If you don’t currently have a Mom Cold – don’t worry, you will. The cold and flu season will be around for at least another few months, and those suckers really know how to go viral. Every single person who interacts with small children on a daily basis will get low-grade sick at least once a winter. If science has not yet done the legwork to back up my claims, I demand the Center for Disease Control open a file immediately. They probably won’t. Because they know I’m right, so why waste the money? If you have kids, they will infect you with their disgusting germs. It’s part of the parenting social contract.
I am assuming that you are currently blowing your nose with one hand and coughing into the elbow of your other sleeve. Meanwhile, the invisible third hand that all mothers possess is packing school snacks and organizing snow pants. This is what sets the Mom Cold apart – it does not stop the world to melt with you. As long as you can stand (and you will fight very hard to stand) you will keep doing it, all of it. It all still needs to get done.
“Moms don’t get a day off.”
We like to say that to one another, in sympathy and solidarity – but also with a bit of frankly unattractive smugness. We work so hard. No really guys, we work soooooooo hard. I can certainly see why my non-parent friends find it obnoxious. But when the Mom Cold hits, the stony reality of that statement really punches you in the gut. There is no sick day; there is no Netflix and Pills. Even if your day job does let you stay home (and not infect the productive people), your second shift never ends. The baby still needs to be fed. Can you take that cold tablet when you are breastfeeding, or will the miracle drug that makes your head feel less like a funhouse mirror pinata turn your darling baby turquoise? Quick, google it. What, you can’t see your computer screen through your runny itchy eyes? Suck it up, princess, and squint. Your child’s fever will send you into a panic, but your own fever is just a reason to add ice cubes to your coffee.
This is the underbelly of maternal sacrifice.
A cold or mild flu is something you have to work through, because if you call in too many favors for the sniffles, your extended network might be exhausted when you really need them. I always think of it as friend insurance. Someday there will be a crisis, and I will need to ask all my friends and neighbors to help me. Every minor illness gets weighed on that scale. How bad is this really? Am I ill enough to ask for help? Where does this exact set of circumstances on the spectrum of human calamity and misery?
Here’s my Mom Cold checklist:
Can I still drive?
This is Vermont, Uber still isn’t fully a thing. Most errands and kid-herding require my trusty Subaru. Please note that not being able to breathe does not mean you can’t drive: Subarus are great for eucalyptus oil hot-boxing.
Can I still feed my children?
This is a great question that addresses the issue of standards. Normally I like my kids to eat vegetables and low-fat proteins. During the Mom Cold, it’s a kitchen free-for-all. Anything the children are willing to eat that does not require me standing up in the kitchen for longer than sixty seconds is a tasty treat. Once again, I thank all the powers that be that my kids can eat peanut butter. Three times a day. For three days. Sniff hack cough.
Can I stay awake?
When children are very little, you need to be conscious when they are in your care. I once had a bad Mom Cold with an infant and a toddler who did not nap, and I took to eating excruciatingly hot cinnamon candy to keep my eyes open. Remember, non-drowsy meds only!
Can I simplify the home-running work?
I once spent a month doing crisis recovery clean-up of my house after I was sick for five days. I don’t know where all that laundry came from, who gave the children confetti, what the cat ate that caused him such intestinal distress, and why every book I own migrated to my dining room. These are mysteries for the ages. The point is I knew a tornado swirled around me, and I chose to just focus on the fact that I had enough energy to empty the dishwasher. Because if the dishes were done, I could have tea. Tea would keep me going. The rest was just background noise until we had to call FEMA to dig us out.
I am not going to take a cheap shot at the Man Cold, that indulgent childhood regression so cleverly depicted on decongestant advertisements. Everyone deals with minor illness in their own way, and there’s enough shade thrown at the stereotype of the Incompetent Dad. I do look back fondly on the colds I had as a single person, where I would take a horse tranquilizer of a cold remedy and sleep for two days. It’s like the warm nostalgia I have for nightclubbing – I didn’t realize at the time how much fun I was actually having.
All said, here’s my prescription for your Mom Cold: get over it by getting through it. By any means necessary – compromise your principles and pride if necessary. And if you need me to bring you some Pho, text me.