No, no, you say. Washing hands protects children from diseases. The CDC recommends it. Your fellow P-SAHM recommends it. How could it ever be bad? The answer is complicated. Obviously hand washing is important and helps prevent diseases. But let me tell you a story.
When my children were toddlers, I started dropping them off at the gym day care so that I could tackle my post-baby belly. The runny noses of strange kids and overall griminess of the toys totally freaked me out but I knew I needed to exercise for my own health. So every day I cringed as I dropped them off and gave them a little squirt of hand sanitizer as I picked them up. Sounds reasonable, right? I am sure most of you would do the exact same thing. But . . . .
One day Miss M. left the gym really upset.
me: What happened?
Miss M: A kid touched my arm.
me: You mean, a kid hit you?
Miss M: No. He just touched me but the kids at the gym are dirty. Right, Mom? I don't play with them so I won't get germs. . .
And with that, I stopped washing their hands as we left the gym. The benefits of avoiding a few colds, didn't outweigh the risks of raising a daughter who was afraid to interact with other kids.
My husband and I are both prone to anxiety. Not only that but OCD runs in both sides of our family. Our poor kids have the genetic deck stacked against them when it comes to anxiety, so I want to do everything in my power to build an environment for them that discourages anxiety. Since germs and hand washing are part of typical obsessive/compulsive behaviors, we downplay it.
We wash hands before we eat (if I remember) and after we use the bathroom. I mention germs but I don't emphasize them and I have not taught them to wash their hands for 20 seconds. I do not want them to feel like it is possible to wash their hands incorrectly. This seems like a slippery slope to the repeated hand washing so stereotypical of OCD.
Yes, it is sometimes hard for me not to chase them around with hand sanitizer or force them to wash their hands repeatedly when I catch them picking up goat poop because it looked like "a lemon" (we did wash repeatedly for that one) but I stand by my decision to prioritize protecting them from compulsive behaviors over avoiding germs. I do not want my children to feel like the world is contaminated.