Cleanliness is not next to Motherliness

It’s official, I smell. It’s been 8 days since I washed my hair and 3 days since I last showered.  The last time I addressed my leg hair was when I was 36 weeks pregnant and I was grooming myself for the hospital.  At that time I could not actually reach my legs and so had to train Secundo, my 4 year old son, to use my epilady.  I told him it was just another Nintendo Wii contraption (for mummies) and as he seems to have a special aptitude for this game in all its forms, he was remarkably adept at it. Of course our Newborn is now 10 weeks old and the current length of my leg hair is probably unprecedented in the Western world.

Two observations:

1. According to Tamil culture, a new mother and her baby are not allowed to go to the temple until 31 days after the birth.  One would think this restriction was designed to protect the mother and child from exposure to disease and germs.  However, the restriction is couched in the language of cleanliness.  Or rather, the disturbing language of uncleanliness. A new mother and her baby are considered “unclean” for 31 days.  We all know childbirth is messy but having done it four times, and despite my own cleanliness OCD, to my mind all that fluid, blood and tissue that comes out is nothing but the best mess in the world because there, swimming and sliding out with it, each time is a beautiful little Duck baby.

2. My husband showers every single day. How in God’s name does he manage it? Before he showers, he very sweetly checks in with me to make sure it is ok if he leaves me surrounded, out-numbered and alone with our brood, bless him.  I have nothing but admiration for him as he hugs me in the morning and I breathe in his fresh, smooth soapiness whilst he breathes in my fermented, regurgitated milkiness.

In the morning, after I have made multiple beds, fed multiple children, mediated multiple arguments (usually about whose turn it is to choose the television programme), I am lucky if I can scrape together a portion of porridge (usually from the children’s bowls) and brush my teeth.  In fact it is possible I did not brush my teeth today either.

My point is that there is always something else that needs to be done, some child-related task or chore that I will squeeze in on my way to the shower, and then some child-related responsibility or emergency that completely hijacks my hygiene. It is simply one verse in the much larger poetry of prioritisation.  You know the one ladies – there is always something else for some one else that needs to be done first. Ask yourself, does it need to be done first or do we feel it should be done first.

At our temple there is a sign reminding people to take their shoes off and wash their hands before they enter. It says “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” From where I stand, with the Great Unwashed, cleanliness may not be next to motherliness but motherliness has to be closer to Godliness than our temple priest is prepared to concede.

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About Shankari Chandran

Six years ago we returned home from London to Sydney with our four young children and life has been chaos and comfort chocolate ever since.
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