Here at IMAGE we know how inconvenient being struck down with illness can be, especially when as a busy mum it can feel like you have to be five places at once. According to an ESRI report, on average, women in Ireland spend almost 20 hours a week on housework, while men devote just nine hours to chores. The Caring and Unpaid Work in Ireland study, published earlier this year, found that 45pc of women, and just 29pc of men, are carers for others on a daily basis. Throw in a cold or flu to the mix, and it's evident that women simply can't afford to get sick. This cold and flu season, one busy mum, and one dad who thinks he's busy, lay out a day in the life of being struck down with the dreaded flu...
Man Flu is by far the worst experience a guy will go through – and yes it's definitely a strain of flu designed to hit us lads much harder, okay?
Coming to the end of the kids’ school holidays, after two frantic months of full-time working while moonlighting as a summer-camp chauffeur, Kinder-dispensing machine and all-round nature expert (yes, frogs can be boys OR girls and no they probably don’t like popcorn) I felt a familiar tingle in my fingers and hands.
That quickly became a low throb, and within the hour, my limbs were aching as if they were about to detach and drop to the floor any minute.
Having seen the Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special, trust me – I know what pain is.
Sympathy? Well, with my wife away in the US on business I had taken some annual leave from work and was faced with a multitude of tasks that were all geared towards the the four-year-old and six-year-old being asleep by 7pm. Riiiight.
A quick Facetime to herself to elicit any form of humanity or sympathy – under the guise of the kids saying goodnight – failed to do anything to alleviate my increasing pain. In fact, my other half didn’t speak to me directly at all (“Is daddy getting mad all the time while mummy’s away?”) while a Transformer had a full-blown conversation with her for four minutes, with the help of my son, while I stared at the screen, sniffing and coughing, seeking any sign that my heroic efforts to keep our family on track at home through my worsening illness were being recognised in some way. But no. Nothing.
I went to bed in a heap – headache, sore throat, aches, pains and plenty of tears, with just my daughter’s freakish teddy No Face for company. No Face didn’t help me.
I woke in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and managed to fumble my way in the dark to the kitchen for some water, and of course I happened upon a few bits of Lego for my previously unstabbed foot because I just wasn’t in enough pain, apparently.
The next day was worse, as I barely managed to get the kids to camp on time before crawling back to bed for six hours, sweating, coughing and aching, until it was time to collect them again. At this stage the bedside, and indeed the car, resembled an overflowing bin in a public toilet with used tissues scattered everywhere. But I was in no condition to be cleaning the place – I had MAN FLU for goodness sake.
Thankfully my wife returned a few days later, but at this point I’d felt so awful for so long I didn’t really acknowledge she might be somewhat jetlagged. Sure, California is only an hour or so behind us. It was time for me to hit the bed full-time for a few days and shake this cursed illness once and for all. And of course the kids would leave me completely alone during my recuperation, wouldn’t they...?
Midnight: I start my day with a poo – not mine, my one-year-old's. Change his nappy and get back into bed. I'm rudely awoken at 4am by a cold sweat and a sick feeling in my stomach. I get up to get changed and, like an apex predator, the baby senses I'm awake and begins to wail.
5am: I relent to a restless baby and recite The Gruffalo from memory in my bed while I feel increasingly queasy.
6am: We head downstairs and I hurriedly plonk the baby in his playpen and make a mad dash to the downstairs toilet to puke. Sweating buckets, I quickly clean myself up as the baby cries for his breakfast, our Dalmatian cries for her breakfast, I hear our Yorkshire Terrier scamper upstairs to claim the last of the body heat in our bed while our Staffordshire Terrier – who possesses opposable thumbs – flings open the door to the downstairs toilet to reveal my zombie-like complexion and insanely immediate crazy-cat-lady hair.
I stumble out of the bathroom like a creature from a horror movie, force myself to straighten up and swipe back some matted hair from my clammy brow. It's gonna be a long day.
It went a little something like this ...
The baby was fed, the dogs were fed, the five chickens were fed. I was feeling hot, cold, then hot again. Thank God for that guy in the clown costume (on TV, I hadn't started hallucinating yet), the baby was oblivious to me vomiting into a nappy bag.
A midday pooplosion – that one could have been me – a baby bubble bath, a costume change for my son, another costume change for my son, and some fresh air.
The house looks like it's been carpeted in dog hair. I vacuum the house. I vacuum the baby. I put a wash on. I take an avocado out of our Labrador's mouth – yep, another dog. I repeatedly confiscate a box of Weetabix from the baby. I repeatedly tell myself to put it in an unreachable place.
Is that smell me? Most likely.
Dinner ain't gonna cook itself. The baby wants to lend a hand. He helpfully takes a pack of porridge from the cupboard and hands it to me – upside down. He happily plays in a mountain of porridge oats while Mama pukes again.
He chooses today to learn how to say 'no', and it's an emphatic one for the hard-fought dinner.
I tuck the chickens into bed in their coop. One has gone rogue. I search for a torch to search for the chicken. I make a one-handed lunge for the chicken, who has taken up residence in a hedge, and she thanks me by crapping down my leg.
I put the baby down for the night (ha!) and he reaches his arms up for me. I pick him up for the last squeeze of the day and hold him close as he barfs down my back and into the last shred of dignity lingering in my locks.
I hear my husband's car keys land on the hall table. I slowly descend the stairs, the human equivalent of a crumpled pile of laundry, as my husband sighs, "ugh, what a day".
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