New way of life ... The '10-second rule' can be a bit elastic for some mums.

New way of life ... The '10-second rule' can be a bit elastic for some mums.

Something happens when you become a mother. Actually, a lot happens. Among the many changes we go through, something slips, and the line between our private and public lives gets a little bit blurred. We start going to the shops without putting on any make-up, and before we know it we’re dropping the kids off at school in our pyjamas. Or, in the case of my friend, arriving at the school gates without a bra while wearing a perfectly white, see-through top.

But this is all perfectly acceptable, because, as any mum knows, getting kids out of the house when you have to be somewhere on time is a Herculean task. Especially on those days when everything is going wrong.

The change in myself has been immense. Now I don’t think twice about burrowing my head in my children’s pants to check if they’ve done a poo ... 

So now that you’ve got your very own small person to look after, you might not think twice about walking around in a top that’s got a bit of baby sick on it. And you’ll gladly throw on the first pair of pants you see, even if they are your maternity jeans … in spite of the fact that you had your baby 10 months ago and they’re now so loose you have to hoist them back up every few steps, lest you give everyone a show of your daggy, baggy, years-older-than-your-child undies.

Jennifer Garner’s daughter Violet delights in eating ice cream … you are meant to get it everywhere, right? Click for more photos

In photos: messy & untidy celebs

Jennifer Garner’s daughter Violet delights in eating ice cream … you are meant to get it everywhere, right?

  • Jennifer Garner’s daughter Violet delights in eating ice cream … you are meant to get it everywhere, right?
  • Robert Pattinson sweated up a storm during a visit to Planet Hollywood.
  • Don’t worry about Britney’s messy hair, what about the stains on the dress?
  • Singing is sweaty business for Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas.
  • Vince appears to have been wiping greasy fingers all over himself.
  • Paris always looks stunning, but this time her top could do with a wash.
  • Look, even supermodels perspire on their fancy clothes too! Helena Christensen is having a damp day at a fashion show.
  • A disheveled Luke Perry!
  • Sienna Miller spotted in a stained  t-shirt at the airport.
  • Shouldn't someone tell Claire Danes she's got a bit of lippy on her cheek?
  • Tom Cruise leaving a night club – looks like he spilled a drink.
  • Tara Reid could do with a wash.

Then there are the mummy acts that really are a bit 'ew'; the kind that raises a few eyebrows among the general public, and can make you wonder if motherhood has permanently unscrewed a few vital fixtures in your brain.  

The first time I really noticed a mum doing something a bit … well, gross, was when I was pregnant with my daughter. My first pregnancy was also the first time I started to become aware of mothers. Before then, a mother (aside from my own) belonged to a sub-species of woman I knew little about; all I could tell was they looked busy and a little bit harassed. So it was unusual for me to be having coffee with a mum. She was a lady from my yoga group, and she brought her toddler to the café with her. As we talked her toddler knocked the spoon out of her hand. It fell on the grubby floor and she didn’t hesitate in picking it up, licking it clean and continuing to eat with it. I was aghast. I would never do that, I thought, somewhat haughtily. Imagine the germs still clinging on to that spoon!

Oh, how I laugh now. As a mum, I’m very much in favour of the '10-second rule', choosing to believe that germs are somehow too slow to make it onto any fallen object in that brief period. And honestly, that 10 seconds can actually stretch to close to a minute.

In the past three years, since I’ve become a parent, the change in myself has been immense. Now I don’t think twice about burrowing my head in my children’s pants to check if they’ve done a poo. If I can’t get a visual and I’m a little bit unsure, I’ve been known to stick a finger into their nappy. I dread to think what the old me would say about that!

But of course I don’t stop at conducting gross nappy checks in front of others. In fact, recently I was feeding my baby son some fruit in a public place. He kept spitting it out, and without so much as pausing I took the fruit dribbling down his chin and ate it myself. It was only when I looked up and saw another woman giving me a stunned look – giving me the exact same grossed-out look I once gave my spoon-licking friend in the café – that I remembered this was probably not a publicly acceptable thing to do. In my defense, he’d hardly chewed the fruit … but I wasn’t going to go over and explain that to her!

If there’s one thing that being a mother has taught me, it’s to not judge. I’ve learnt that we’re all just trying our best to get through the day, and if we happen to raise happy, healthy children while doing it – in spite of everything we put ourselves through to get there – then all the better. Sure, some of us may have slightly different ideas of what’s normal, but that’s OK.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve spotted some yoghurt smeared on my son’s face – I’ve got to spit on my finger to try to rub it off him …

Have you caught yourself doing any gross things now you're a mum? Have your say in the Essential Baby forums.