Before having a kid, I considered myself to be a mild germaphobe. I’m the person who sings the ABCs while washing her hands, sanitizes all surfaces on an airplane before taking my seat, and keeps a mini bottle of hand sanitizer clipped on me at all times. I’ve never had the flu—knocks on wood—and I’m rarely sick. But now dealing with germs, as a parent, is a bit more difficult.
Not only do you have to do your best to keep the bad germs away, you also have to do it in a way that doesn’t take the fun out of being a kid. I know that not all germs are bad germs, and that my baby is going to have to encounter some not-so-fun ones to build up his immune system, but that doesn’t mean that I’m excited about it. Because once the baby is sick, so is everyone else in the house. But I’ve quickly realized that I can’t let my germaphobe ways get in the way of letting him have fun. So to keep me from turning into the mom from Bubble Boy, here are three rules that I will do my best to abide by.
Dealing with Germs as a Parent
Rule #1: Not All Germs Are Bad Germs
Day after day, our bodies work to digest food, pump blood and oxygen, and fight off illness. But there is a group of tiny invaders that can make our bodies sick—they’re called germs. Germs creep into our bodies without being noticed. Of the four types of germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa), bacteria are the tiny, one-celled creatures that get nutrients from their environments in order to live. In some cases that environment is the human body.
But not all bacteria are bad. Some bacteria are good for our bodies—they help keep things in balance. For example, good bacteria live in our intestines and help us use the nutrients in the food we eat and make waste from what’s left over. Some bacteria are also even used to produce medicines and vaccines.
Rule #2: Let Your Kid Be a Kid
A few months ago, we went to Chuck E. Cheese’s for our nephew’s birthday party and we were so used to putting our son in the carrier and walking around with him strapped to us, that we didn’t even think to take him out until his uncle said: “Let that boy play!” We put him in the car with Chuck E. and he had the time of his little life! He even got to taste birthday cake for the first time!
Being a work-from-home mom, it’s easy to forget that kids need to interact with other kids in public spaces. Even if that means the germ-ridden ball pit at their favorite fast-food restaurant. Thankfully, we have a while before we’re ready for that.
Rule #3: Practice and Teach Good Hygiene
I’ve been caught on several occasions mouthing the ABCs while washing my hands in public. I am not ashamed. And I’m happy that thoroughly washing my hands is a part of my germaphobe life that I can bring into my new role as a parent. Children are so observant and if there’s one habit that I would love for my son to pick up, washing his hands is one of them.
Right now, he’s at the age when everything he touches goes into his mouth. Until he’s able to wash his hands by himself, I try to keep his hands and the objects within his reach sanitized throughout the day, which is not an easy task!
So while I’ll be sure to do my best to ward off the sickness when it comes, here’s my promise to not go overboard with the shielding. Because at the end of the day, a kid needs to be a kid and getting sick is part of that, whether I like it or not.
Lead photo by Pexels user Burst