I had a lot of expectations of myself about bath time when I was a new mom: having the right toys, the right activities, and even washing my kids the right way. There was pressure from my peers, and the articles I read online, to make sure that bath time was an "experience" rather than just one more part of my child's routine. Eventually I learned there were a lot of things I thought I had to do during bath time that I actually, well, didn't have to do. However, these are the kinds of revelations that you can only come to enjoy once you've gone through the experience of parenting.
Before I had kids, I thought bath time would be a time of fun, play, and probably some light splashing. While this held true for the early newborn days, when bath time is mostly sweet and gentle and calming (except of course, for the times when it is not), it was a different story when the infant stage was over.
Truth: I get bored watching my kids in the bath. Yes, there are cute moments when they start pretending they're reenacting scenes from The Little Mermaid or when my little one climbs his brother's back and they pretend to "swim" together (so safe!). However, most of the time I'm antsy to get the show on the road and move along to pajamas and bed. I know, Mother of The Year over here. I'm real about my bath-time-feelings and I'm telling you that I've wasted some time on things I realized I really didn't need to do at bath time. Hopefully you can use this as a guide if you, like me, are the "let's get this over with as painlessly as possible" type of Bath Time Mom.
Use Soap Every Time
When I used to think about bath time, I used to think about soap. Personally, when I take a shower I use a body wash each and every time. However, after I had my baby I realized that a bath can just be a relaxing way to end my baby's day and help him get ready for sweet, sweet sleep.
A bath doesn't always have to be about getting squeaky clean, and clean doesn't necessarily even apply when you're a sheltered infant who only poops out milk byproduct and is only allowed to touch toys that have been disinfected multiple times a day. It was kind of a revelation to think about the bath in a different way after I had kids, as something that is just for pure joy and relaxation, or just to unwind, and not only as a means of cleanliness.
Buy Toys Specifically Made For The Bath
It is amazing that there was a time in our history when children had fun in the tub without the help of whatever the newfangled thing promises hours of bath time fun. I thought I had to spend so much money on eco-friendly, tub-friendly boats and duck toys, and toys that made it look like it was raining from a cloud.
Then, one day my son took an empty water bottle into the tub and wouldn't get out for an hour. To this day, both of my children love playing in the bath with toys like tupperware, water bottles, race cars, and plastic figurines more than anything else. None of these things were "meant for the bath" and it probably has to do with how moldy they would get if left wet for too long, but let's not think about that too much, OK?
Get A Temperature Tester For The Bath Water
I had read somewhere (damn that dangerous reading!) that every new mom must, absolutely must, have a temperature tester for her infant's bath water. Mine was a little plastic turtle that turned a certain color if the bath was too hot. Super reliable and scientific, I know.
You know what else would have been reliable, though? My arm. I know, my arm can't tell an exact temperature, and my perception is way different than that of a baby. However, common sense tells me that if I have to think about it for any length of time, "Hm, is this water scalding, or just boiling hot?" then it is probably not a great idea to put my baby into it. Do I really need a purple turtle to tell me that?
Make Sure I Actually Gave My Kids One Every Day
To take my point about not having to soap up the kids every single day even further, how about this: what if we didn't even give them a bath every day? When I realized this was even a possibility, my mind was almost blown straight from Brooklyn to the Finger Lakes. I couldn't believe there were people who didn't bathe themselves or their children on the daily. Did these people not know how gross they were? All the organisms living on their bodies on a daily basis, the germs they are exposed to all the time?
Then, one day I was like, well, it's kind of late, I'm really tired, they're cranky, and I don't feel like enforcing bath tonight. Besides, it is not like the kids rolled around in the mud today. So, we skipped bath and I couldn't believe it, but no one broke out in hives and flies did not start buzzing around their heads. Thus started a New Era, of occasionally skipping a bath time. It's glorious.
Pretend I Liked Sitting And Watching My Bathroom Grow Mold
There are only so many times you can fake this "happy mom" thing. Sometimes it is really boring, sometimes you hate your children, and sometimes (especially during bath time) you're happy your kids are having fun but silently you're freaking out over the splashing that is happening all over the bathroom which is most definitely going to turn to toxic black mold.
Stare Intently And Not Do Anything Else While My Children Bathed For Fear Of Them Drowning
There was a long period of time when, every night, I was a hostage in the bathroom, and could not leave for the full 50 minute bath both of my boys insisted upon having, because they were busy playing with their color-changing race cars (and using up all the ice cubes from my freezer to change them from purple to red or whatever). I wanted to leave, so I could finish tidying the kitchen or empty out my bag from my work day, but I was so afraid that if I did that would be the moment my youngest would slip under and drown and I wouldn't know till I'd returned to the bathroom.
Then, I realized that I could still get things done, but the trick was, I had to bring my "workload" into the bathroom. I brought laundry, my computer, and bills that needed to paid. This way, I could keep a watchful eye (kind of) and still get a few household errands finished while still overseeing the bath.
Use A Washcloth
Before kids, when it came to anything with a potential ick factor, I used to have to use industrial-grade gloves and a protective mask. So when I had my first baby, and he grew into a less-than-pristine toddler who required somewhat more thorough washes than when he was a newborn, I used a washcloth at bath time.
Pretty soon, however, I was over it. It was just too much effort to remember to get one at every bath time, too much extra laundry, and too much moldy washcloth smell. Now I just use my hands scrub both of my kids down with soap, yes, even the "icky" parts. You know why? Because I don't really think there's anything all that icky about my kids anymore, gross as they are sometimes.
Research Inspiring Sensory Activities For Bath Time Learning
At some point, maybe it was during a mom group meet up or overheard at the local coffee shop, I caught wind of one of my major shortcomings as a new mom: I hadn't been engaging my son in any sensory activities during bath time to help him build his muscles or strengthen his motor skills. Oops.
I quickly immersed myself in "the holy internets" to find out everything I needed to know about this vital area of development of which I was depriving my child. Then I wanted to smack myself when I saw what these "sensory games" were: pour a bottle of water over your baby's head or take a squirt toy and squirt it at him. Um, call it whatever fancy thing you want, but I just call that playing normal games with my baby that end up soaking my shirt but are mostly fun if I'm being honest.
Buy Separate Shampoos And Body Washes
I used to think I had to have separate soap for my children's bodies and their hair. Then I realized I was being played. It is all pretty much the same stuff, especially since I buy pretty natural products made with very few ingredients. It is all marketing at that point. I refuse to be a pawn in the great marketing machine, you guys. Refuse.
Now I just buy gentle, sensitive skin shampoo and use it everywhere, and if my kid's hair needs extra detangling I use a spray conditioner afterward. No muss no fuss.