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Dad's view: I'm a wimp when I get sick (but it's not my fault)

There are lots of ways in which moms are tougher than dads. Too many to mention here, thanks to the space I’m allotted and my desire to shield dads from any criticism or discussion of their shortcomings.

Courtesy Bob Trott

Bob Trott and his daughter NJ.

One of those reasons – getting sick – surfaced in a big way for us recently. We flew across the country a few weeks ago for a nice visit at NJ’s grandparents’ house, and from there we were headed to fabulous Cape Cod to shack up in a rental for five days.  It was going to be our first real vacation in quite a while – we’d visited grandparents in New England and Texas already, but oh! that Cape Cod time. It was going to be something. Beach sunrises, beach sunsets, and all kinds of fun in between.

Until I came down with pneumonia. Ridiculous fevers, crazy chills, coughing, nausea, headaches – I had it all. (Health tip: If you’re going to get very, very sick, make sure your father-in-law is a retired doctor and make sure you’re at his house. Thanks again, Dr. Dick.)

Instead of going to the Cape, I went to the hospital. And instead of family fun for the three of us, my wife and NJ were left to their own devices. I felt bad about wrecking our trip, but also, I … you know, felt bad.

Two things struck me as I laid in a bed upstairs, shaking and sweating and trying to focus on television. One was how adorable my 2-year-old girl is – I heard “Wake up, Daddy!” from downstairs many times, and each time it made me smile and forget my misery for a few seconds. (Every time I cough now NJ asks “Daddy, are you OK?” and gives me a pat on the arm or a hug. Best medicine ever.)

The other was this: Geez, I’m worthless when I’m sick. And now, thanks to this story about new research, at least I feel like it’s not just me – all us men are wimps. And it’s not our fault! It’s our inferior immune systems, according to these Belgian brainiacs.

Ah, the sweet relief of knowing you are helpless – I’ve felt it while sacked out in bed with the flu, blissed out on cough syrup and Sudafed, and I felt a different, less phlegmy version of it reading the research. Absolved!

Pre-NJ, my wife and I took care of each other when we got sick and the system worked well. Now, though, things are different. I quarantine myself, for starters, and my wife keeps NJ away. I remember one particularly terrible cold, I was in bed and my wife brought NJ up to the top of the stairs and we waved at each other from across the room – that was my only contact with the kid for two days.

My wife, though – she comes down with something and keeps on keeping on. Oh sure, she collapses in a heap of Kleenex when NJ naps or goes to bed, but otherwise she’s right there, powering through, taking care of NJ and fretting (needlessly, so far) that she’ll pass whatever she’s got to her daughter.

So, to recap: When I’m sick, my wife takes care of me and our toddler. When she’s sick, she (with my help) takes care of our daughter.  It doesn’t seem fair. I wish I could do something about it, but hey – it’s my immune system! Or, if you believe the California virologist quoted in the story, women are just tougher.

Either way, I think the burden of raising a kid falls disproportionately onto moms, and good dads do their best to level that out. But when I can’t stand without getting dizzy, or I’ve got a fever so strong I hallucinate little gremlins sitting on the dresser, how am I supposed to dress a screaming toddler for school?

When your husband gets sick, is he just another child you have to pamper and care for? Do moms get the same treatment when they’re ill?

Bob Trott blogs about his adventures in parenting at Dad Solo.

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