I Was a New-Mom Germaphobe

When I was a brand-new parent, I was a complete and total germaphobe.

Gallon-size jug of hand sanitizer at the entrance to our apartment as a hint to everyone who entered?  Check.  Shopping cart covers and antibacterial cases for her binkies?  Check, check.  Toys washed in diluted bleach, bottles boiled, and pump parts sterilized every night?  Check, check, and check.

To be fair, we did two weeks’ hard time in the NICU for pneumonia, so it was somewhat warranted…

However, I, like most of us, slowly made the transition from germaphobic brand-new parent to, well, it’s not that I want her to be dirty, but if it happens, it happens.  I hadn’t really thought about this until the other day, when we were on a train to Grand Central.  Caroline licked the window of the filthy train and I barely even flinched.

At work last week I walked into the conference room and some of my coworkers were having a conversation about how they think that growing up “too clean” can lead to improper development of kids’ immune systems.  “Hey, Julia,” one of the faculty said.  “You have a baby, right?  Are you a germaphobe about everything she touches?”

I snorted.  “No,” I said.  “Are you kidding?  That kid is constantly filthy.”  They laughed at me.  “I’m serious,” I said.  “If I were to keep her and everything she touched completely spotless and sterilized, I’d never have time to do anything else.”

Maybe it’s that I work at a place where there sometimes is literally hepatitis all over the counter (until I sterilize it, okay?  Don’t freak out), but a little dirt and grime doesn’t get to me like it used to.  Besides, she’s in daycare all day.  I used to whisper to her to stay away from the snotty kid as I was leaving, but she never listened (kids these days!) and anyway they were all “the snotty kid” by mid-December anyway, including her.

In any case, I believe that in many ways it’s counterproductive to raise your kid in a bubble.  I won’t go into technical stuff about the immune system, but I think it’s better for her health and it’s definitely better for my sanity if I don’t go around spraying everything she touches with bleach.  It doesn’t mean I’m a bad or negligent mom… it just means I’m realistic, you know?  For me, relaxing a little bit about stuff like this is sort of part of my development as a parent, just like I’ve slowly tried to let go of my helicopter mom tendencies.

So go forth, child.  Be free, and be dirty.

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  1. by Richelle

    On December 9, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Kids may not share their toys well, but they are great when it comes to sharing germs…..

  2. by Twin Mommy

    On February 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    A lot of first-time moms are nervous about germs and bacteria, especially if your child has had an infection related health scare. As the author points out, at some point you DO have to let go and “allow dirt” (as they say). But there are a few simple steps you can take to help fight bacteria when it comes to your newborn, infant or toddler. Bye Bye Bacteria Corp. makes a line of antimicrobial baby products (crib sheets, play mats, bath towels) that help eliminate mold, mildew and odor-causing bacteria. A little added protection goes a long way!