The Mom Cold

Look, it may not have been my shining moment, but I did get what I needed in the end. Needed? Maybe wanted. The thing about being the mom is that sometimes those lines blur until someone takes over the house manager’s reigns and puts you in timeout on the couch. I am on that couch now, computer hidden behind a pillow lest my husband discover my attempt to sneak in a little work while I should be resting.

And, yes, I should be resting. It’s just that, as a mom, that sometimes takes some convincing–both for myself and for my roommates.

A little bhack story: Two weeks ago my son came downstairs and, when he opened his mouth, I instantly noticed a drop in his already low tenor. Yes, I thought as he continued talking, He sounds much like a frog. This is the tell with this child as he approaches illness. It is always starts with a change in his voice that signals an incoming something (really, there are just too many current options to guess what that something is).

My hackles gently lifted.

Sure enough, within days my son was completely clogged and exhausted and, eventually, opted to stay home in preference of long naps in his darkened bedroom. And, yes, I know that sounds like a regular day in the land of the teen but, when sick, there is a difference that brings with it a vibe of defeat as his computer sits silent across the room.

A little bhack story, part deux: At the end of that same week, I picked my husband up from the airport as he returned from a business trip. He entered the car with a cough and a look of exhaustion. He had just been to his first tech convention in years, so I silently hoped it was just re-acclimation to the cadence of those busy weeks that caused him to appear, well, unwell. Of course, I knew that wasn’t really true. What were the chances, after all, that he too would reach a state of stuffiness the same week as our son?

My hackles flew to full attention. 

Well, shit. 

Over the following days, I bobbed and weaved through the house while trying to avoid all coughs, sneezes, and throat clearing while wondering exactly what had moved in. Was it Covid? The common cold that became less common courtesy of our masked years? Was it the flu? Allergies? Yes, that could be it allergies!-What was blooming at this time of year? Oh right, nothing. Allergies, no. Covid, no (according to multiple tests). Flu? Probably not. 

It’s funny how “just a cold” seems so minor until you actually have one. 

Well, shit.

There was probably no way I was going to avoid being third in line for the groan.

We often joke about the Man Cold and how being sick while also being a man is like a double whammy of whine. What we avoid in conversation? The Mom Cold. 

The Mom Cold is a bit easier if she is able to take her turn first while the remainder of the household still has the moxy to handle their own lives. Why often, when the Mom Cold arrives first, her roommates may not even notice her sniffles or hacks as they are too distracted with confusion stemming from a third night of pizza or empty toilet paper rolls or mail spilling from the mailbox. Thoughts of “Wait, is my mom/wife okay?” never form as hopes of a less structured life creep form in their place. Yes!! I bet chore lists will be the next thing to go!

When the Mom Cold arrives last, the story is different.

As soon as I felt the first pinprick in my throat, I started pounding Vitamin C and Airborne while double-fisting rosary beads. Surely I can fight this off, right? When the sneezes came by the half-dozen I tried, again, to convince myself that it was allergies. Fall allergies? Yes. That could be a thing. An aversion to pumpkin spice and scarecrows. Sure. 

Ironically, it was a text from a friend that flipped the final You Have a Cold light switch to on. The text? Innocent enough. It included instructions for ordering Brunswick Stew from her church–an annual event that (arrrrrgh) always occurs when this household is fighting their fall phlegm. 

Well, shit.

I am typing from the couch, ready to shut the lid the instant I hear the footsteps of my husband’s approach as he has become quite insistent that I rest. I am stubborn when it comes to illness, even insisting (to myself) on a three-day max run through whatever ails me. Sadly I have found that, as I gain years, my body is less willing to comply with this suggested schedule.

I have also found that my roommates do not hear my hacks or sneezes or notice the drop in energy that accompanies them. While I may never understand that (okay, yes, only moms have spidey senses), I do tend to make a personal promise to be much more clear on my own need to slow down next time. We all know that won’t actually happen, of course. 

Still, with hope, I offer this guide:

Should the mom in your home be surrounded by illness, please know that she, too, may fall ill. Signs of this are words like “I think I’m catching a cold” or “I may be getting sick” or “I’m just so tired” or “I have a fever” Sounds may include sneezes, coughing, the blowing of a nose, or of an alien behind a closed bathroom door. While she may be only hinting at illness, please understand that SHE IS ALREADY SICK. 

This is not a drill. 

  • Collect a nice blanket and a favorite pillow. Place them on the couch.
  • Now, place her on the couch (you may suggest pajamas or a soft t-shirt/shorts)
  • In her range?
    • Tissues and somewhere to dispose of them else she feels inclined to make a path to and from the garbage can.
    • A beverage such as tea, water, or juice.
    • Cold medicines. Not the whole box, but whichever one she is supposed to take just then.
    • Throat lozenges, if available.
    • Her favorite cat snuggled into the crook of her leg.
  • Turn on the television and select something completely brainless. Think in the categories of things you would never watch such as Gilmore Girls, HGTV, QVC, or the Hallmark Channel.
  • Be ready to cook a few meals. This is not the same as takeout. You see, takeout will only increase her stress as she calculates the loss of food purchased for dinners vs money spent on less healthy options.
    • However, should even a whisper of “takeout is fine” cross her lips, this is your time to shine.
  • Clean up the clutter. On a normal day, moms constantly shift clutter from random locations to its proper home.
    • Fun Fact? You can typically rate a mom’s well-being based on the height of the countertop clutter. If the clutter is rising, she is unwell. This is your time to shine!
  • If you happen to hear a string of sneezes or rib-cracking coughs, know that she’s probably just, well, tinkled a little. Look, handle with care. It can’t be helped, women are just designed differently. Perhaps offer a change of undies, but at your own risk, of course. 
  • No, she does not want to get marital right now. I know, she looks so small and innocent and that makes you want to swoop her up into your arms which will then make you have impure thoughts. This is not your time to shine.

Perhaps most importantly: Do not sneak around the inevitable at a “wait and see” pace. The chances of a woman ever very specifically verbalizing a need for placement in the sickbay are incredibly slim. She will fight to the end as she continues her quest to care for the rest of her household. If it is cold and flu season, if there have already been germ entries to your home, if mother nature is on a bloom fest, yes … if there is anything at all creating the potential for illness, be on alert.

This is your time to shine.

Post-post notes: I know there is a gaggle of men calling foul on this article. I know. The thing is, supporting information is readily available on the interwebs to coach households through the Mom Cold. This information is not the same as the gest we lend to the Man Cold. This information has a much more serious tone because, well, we believe in you know you need it.

A few examples:

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