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Mama Bear
updated: Feb 23, 2013, 1:00 PM

By Sarah Gleason

I judge people. Specifically, I judge parents, at least I used to. I would judge parents for their children's transgressions. A tantrum in a grocery store earned an eye roll, a crying toddler in a restaurant, an exasperated sigh. A baby on an airplane? A snort of disgust.

And then it happened, I had a baby. I used to wince when a parent would say, "you'll understand when you have kids." Well, even though their smugness remains annoying, their message rings true. I do, in fact, get it now.

Germaphobia was perhaps the action I judged most. As a teacher, I had accepted that surfaces would never stay completely clean, that students wouldn't always use tissues, and that, in a class of 38, someone would always be sick. Germs were a part of my daily life, and I smirked at parents who thought they could eradicate germs with pocket-sized vials of sanitizer.

Well, it didn't take long after having my baby to realize how susceptible his little body was to illness. During a particularly bad month he was sick with croup, the stomach flu, and an ear infection. My response: scrub, clean, disinfect. I went as far as wiping-down playground equipment before letting him play on it. Other mothers watched me sanitize the swing, but said nothing. I knew they understood.

But then, I went too far. While eating at a local restaurant, an older woman (who was coughing and clearly sick) approached my son, extended her hand, and proceeded to rub his head. I glared at her, but the damage had been done. I instinctively reached into my diaper bag to retrieve my travel-size hand sanitizer, and before I could reflect on the sanity of my actions, I sanitized my baby's head. Yes, I actually squeezed sanitizer onto my hands and rubbed his hair and forehead.

I know that somewhere in that restaurant there was a young, non-mother, much like myself a year ago, who was certainly, and deservedly, rolling her eyes…and judging me.

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Sarah is a full-time mom to her one-year-old son, Owen.


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