You know if you’re the practical one. You sense when it’s garbage night. You have the phone number for the kids’ dentist and doctor. If you and your spouse both have the flu for 15 or more days, you’re more likely to rise from a 103 fever and pick up the kids from school. We practical ones are just wired that way, and we must like it, though we also enjoy the odd whine about how responsible we are.

all-joy-and-no-fun-coverJennifer Senior’s new book All Joy and No Fun¬†touches on how moms and dads tend to view certain responsibilities of parenthood differently, even as the sexes share more of the roles. (I should say Jennifer talking about her book on NPR, I’ve had the flu you know, and the new Wally Lamb We Are Water has been a perfect read for that, I don’t want to read about parenting this week!).

For instance, Jennifer finds moms and dads of course need a break from the kids, but dads tend to feel less guilty about it, even if plopping the kids in front of the TV or the equivalent. The sanity is necessary, but as the more mom-like parent, I’ll say the guilt can be awful. I more often power through and do whatever it is I think the kids need or want, even if I resent it and don’t get enough time to myself.

Co-parenting with the flu is an eye-opening exercise in learning about what kids can survive on, and how resilient we all are. With everyone sick, getting some peanut butter and jelly into whoever can eat, and getting everyone to bed counts as a victory. A big one! Forget all the extras, the stories, enrichment activities, high-quality time. Let’s put on Pet Patrol or Big Time Rush and sit on the couch staring into space.

The little guy calls out to me from his room, cheerfully, “Papa throw up on my diaper,” and I know I need to take over this diaper change. Both the kids are interested, maybe fascinated, and not scared at all, by the sight of adults barfing, sneezing, coughing, and laying in bed morosely. If they notice that we’re having a really awful week, they don’t say. I think they’re enjoying life as much as ever. And I have to say having these little beings dependent on us makes being sick more bearable. Before kids, I’d have been off my feet for most of it, binge-watching TV or similar. But that’s just not an option when your family needs you. Being sick is just one more (thankfully temporary) thing, and the more important tasks put it in perspective.

They’ll probably appreciate the added attention as we wind this endless bug down (please!?) and return to normal. I know I will. But what a great lesson to have to cut out a bunch of the stuff we do every day, and to see them still thriving, fighting, reading, playing. They know what they’re doing after all. Maybe I can ease up on being practical all the time, and trust that they will come through great despite me.