As a primary parenting dad, I often find myself puffing out my chest about how I can do whatever mom can do. And, in large part, this is not hubris. I shop and cook, I clean and straighten, I provide discipline and/or a cuddle, as the situation requires.
As part of my duties, when the dependents (kids and pets) are sick, I stay home and take care of them. Yet, it is precisely this part of my primary parenting job description that can be the most challenging.
I’m not referring to staying home per se. Since I work from home and have a high degree of flexibility in scheduling my time, I am able to take care of a sick kid and usually get things done at the same time.
What I find challenging is my apparent absence of intuition about my own child(ren)’s health that their mother clearly and demonstrably has. We’ve all had that experience when a mom looks at a sick kid or get’s a whiff of their bad breath and knows immediately that something just isn’t right. I don’t think I have that. What I do have is the day-to-day experience of being around them. I know which one of them got sick first and the symptoms they experienced and I know which of their friends got sick and the symptoms those kids experienced. While all of this data figures into my daily assessments and prognostications, it doesn’t feel like intuition. If anything, I feel like I am over-compensating for a lack of intuition in this regard.
So, when my wife returned from an almost week-long business trip and heard my son’s barking cough, she concluded that I should rush him to the doctor. But I was confused. My experience over the past week was telling me all he had was the same nasal-based cold and cough that my daughter and several of their classmates had recently suffered through. That knowledge and experience was mine – not my wife’s. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder: was her intuition offering me insight into something I was missing? Should I abandon my conviction that this was merely a nasty sounding cold and NOT the beginnings pneumonia? Was a mother’s intuition right in this case and my dad’s attentiveness to data falling short on the diagnosis?
(Note to readers: Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not implying that mothers rely only on intuition and don’t collect and analyze data in their assessments of the health of their children. I just find that, call it intuition or not, there are some things about my kids that I just don’t tune into the same way.)
This is an odd dilemma that comes out of the traditional role-reversal in which I am living. It is way simpler, in some ways, when mom is the primary parent to defer to her intuition AND experience – but quite another matter when the intuition isn’t coupled with the experience. Can we hone our intuition as dad’s? Will it ever be as sharp as the woman’s from whose loins a child has emerged?
In the end, I trusted my experience and didn’t rush my sick boy to the doctor.
I just really, really hope he doesn’t have pneumonia.