When The Man-Flu Strikes
By Tina Trikha
My son has coughed three times this evening. He’s checked his temperature five times and called his grandparents twice to tell them how horrible he is feeling. He has started to sniffle, his eyes are getting slightly red, and it does seem like the early onset of the flu.
His groans increase in both volume and frequency. He’s asking me to call the doctor–again. In between his sighs and moans, he wonders if we should go straight to the hospital instead of waiting for the doctor to call back. Just in case medical intervention is required, or in the event that specialists need to be summoned.
Meanwhile, I am beside myself with worry and anxiety.
Oh dear God, I pray. Please keep him healthy.
For my sake.
You see, the men in my home don’t just get afflicted with the common flu. They get the mother of all flus — the ‘man-flu.’ And I get the unenviable job of dealing with them and nursing them back to health.
Just like any mother in the world, I hate it when my children fall ill. But when either of my sons (or husband, for that matter) falls ill, I am at my wits’ end — not because I can’t take care of them or nurture them back to good health; I am fine doing that. But I have a really hard time dealing with all the drama surrounding the flu.
The groaning and moaning is just the beginning. When they lie in bed, the pillow is either too soft or not soft enough. The room is either too hot or too cold. They are hungry, but take hours to decide what they want to eat. When I finally bring it to them, they’ve changed their mind.
As soon as the thermometer reaches 99 degrees, my son’s groaning gets even louder.
“Mom! I am so horribly sick,” he says. “Why is this happening to me?”
“For heaven’s sake,” I want to say. “It’s just the flu! Happens to millions of people at any given time.”
But, I know that I should just keep quiet for now — any altercations will just increase the whining.
I leave the room under the pretext of getting some medicine for him, but honestly, I just need to take a few deep breaths and calm myself down before entering the ‘infirmary’ again.
I take two minutes too long to return and hear a cry from inside.
“Mom! Where are you? I am sick! I need you here.”
“I feel so weak,” he says, with those puppy eyes, as I come back into the room. “Please stay here in case I faint.”
And yet, he’s strong enough to yell across the apartment for me. But I bite my tongue.
His temperature hovers around 99 degrees (after repeated checks), and he’s convinced that he’s been afflicted with the strongest virus ever known to mankind. He phones his father, who commiserates with him. It’s easy for my husband to relate; he has suffered from the same man-flu symptoms several times in the past.
Meanwhile, I sit in the hot, humid room where even the fan cannot be turned on as it may make the ‘condition’ worse. I sit there, sweating and seething with frustration that I have to keep bottled up.
Flu shots were developed to protect thousands of mothers and wives around the world, who can’t take caring for the man flu any more. I hound my doctor’s office every year to ensure that everyone at home gets the shot.
For my sake.
The man flu is contagious and spreads beyond illness to minor injuries, bumps and bruises. Yet the female gender seems to be immune. While my daughter and I are quite content to nurse ourselves back to recovery from pneumonia with hot soup and TV reruns, the boys in the family hold everyone else to ransom when they have the lightest sniffle.
I remember finding a big bruise on my daughter’s leg while helping her bathe a few months ago. When I asked her about it, she just shrugged. She couldn’t remember how or when.
By contrast, several boxes of Band-Aids have been emptied by the boys (and men) in the home, to tape scratches only visible with the aid of a magnifying glass.
Dealing with the many man flu symptoms of the three male members of my household can be exhausting. I told my husband once that I was tired of playing Florence Nightingale in the home. I may have even given dear, old Florence a colorful middle name when I said that.
My son is groaning again. I put my arm around him, and he nestles his head against my shoulder. I check his temperature; it’s normal. But I know how sensitive he can be at this moment to any suggestion that he’s absolutely fine. So I cuddle up with him, kiss his forehead, and tell him that I hope he feels better soon.
For my sake.