You know the superpower I’m talking about. You probably have it. And you know who probably does not? Your husband (if you’ve chosen to have one). This is what the memes have taught me.
I’m talking about the Parenting While Sick superpower.
Here is my confession: I am the husband in the sick-husband memes. I mean, normally I’m the wife and the mom, but I’m the husband in this situation. I’m. The. Meme.
I can deal with chronic disease, make it through high-risk high-maintenance pregnancies, deliver a baby without the epidural I’d planned on, and dote on sick children while simultaneously cleaning up vomit. But if it’s me who contracts the common cold? I reach a level of pathetic that is embarrassing. And whatever plague I got in April…well. Despite evidence to the contrary, I’m still not sure I survived.
When healthy, I fancy myself a patient mother with appropriate expectations and empathy galore. I know that kids have terrible impulse control, and that their job is to push boundaries and test limits. Normally, I am firm and clear and loving. But that all goes out the window when I’m sick. Suddenly I have trouble remembering that three-year-olds are supposed to have tantrums, and that they can’t be expected to alter their behavior when I don’t feel good because…they’ve only been on earth for three years.
When healthy, I like to text my husband, Matt, with goofy kid photos and random observations. When I have a cold, I like to text him with hourly updates.
“Throat hurts more.”
“What do I do? Fix me.”
Then, once he’s home from work, I moan at him from the floor or the couch. Sometimes, if he’s busy taking care of our children, I follow him around moaning. This year my preschooler is old enough to notice and comment.
“Mama, why are you making that noise?” he asked during my last brush with death, a.k.a. the common cold.
“That’s just the noise mama makes when she’s sick,” my husband responded.
Later that same night, after the kids were in bed, I mentioned I’d never eaten dinner. Matt asked what he could get me, and I shrugged. He suggested a few things and I shrugged some more, so he returned to his work. Without solving my food problem. Ten minutes later I nudged him and said “It seems like you’ve lost interest in feeding me.”
Eventually we agreed on soup and he got up to prepare it.
I’m a joy.
Matt, on the other hand, just continues living his life when he’s sick. Like a grown-up or something. He wakes up (on time!) and takes a shower. He gets our children up and gives them a morning snack. He goes to work. It’s incredible. You should see it. Well, I guess you know all about it because you do it too—you superpowered-mother, you!
Not me. One time, when our first kid was only a couple of months old, I summoned my husband home because of an earache. My earache.
Actually, that was warranted—my ear hurt so badly that I sat in bed crying. Now I try to remember that when one of my kids has an earache. I remind myself of how I could barely move my head from the pain, and of the effort it took to get myself to the doctor for medicine.
On second thought, maybe sickness contributes to my parental empathy after all. And that’s a superpower I do have.