I would never classify myself as a neat freak or someone who has to keep everything clean. In fact, until I had kids, germs and the fear of sickness never really crossed my mind. Sure, I was an avid handwasher and Germ-X carrier, but I didn’t obsess over keeping myself well.
My transformation into a germaphobe happened when I became a mom.
Or even before, when I became pregnant and learned about all the things moms must protect their newborn(s) from. Suddenly, it wasn’t just me I needed to worry about, and it became my mission to keep my babies safe from germs. I started worrying about which family members hadn’t gotten their T-Dap shot, flu shot, etc. I worried that some person would hold my twins who claimed to just have “allergies” and then my sweet infants would end up very sick.
Then my germaphobia intensified when I discovered that, as a twin mom, any sickness was twice as bad. Two babies needed me. There was twice as much puke, twice as long being stuck in the house, and twice as much worry. When one got sick, there was absolutely no hope that the other wouldn’t catch it. And, it felt like we caught EVERYTHING the first few years. Plus, any time they got sick, the mom guilt would set in, and I would feel like their sickness was all my fault.
As you can imagine, Covid kicked my germaphobia into overdrive. Also, I was pregnant with my third child at the time. It made the need to keep the germs away feel even more important. Then, when my sweet little pandemic baby arrived, I had so much anxiety about keeping her well and safe.
Something about getting through a pandemic really put germs into perspective. That coupled with the fact that kindergarten has given us MANY germs and viruses to deal with. In fact, as I write this post, my twins are both sick with some sort of stomach bug. Even though I still hate sickness and try my best to avoid it, it doesn’t give me as much anxiety as it used to.
I have realized a few truths that help me cope.
First, kids WILL get sick. There is no way around it. No matter how much I preach good handwashing and Clorox-wipe the house, it’s going to happen. Sometimes it will be inconvenient, and we will miss out on events, and that will be hard. But worrying about it before it even happens will not keep them well.
Next, sick kids DO get well. This might seem obvious, but when your kids have been sick for days upon days and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, remember this fact. Barring some exceptions, illnesses go away. At some point they will get better. You will get to leave the house as a family again. The puking will end. The runny noses will dry up. The sleepless nights will cease.
Also, sick days CAN actually be fun (sort of). Even something as terrible as a virus can have a small bright side. I don’t mind having my older girls home on sick days. I don’t mind hanging out and taking it slow with them all day. We watch movies and read stories together. While it’s definitely not ideal, it’s still time spent together.
Last, the amount of times my child is sick is NOT a reflection of my parenting. When I first became a mom, I had this wild idea that everything my children did, said, or experienced was a direct result of my choices and actions. That belief was a lie. I can only do so much to protect them. The rest is out of my control. And that’s a lesson that applies to a lot more than just germs. Their wellness or sickness does not indicate if I am doing a good job or not.
While you still won’t catch me voluntarily taking my kids to an indoor play place and while my hand sanitizer is always close by, I am learning to not worry as much about germs. I can be more present when I am not concerned with how many handrails my kids have touched or if the other kids at the playground are sick.