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Family Life

Guys, we love you — but enough with the "man flu"


Becky Vieira

posted in Life

My husband and I have different ideas of what it means to be sick. We have a toddler, so we share germs and often fall ill at the same time. Unless I’m hospitalized, life continues as-is for me. But at the first sign of a runny nose he takes to bed. For days. Come to think of it, I guess things change for me, too. I end up with even more work when I’m sick.

I may have the flu, but my husband gets the “man flu.” The increasingly popular term is used to describe men who exaggerate a mild illness. To them, the common cold is a reason to miss work and not be able to do anything. Also, if they’re fathers, it means they can’t help with kids. Or around the house. And sometimes they even can’t help themselves.

Many men revert to a childlike state when stricken with this illness. They look to their partners to help feed and care for them. Unless their mothers live in the area, in that case they’ll just summon mom.

Yes. It’s really that bad.

Man flu meme

I’m not denying my husband gets sick. That lone sneeze can, and sometimes does, progress into a virus. Sometimes. No one wants to be ill, and when you add a job and kids it amplifies the chaos of the situation. Still, I’m prepared to make a bold statement: Women are better at dealing with sickness. And pain. Men turn a hangnail into an epidemic. I even have (non-scientific) proof.

I polled fellow moms and here are some of their stories:

Jillian Richards was inflicted with a double ear infection and pink eye. She was on her third day home with her also-sick 12-month-old twins, and counting down the hours until her husband came home from work to relieve her. But when he did he announced he was “dying” from an obscure sickness. Richards sent him to bed as she stayed up all night with their twins. When she awoke in the morning her husband was gone. “He didn’t die as he predicted,” she said. “He felt fine and went into work.”

As a doctor, Andrea Moore has diagnosed her husband with the man flu several times. On one occasion he called her at work asking for soup. “He stayed home sick and said he was too weak to make it to the kitchen,” she explained. She delivered soup and cold medicine, skipping her own lunch to run the errand.

Later that evening, as she was picking up their 15-month-old daughter from daycare, he called to say he was heading to a friend’s house to watch a football game. “Six hours earlier he couldn’t walk into the kitchen,” she noted. “But he was miraculously healed by game time.”

wife stands next to husband who is stricken with man flu

My husband’s recent man flu was severe. The poor guy missed work and spent the day in bed. My son and I were also sick, but he was “much worse.” I took our son to his pediatrician’s appointment and cleaned up vomit for most of the day while he slept. After I finally got my son to sleep, my husband emerged from the bedroom cave. “I’m going to the gym,” he told me. “I think it’s best I try and sweat this out before I get any worse.”

It must have worked because only two days later he was able to return to work. Hallelujah!

I’m not the only one investigating this phenomenon. A Canadian doctor recently set out to prove man flu is more than a joke. The research claims men have a “weaker immune response when it comes to common viral respiratory infections and the flu.” Could the excessive whining and misery be authentic, caused because men are more adversely affected by illness? The study says yes and my husband agrees.

I, however, think it’s important to note the study was led by Dr. Kyle Sue. A man. No word on if he’s married and, if so, what his wife thinks of these findings.

For more of my mom journey follow me on Instagram at Witty Otter.

Do you belive the man flu is real? Have you had to care for a man stricken with this terrible illness?

Images by Becky Vieira


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