If Mom Had Three Minutes or Three Hands

I bet you’re wondering what the heck this photo is. It looks like it could be something scraped off a doorknob, a keyboard, or the floor of a public bathroom, doesn’t it? Worry not, it’s a close up of a glass of champagne sitting on a very cool, opaque, lit-from-within, alabaster bedside table. Yep, I’m living the high life, at least until checkout on Sunday. Even Honeymoons have to end, am I right, Jenna?


It was a lucky photo, because I planned to write about germs today. I’ve been asked to think about what I might do if I had three minutes totally to myself or three hands (presumably totally all to myself), and I sat for quite a while before I could come up with anything that could have a major impact in that amount of time. Three minutes is clearly not enough time to instill reflexive behavioral skills such as “Close the toilet lid before flushing!” when we’re still struggling with the more primitive “Flush!” skill.

It was even harder to imagine what I’d do with three hands, because people would stare, and tune out EVEN MORE while I tried to talk. The kids would never hear another word I said. Ever.

On the other (third?) hand, the kids and/or I land in the ER, urgent care, or plain ole doctor’s office sooo often (How often is that? So often that I have a Facebook album consisting entirely of photos of Waiting Room Floors. I started it only nine months ago and there are 18 photos in it already.), that I knew I had to focus on germs. And health. Mostly, keeping healthy and reducing contact with germs. Because germs bad. Health good. Me like health.

And I’m definitely all about public health. Just ask my stepdad, twice shortlisted for Surgeon General. Growing up with a pathologist in the house will put hair on your chest.

That’s why I’m always running around like a maniac when the kids walk in from school, yelling, “Everybody wash your hands and face with soap and water before homework!” And there’s always someone who tries to say they don’t have homework and then I have to throw in “before touching the remote!” But they’re almost always wrong, and no one is allowed to play video games or watch TV before EVERYONE’S homework is done, so you’d think they’d have figured that one out by now. Btw, if you have more than one kid, that’s a highly effective policy if you can enforce it. With five siblings staring that last straggler down, the peer pressure can be quite motivating.

The big message is always, “Clean your hands so no one gets sick.” Ok, mostly I’m yelling, “Wash up so I don’t get sick!” Of course, we all get sick, but we’d be LESS sick if we didn’t depend on kids’ self-assessment of cleanliness. They’d have to have a slug under a fingernail or hands caked in mud, front and back, before copping to dirty hands.

Just for giggles, I made a list of the preventable illnesses I have had in the past couple years:

  1. Flu (of course);
  2. Several colds;
  3. Swine Flu;
  4. Parvovirus B19 (also known as Fifth Disease, mild in children and severe to deadly in adults); and
  5. Two E. coli infections that ravaged my kidneys (I had to get extremely painful daily antibiotic shots for the first, and the second nearly killed me with fever just shy of 105.)

And let’s not forget the enterovirus that nearly killed my middle child, Dylan, when he was a week old. Dylan was born just a day or so after a Coxsackie exposure at Logan’s daycare. If he’d just stayed in the womb a bit longer, he’d have benefitted from my antibodies. Eight days later, he was in heart failure, and stopped breathing shortly after I brought him to the ER at the hospital where he was born. They didn’t have the level of care needed to treat him, so thank all that is good and crunchy that Stanford was just up the road and could send a critical care unit to collect him for what would be a seventeen-day stay in a Level III NICU. Long story short, he tried to die a new way every day: Supraventricular tachycardia (his heartbeat was over 300 beats per minute), acidosisarrhythmia (They kept the tiny paddles next to his bed in case they needed to use them on him again), and a few other fun wrenches viral myocarditis can throw into recovery. They kept him on a respirator and in an induced coma for most of his 17-day, $250,000 stay because being awake was too much of a strain on his heart. He came home with a mohawk from the cranial pic lines and had to be weaned from morphine addiction, very slowly, and over a long period of time. You haven’t lived until you’ve coaxed your kid through detox.

In short, I’m a little freaky about clean hands.

So, the best use of three spare minutes in our home would be to collect all handheld electronics—ipods, cell phones, TV remotes, game system remotes, and laptops, and give them a good wipedown with antibacterial wipes or with paper towels and a spray from the bleach disinfectant bottle I practically carry around in a holster. Have you FELT what collects on those things? Every time one of the kids hands me their ipod and asks me to enter my password so they can download an app, I do the flappy hand dance over the tactile experience of layers of pure bacteria and lord knows what else makes it so sticky and filmy. I don’t even want to KNOW what’s on there. Frankly, I don’t want to know why they don’t notice it in the first place. I could open my fingers and wave my palm around and it still wouldn’t fly out of my hand.

*More of the flappy hand dance*

Clearly, the fate of the world is in our hands. As parents, it’s up to us to walk that line between a healthy retention of “good bacteria” (Everyone’s gotta eat that pound of dirt before they’re 1 so they can build up immunities! Also, because it’s fun.), and going so clean-happy as to force bacteria to adapt and change to the point that they are antibiotic-resistant.

Let’s help each other, shall we? Share your personal tips for handling being a new mom and stories about what you do if you had three free minutes. Visit the If Mom Had Three Minutes tab on Clorox’s Facebook page. There’s a payoff: readers’ tips and stories will inspire a Clorox e-book called If Mom Had Three Minutes, and all contributors whose stories are chosen will have a credit in the book. You can be published! Take it from me, getting published is the A-Number-One road to fame, fortune, and roomfuls of cash that even the banks can’t handle.

Disclosure: This is a post sponsored by Clorox. Help stop the spread of germs with Clorox® disinfecting products


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3 Responses to If Mom Had Three Minutes or Three Hands

  1. Lavea March 15, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Why would your stepdad, a pathologist, be on the shortlist for attorney general?  I don’t get the connection. 

  2. Mindy March 15, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    SURGEON General! SURGEON General! I can’t believed I typed Attorney. Possibly because I spent the morning talking to one here, oddly enough. 

  3. Lisa May 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    This blog post is advertainment.

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