80: Multitasking 101 for Germophobic Moms

80: Multitasking 101 for Germophobic Moms

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Multitasking 101 for Germophobic Moms

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

~Friedrich Nietzsche

In hindsight, I was a real germophobe as a first-time mom. When my first child, Lindsey, was born, I sterilized everything. If she dropped her pacifier for a half-second, I cleaned it. Heaven forbid if the dog so much as sniffed at her pacifier from ten feet away. Forget about sterilizing it. I’d just throw the pacifier away. I was that paranoid.

In fact, I was even more obsessive about dog germs than Lucy from the Peanuts comic strip. “Get some hot water! Get some disinfectant!” Unlike Lucy, I sterilized even theoretical dog germs with hot water and disinfectant, not just actual dog germs that came from Fido licking my baby’s face.

Lindsey didn’t get into situations that involved nasty germs anyway. She was a typical little girl — mostly interested in her stuffed animals, finger painting, and arts and crafts — not dirt, bugs, worms, grime, and slime — the things that boys like.

As you might guess, by the time our second child Cory, a boy, came along three years later, I had trouble keeping up with my own impossible standards of cleanliness.

You know how it goes. Regular math doesn’t apply when it comes to counting your children. One plus one actually equals four children — or, at least, it feels like four times the work — when you’re as anal-retentive as I was.

It’s the same with the picture-taking. You take a million photos of child #1, but when you have #2, you have less time and energy. You just can’t give #2 the same amount of attention as you gave #1.

I don’t even want to think about what it’s like when you have more children than two. It’s probably impossible to dote on them all equally. There isn’t enough time in the day!

Sorry to digress. Getting back to my multitasking/germ story…

Something big happened that changed me forever when Cory was about ten months old. I still get pale and sweaty when I think about what he did.

Normally, if I had chores to do and had to multitask in the kitchen, I let Cory roam free on the floor while I worked. I figured it was safe since the kitchen floor was squeaky clean and the cabinet doors were safety-latched. Boy, I was wrong about our resourceful little scamp. He found trouble where I thought none existed.

The event in question happened while I was loading the dishwasher. Because I was exhausted, I apparently zoned out for a few minutes as I worked. I don’t remember where my mind went, but I was probably daydreaming about what it would be like to actually get some sleep. When I snapped out of it, my heart nearly stopped in fear. I realized my baby was gone. “Oh, no! Where’s Cory?” I panicked.

Cory must have sensed my inattention during that zone-out time. It was as if he had radar and knew exactly when to make his move for mischief.

Where was my sneaky little ninja? He was at the doggie door that led to the back yard, and he was doing something indescribably icky — especially from the perspective of an anal-retentive, germo-phobic mom.

Our doggie door was the clear vinyl kind. Or, at least, it started out clear. By this time, it was a few years old, and it was filthy — literally impossible to see through. It was more like a medium brown color with areas of darker brown and khaki green. There were some yellow splotches on it, too, and some bumpy things of unknown origin. I think one of the bumps might have been a fly that was petrified in dog snot. The point is that it was nasty.

If you’re a mom, maybe you can guess what my ten-month-old boy was doing at the doggie door. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it because I should have done a better job watching him (not to mention I should have at some point cleaned the doggie door), but… my little Cory was teething on the nasty, repulsive, disgusting doggie door!

More accurately, he was gnawing away at the bottom corner of the doggie door like there was no tomorrow. I imagine he did it to soothe his aching gums. Judging from the way he smacked his lips, it appealed to his taste buds, too. I imagine it tasted tangy. Maybe salty-sweet with a little crunch, too, from the bumpy things.

After seeing the large area he managed to clean, I suppose more time passed than I realized before I caught him. A solid six square inches of doggie door were now squeaky clean. The part he cleaned was the only part of that flap that was see-through. I mean it was crystal clear. It was even cleaner than the day we first installed it.

After the ringing in my ears cleared up and my heart rate and blood pressure started returning to normal, I realized that my baby had just been inoculated with every slimy germ known to mankind — but he was still alive (so far).

The point is there was nothing I could do about it at that point. The germs were in his system. It was a done deal.

That infamous day marked the beginning of my new philosophy about germs. From then on, I realized, “What doesn’t kill him can only make him stronger.” My new favorite saying became, “Well, I guess that’s why God gave Cory stomach acid.”

Interestingly, when I showed my now thirteen-year-old son the rough draft of this story, he had a different perspective from my own. Whereas I claim to have multitasked by doing housework while I watched him, he claims that he was actually the one who was multitasking during that episode. “Think about it, Mom. Who was the one who cleaned that filthy doggie door for you? I was the one helping YOU!”

Point well taken.

~Rita Hancock, MD

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