Germs: What I Wish I Could Tell My First-Time-Mom Self

There are many things I wish I could tell my first-time-mom self to lessen my self-induced stress. As someone who had 3 kids in 4 years, I had a steep and steady learning curve. With my first I fought things like rearranging night hang-out time with the Hubs, needing to sometimes wake Baby from a nap, and exposing our child to germs. By the third kid, these were no longer limitations but expectations.

Me and #1

Me and #1

I look back and wish I could have calmed myself. That I could tell myself all that I know now. However, I am fully aware that I never would have listened back then. I needed to learn it and live it for myself. Still, these are the things I wish I could say to five-years-ago me, if only to lessen my burden.

1) Fevers seem scarier than they are. Generally speaking, for a healthy child, a fever is a sign that the body is doing its job. The the immune system is at work. Unless notable lethargy and dehydration are observed, just: comfort, cuddle, and chill. 102F may seem awful as an adult but an otherwise healthy 1-year-old can spike a 104F temperature without medical intervention. (Note: Of course one should always follow one’s intuition and adhere to the pediatrician’s protocol.)

2) Germs aren’t all bad. Protecting your newborn from the flu: reasonable. Incessantly sanitizing your toddler: questionable. Panicking when your tot eats a little dirt: dubious. Avoiding public play spaces and shopping carts with a healthy kid for fear of germs: ludicrous. Kids are germy. Kids get germs. Germs can make them sick. Getting sick bolsters their immunity. Germs aren’t all bad. I’m not saying go lick the snot-nosed kid with the rash, but an otherwise healthy 1-year-old with a cough is not catastrophic. Sure, it semi-sucks for the parents for a bit, but that’s not new. If you can survive the 4-month sleep regression, you can handle Hand-Foot-and-Mouth. Childhood illnesses — Coxsackie, Roseola, Fifth’s Disease, a standard cold — they’re crummy viruses that make a kid (and, subsequently, his or her guardians) feel temporarily uncomfy but then it’s nothing but a memory. After conquering the malady, the child is better equipped for future encounters, and so are the parents. Germs are simply a part life… especially life with kids. Fighting it will only rob you and your child of some of the purest childhood joys. Accept germs and move on.

3) Don’t cancel because of a cold. If your child is not an infant and is generally healthy, there’s no need to enact a quarantine due to a standard cold. Sniffles, a cough, mucus, maybe some mild fussiness… this is doable. Always tell the other playdate parent ahead of time if you or your child have a cold, thus allowing the other parent to choose for him or herself whether or not exposure is right for their family, but don’t just cancel at the first sign of boogers. It’s a cold not Typhus.

4) Don’t expect to sleep when Baby is sick. You’re a parent, which means that sleep is now a privelge not a right. If Baby is sick and allows you to snooze, great! Count that as a bonus. If not, consider it training for future sleep regressions. It’ll suck. You’ll live. Caffeinate and keep it moving

5) It’s temporary. Everything in parenthood is temporary. Everything. Every phase (good or bad), every stage (fun or loathsome), every moment  (magical or torturous), every routine… all of it. Remember that during the good, the bad, and the monotonous. Don’t sully the good by fretting the bad. Survive the muck and savor the magic.


Advice on Advice

So often parents, especially new and expectant mothers, get bombarded with advice from resources near and downright bizarre. Thanks for the intel on how to cope with nipple biting, middle-aged single dude at Starbucks! This bounty of insights leads some guardians to universally rebuke all outsider commentary. How foolish! How short-sighted!

“Enough with the unsolicited advice!” “Unless you’re advising me on which wine goes with Cheez-Its, keep your advice to yourself!” “Why does my mother-in-law bother giving me baby-rearing tips… it’s MY baby?!” Some mothers vent.

I counter: accept the advice, every nugget you can scrounge. Ask present mothers in all stages of life for their learnings. They are your greatest resource. Then, dig through the mound. Sift out the out-dated, the unsavory, the inapplicable, and the ridiculous. What you’re left with is a priceless tool box with which to address your greatest life challenge yet: parenthood.

When strangers and loved ones are offering you advice, they are selflessly giving you free insights — lessons learned the hard way — so that you needn’t suffer. How beautiful is that?! What a gift (and you don’t even need to return it to Macy’s if it’s not to your liking!) The advisors are not implying you’re incapable or unfit by sharing their knowledge; they’re simply lending you a hand. They’re reaching out. Accept that donation with open arms!

Just because you listen to the advice from an elderly woman in line at Target, doesn’t mean you must follow her parental algorithm. Just because a co-worker emails you a list of her baby must-haves, doesn’t mean you are destined to purchase her recommendations precisely. Just because a neighbor chats you up about bottle vs. breast doesn’t mean you are contractually obligated to ammend your feeding choices. Instead, it means you are humble enough to know you are not omniscient, that you are aware your journey has only just begun, that you properly honor the knowledge of those who’ve gone before you. Basically, it means you’re wise enough to learn from others.

So, drop the ego. Holster the defensiveness. Ditch the dramatic tendency toward offense. And accept advice for what it is: a free gift that you may do with as you please. You may just learn something! I know I do.