I’ve never been paranoid about germs. My children’s lives
are not spent covered in a thick film of alcohol-based antibacterial gel. I
make them wash their hands every time they go to the bathroom and I do the
same. Other than obsessively washing my hands while cooking, that’s it for us.
This all changed last week when my husband informed me that
one of his employees had a genuine case of the flu. I freaked. Unlike previous
years, I did not get the flu shot, nor did my children. We all got
them last year and, wouldn’t you know it, my daughter contracted the flu. The
flu vaccine contains the controversial, mercury-laden thimerisol and I have
watched Jenny McCarthy on one too many talk shows not to think twice about
exposing my kids to that stuff. My doctor has assured me that it is much better
to protect your children from the flu, which is responsible for a rising number
of children’s death in this country, than to succumb to baseless (his opinion,
not mine) fears about the vaccine. I should have listened. My pediatrician is
not offering them anymore and I can’t seem to shake this fear that my kids or
myself will get sick. Lesson learned: Get vaccinated for sanity's sake.
For the week following my husband’s exposure, I became a
germ freak. I attached a Lysol holster to my jeans and sprayed every surface
that my husband touched. My research about the flu and how it is spread made me
acutely aware of any saliva or mucus that may have left my family’s bodies. I
made my kids wash their hands every time they touched their faces. I randomly
sprayed my husband’s hands with antibacterial spray whenever he would scratch
his face. He didn’t much care for this, especially when I failed to warn him
that the spray was coming. I cleaned every surface that my kids got near:
shopping cart, table chair, check out counter with anti-bacterial wipes before
they touched them and still made them wash their hands as we were leaving. I
saw germs everywhere. I saw them when kids coughed or sneezed or breathed. I
saw them when the lady in front of me in line at the grocery store scratched
her nose, picked up a magazine and put it back on the rack. I saw them when my
son walked out of his school holding hands with his teacher. They were everywhere,
holding me hostage, taking away the joy and spontaneity of my day-to-day life.
My germophobia subsided once my husband’s flu symptom window
came and went. We resumed normalcy in our home and I took off my Lysol holster
and stopped the random anti-bacteria spraying episodes. Everyone breathed a
sigh of relief, including myself, and our germ-infested house and bodies are
once again back to their pre-flu-scare normalcy. I have learned some lessons
from my week as a germophobe:
- I have a renewed combination of respect and
sympathy for the moms who douse their kids in antibacterial gel every time they
make a move. These moms see germs, much like the Sixth Sense kid saw dead people. They can’t help themselves so they
find comfort in alcohol-based gel.
kids are just resigned to this ritual, assuming that it is a part of life that
all of their friends see the world through gel-covered lenses as well.
- Most of all,
though, I have learned to appreciate my moderate stance on germs. I acknowledge
their existence and avoid them when possible but I don’t obsess and for that I
I'm not sure that my Howard Hughes-like behavior had any impact on the outcome of my husband's flu exposure. I choose to believe that it was just a coping mechanism and has little to do with the end result. If hooking an IV up with a constant anti-bacterial gel drip to their kids gives some Moms peace of mind, then who am I to judge? I'm all about peace of mind.