Man flu versus woman flu

There is no such thing as man flu. We all get sick, some of us just happen to be men at the time.

Man flu normally gets wheeled out as a pejorative term. It suggests that the man is exaggerating his illness, that he is milking a little sniffle. Or that he is a giant wuss.

When I am feeling sick my preference is to get better, not worse. A good way to get better is to slow down, rest up and look after myself.

Man flu should just be called ‘taking sensible measures when you have a cold’.

I don’t like feeling under the weather. I hate the way a cold blunts my sharp edge. That brooding heaviness is usually a sign that something is coming to thump me. Sometimes it passes, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, that’s when I need to call time out. I’m all for consolidating good health.

I have had the most horrendous cough for over a week. Coughing is my least favourite sickness activity. A cough always sounds like it is there on purpose to annoy everyone. I get really angry at coughing. I want to punch my own nasty cough in the face.

The persistent violence of my cough has shredded the upper register of my vocal chords. I have discovered that I can no longer say the word “miaow” without sounding like a donkey. The high part disappears so I can only say “ow”. You know you’re really sick when you are unable to imitate the family cat.

Being a guy who is sick, I get to crash and recuperate while normal activity whirls around me. Call this man flu if you like. I call it trying to get better.

But if my wife is sick she doesn’t get to recuperate the same way I can. I work full time. She works part time. That means she is a lot busier than me because she has the more important job, which is managing the family.

Outside of work she does the school drop-off and the school pick-up. She plans and negotiates after-school activities like soccer practice, gymnastics, swimming and piano lessons.

She tracks down lost shoes, she finds gold coins for school fundraising days, she signs permission slips and she make sure our kids are adequately fuelled and clothed for the week.

She buys new pyjamas, takes the cat to the vet, gets the car warranted. On top of all that she referees arguments, acts as counsellor and head nurse and family nutritionist. This is the way most of the duties fall simply because of our respective schedules. Still, I am one lucky guy. I feel grateful and sheepish at the same time.

So let’s talk about woman flu instead. My definition of woman flu would be when a sick person keeps powering on heroically for everyone else’s sake; someone who won’t – or more likely can’t – stop long enough to properly recuperate.

Sick leave favours the full time worker. If my wife ever needs to take time out she will still keep the house running because I’ll be at work and life must go on. There are not many scenarios where two parents can take the whole day off simply because one of them needs to have a sleep.

Unless she is really super-duper sick with some kind of medical emergency, she can only ever steal a few hours of proper downtime in between everything else that still needs to be done.

That’s not rest and recuperation. That’s woman flu.

It seems unfair to me. Someone should do something about it.

Not me though. I’m feeling under the weather. I’m going back to bed.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 15 May 2015. Reproduced with permission.