Posted by: thughesa | June 10, 2010

Let Them Eat Dirt

I just read an interesting article pertaining to perfectionism and postpartum depression. On May 30, at the Association for Psychological Science annual convention, researchers from York University reported findings showing pregnant women and new mothers who feel they must be perfect have an elevated risk of developing postpartum depression.

While perfection in other aspects of life can prolong life expectancy and enjoyment, such as managing diabetes, the same does not apply to motherhood. Previous studies have shown that a perfectionist attitude can be beneficial, but this is the first study showing that this is not always the case. It is likely social factors and pressures surrounding motherhood are responsible for this phenomenon, although the authors did not offer any explanations for their findings.

I have to say I find this a breath of fresh air. It is extremely hard to keep a clean and organized house, manage everyone’s schedules, find time to play with your kids, do the laundry, and keep your sanity at the same time. I don’t know how many times I have apologized to my friends for my messy living room or kitchen, only to have them say that it makes them feel better about the state of their own homes.

Not only does being a perfectionist put you at risk for postpartum depression, but your overly clean house could damage your children’s health. Last year a study came out linking over-cleanliness to heart disease.  Researchers found the more pathogens the people had encountered before age 2, the less CRP (C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation) they had at age 20.  Being prone to inflammation later in life raises the risk for stroke and heart disease.

The researchers tested this idea, dubbed the hygiene hypothesis (the idea that our sanitized world damages the immune system), by comparing American children to children from the Philippines, where western style sanitation practices are absent.  They found the children from the Philippines had an adult CRP that was 80% lower than their American counterparts.

I don’t feel so bad now about the unswept floor, licked windows, or my kids having a tea party in the sandbox.


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