my dad meant well, but it probably wasn’t the best time to tell me how lucky I was to have a husband who changed diapers.

I understand that there is a generational gap here. My brothers are 40, and my dad still talks about the times he had “to babysit while your mom ran off with her friends every week.” And by “ran off”, he means went to an exercise class for an hour. Forty years ago, not many dads got up to change a diaper if their wife was in the same vicinity, so I can understand that men in his generation are likely to be amazed at how involved my husband is.

Most of the time, however, these comments aren’t from grandfathers. They’re from women my own age.

Think of the last time you traveled through an airport. Did you see any parents traveling alone with young children? Let me guess: you glanced sympathetically at the moms and all but fawned over the dads doing the same thing.

When our daughter was about a year old, Josh took her to visit his mom. Everywhere he went he was stopped by women telling him how sorry they were that he had to travel alone with a baby and what a good dad he was for doing so.

He came home saying, “Don’t worry, I defended you and told everyone that you were home pregnant, working, and dealing with a three-year-old.” He is a better person than I am, I would have made up a story about a deceased wife or deadbeat mom, handed the baby off to the first drooling, sympathetic passenger who believed my sob story, and ordered a Bloody Mary.

More recently, an acquaintance found out where we lived and said, “Oh, I know that house! Your husband is such a good dad!” She went on to say how she always sees him in the yard playing with the kids and can tell just how much he likes being a dad.

To which I awkwardly responded, “Yes, he is a good dad! We both like our kids a lot!”

I wasn’t offended, I just honestly still don’t know how to respond to these statements.

Josh and I started the conversations about equal parenting long before we were married. I was well aware of the fact that moms are still expected to handle the brunt of parenting, and I was terrified of losing myself in motherhood. He knew going in that I needed him to be a full partner if we were to have children.

Despite this, the road to equal parenting was rough. When you have carried and cared for a baby for nine months in utero, it’s not easy to turn those responsibilities over to your spouse. I would imagine it’s even harder for a spouse to simply take them over.

Through trial and error – or, more accurately, yelling and resentment – we have figured out roles that work for our family. We’ve learned to be flexible as the demands of career and home change. We also know that what works this season may completely change the next.

So yes, my husband is a good dad. He spends time playing with the kids and takes his turn disciplining them. He volunteers for field trips, visits classrooms, coaches youth sports, helps with homework. He is loving, supportive, and involved in every aspect of our kids’ lives. He’s more than a good dad. He’s an amazing dad.

For the benefit of all of our families, it’s time we come to see this as an expectation, not an exception.

“Dear Parent Co” tackles: How to stop keeping score

Dear Parent Co. –

My husband and I are constantly keeping track of who does what in our family – specifically the necessary day-to-day tasks. It’s become a competition and a source of resentment when the tallies seem unbalanced. We don’t do it consciously but I know it causes problems. Is this common? How can we stop it?


Habitual Scorekeeper

Dear Habitual Scorekeeper,

Living with a running tally of who does what in your relationship is as common as, well, relationships. It often seems as if we’re hardwired to look for absolute equality in the parental responsibility realm. The thing is, it’s an impossible desire. The list of responsibilities will likely never be equal. So we’re doomed to spend our lives pissed off that we’re getting the shaft or feeling guilty that our partner is carrying more than their fair share.

Unless we work at NOT feeling that way.

According to my psychologist (who is a genius) this whole mess starts when we are kids ourselves – usually with sibling rivalry. We learn early that in order to gain the love and affection of our parents, we have to stand out and “do more” than our siblings. We start keeping track as a way to prove we deserve appreciation, recognition, love.

If you’re an only child, chances are very good that you received the memo about using competition to set yourself apart from any one of a thousand other possible sources.

When you look at the tit-for-tat situation you’ve got going on with your partner in this light, can you see what it’s really all about? My goodness, it’s still about love. You’re still doing this for appreciation. As my brilliant psychologist explains, “we’re much more willing to actually put in more to the relationship if you have the sense that you’re being acknowledged and appreciated and really understood for what you’re doing.”

This is incredibly good news; it tells me that you love your partner very much and you want him or her to love you back. It’s that simple. If you weren’t keeping track of how much you do for this person, it might indicate that you just don’t care anymore. This would be a completely different conversation if that were the case.

So let’s work from the perspective of someone who is very much in love and looking for some indication that your partner recognizes how much you love him or her. Here are a few ways you can start to change your perspective when it comes to the mental scorecard, even eventually (and with lots of practice) moving away from the habit altogether:

1) Switch roles from time to time. There is simply no better way for your partner to gain empathy for all that you do on a daily basis than to be you for a day. (Maybe two or three.) If you’re the primary caregiver this will likely require that you go away for a weekend or at least an overnight.

2) Make a chore chart. Ugh… I know. But having some of your jobs, the really mundane ones, explicitly laid out is a great way to eliminate any argument surrounding them. Don’t look for your respective lists to contain the same number of duties – rather, divide your household responsibilities based on what feels fair. If there’s a big, time-consuming job that one partner doesn’t mind doing, let that count for two or three on the other side of the tally. Be sure to also include a timeline with this chart. It’s important that both partners know and agree on when this stuff is going to get done.

Follow through is HUGE here. The worst thing you could do is to establish this agreement and then fail to hold up your end of the bargain. This leads to someone feeling lied to and betrayed. Can you think of two more damaging emotions when it comes to your partnership? I can’t. Be extremely honest about what you’re willing to do when you’re crafting this list, and then be honorable.

3) Think of all the good! My guess is that you wouldn’t be asking this question if you didn’t know, in your heart, gut, core, wherever, that there is a ton of good in your relationship. Make an effort to focus on that stuff more often. Do your part to appreciate all that your partner does for you – especially the little things.

And when your partner tries to acknowledge all that your do for him or her, make sure you let that love in. We don’t all speak the same language when it comes to this stuff, but you’ll know when someone you care about is thanking you. Accept that thanks, feel that love, and then give it back twofold.