Toddlerhood Is Hell When You're a Germaphobe Mom

toddler playing in the dirt

I used to be scared of the usual things. Spiders, heights, large bodies of water. Cruise ships. Normal stuff. Now that I'm a mom? The tiniest things can scare the shit out of me: GERMS.


That's right. They are literally all over your house, your car, the store -- they are even FLOATING THROUGH THE AIR. We're talking death, people.

At any minute, I could be killing my 2-year-old by not wiping down the kitchen counter. Or not cleaning a bottle according to the directions. Or happily snapping Instagram pics while he tastes new foods -- foods that may or may not have been cooked to 160 degrees because I don't have a damn food thermometer, who the eff does??

It feels like playing chess with the grim reaper.

When he was first born, I invited anyone and everyone over. I was scared of germs, but not enough to keep people at bay. I was far too lonely and intimidated by my own new baby. Yes, I asked everyone to wash their hands before they touched him, but I wasn't overly worried.

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After a couple of months, he went to daycare, and sickness started creeping into our household. That's when I freaked out. I spent the first year of his life buying things I thought would keep him safe. A product merely had to suggest that it would kill germs and I thought, Yes, we will need that one too. I bought, like, six bottles of alcohol-free sanitizer, all from different holistic or never-before-heard-of companies. Soap and water would have done the job, but I swear my self-esteem as a new mother was somehow wrapped up in those extra dollars I was throwing around, in hopes of creating the ultimate baby-safety shield.

Then toddlerhood showed up like a slap in the face. That's when your child starts eating sand and grabbing his butt cheeks when he is covered in liquid shit and you start to lose your mind. Playdates are a momentary respite from being their main pal, but they are also an invitation to bring home whatever filth the other child is carrying on and in their tiny petri dish of a body. I can't even tell you how many times my 2-year-old has had pink eye. I find myself wanting to touch him with surgical gloves when he's in our own home. Just because I would give my life for him does not mean I want to get near his puss-filled eye sockets.

I have days where I attack every germ. I make him change his dirty outside clothes before getting near the fabrics in our house because I don't want to rest my cheek on a couch pillow that could give me a rash. I follow him around, barking at him not to touch anything I don't approve of. Which is, sadly, most things. I'm cool with grass because I consider the chlorophyll cleansing, but I scream bloody murder when I see him making his way toward ant hills, rock beds, or anything in the vicinity of a cobweb. When he ignores me, I ask, with feigned terror, "Do you want to go to the hospital?" But he doesn't know what the hospital is, and seems pretty open to the idea. My anxiety goes through the roof. I don't want to know the rate of my resting blood pressure.

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Which is likely why, every now and then, I have days when I get tired to the point that I don't have the energy to hoist him away from everything in the world, and I want to give my vocal chords a rest ... and I just let it all go. I watch in half horror, half awe, while my child plays with bug carcasses, sucks on sticks and dirty snow, and slams his face into the slobber of 20 dog mouths at the dog park.

On those days, I lift up a silent prayer to the universe that, no matter whether I get every last inch of soil from underneath his fingernails, my child will live to be 100. Because dirty or not dirty, I really just want him here, standing on the ground of this disgusting earth -- right next to me.

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