Let me start by saying, this post was not intended to criticize or make anyone feel bad. These words came to me rather as a justification and defense of my parenting. Before my (now 5 month old) daughter was born, my husband and I agreed we would disrupt our existing lives as little as possible. My three step-daughters live with us part-time and they were already on the fence about our new addition. We wanted their lives to feel the same post-baby as they did pre-baby.
This meant my newborn daughter hit the streets of Pinellas County before most babies. I felt the stares and I heard plenty of “Isn’t she young to be out?” and “Aren’t you supposed to wait until she has her shots?” From my friends, my own mother and sometimes complete strangers. I always responded with a smile and a nod, but deep down, it bothered me. Wasn’t I allowed to make the decisions for my child? If I was okay with taking my daughter to the mall, why should the cashier at Macy’s care? For the first time as a Mom, I felt judged. I wanted what was best for my child like anyone else. Here is why I was okay with my choices.
My child is required to spend time in the germ-iest place EVER – The Pediatrician’s Office: Quite frequently, our little ones are forced to spend several hours in a relatively confined space where WE KNOW there are live, active germs. My daughter was jaundice after birth, and so we spent extra time in the hospital/doctor’s office getting labs drawn, etc. If my doctor thinks a half-wall with a fish tank is enough to separate the coughs from my little peanut, then I see no reason why she can’t run into Target with me. It’s not like I let her suck on dollar bills in the check out line! So Moms, if you have to run an errand, don’t be afraid to take your little ones with you.
My child is required to spend time in the second germ-iest place EVER – My House: My husband is a Firefighter/EMT. Every third day, he is exposed to all sorts of germ-y goodness. My three stepdaughters are school aged, and have two toddler-aged siblings when at their Mom’s. My house can only be described as a germ farm. A germ farm that my daughter has to live in. She has no choice. We were lucky enough that her big sisters fell in love with her instantly, wanting to hold her, play with her and put her to sleep. I’m not going to make them shower and wear a haz-mat suit every time they would like to do so. The family that coughs together, stays together. So Moms, don’t be afraid to let your child around other people. Unless they lick his/her face, your kid will probably come out unscathed.
I don’t have time to be a germaphobe: Yes, it takes time to be constantly worried about germs. Time I don’t have. I don’t have time to boil the pacifier every single time it touches a foreign surface. I don’t have time to make sure everything my daughter comes in contact with has been appropriately cleaned with hypoallergenic wipes. I don’t have the time to police what she comes in contact with when she is not in my care. And you know what, that’s okay. So Moms, if you can’t find the time to disinfect everything fourteen times a day, they will probably still make it out okay.
Germs are good: No really, they are. Germs, dirt, etc. help to build immunity. What happens when you get a vaccine or a flu shot? They inject you with small doses of the virus. Because that’s how your body learns to toughen up. One thing I have noticed about people who are constantly worried about germs – THEY ARE SICK A LOT. In the five months my daughter has been alive, she has been in good health. (Listen for the sound of me knocking wood!!) She has been passed around like a football during the Superbowl since she was just a few hours old. And I’m okay with that. I try to keep the sick people away and I do take precautions when I can to keep her healthy. But the nature of our life is a bit crazy. So Moms, if your kid comes in contact with germs, their bodies will be better for it in the long run.
My daughter is going to be around germs. Period. She’s going to eat grass, dirt, sand and probably a decent amount of food off the floor. She’s going to licked by our friend’s dog. She’s going to get sick, and throw up and probably even have the flu. I can do my best to control her environment, but I’m also trying my best to relax and enjoy the precious moments that will be her childhood. So throw those handi-wipes in the diaper bag for when you really need them, and don’t be afraid to get a little bit dirty.