Queen Elizabeth I is famously reported to have announced that she bathed once a month whether she needed to or not. By the mid 20th century most ordinary people in the western world were bathing once a week. And when I was a child in the 1960s, my parents were showering every day and we children had bathnight every-other-night. Since my own friends started having babies in the late 1980s, bathtime has become a nightly ritual. All the child-rearing reality programmes on television advise the parents to stick to the regular evening routine including supper, bath, teeth, story and bed (not necessarily in that order - except for bed).
I, so far, have not dared to admit that DD does not have a bath every evening. So de riguer has it become that it almost seems slovenly not to comply. OK, in the summer when the children are outside playing with water in the sand-pit and getting all hot and sweaty - then we will probably do a quick bath on a more frequent basis. However, in the winter, when she is dressed from ankles to neck and all exposed parts are wiped several times a day, and whilst still in nappies - meaning that the nappy area is also washed at least three times a day, I really feel that three times a week is sufficient.
Recently I found an article in The Daily Mail that suggested that children were being bathed too often. It claimed that a nightly bath dried out their skin and washed out the natural oils. Before I start sounding like an advert for a new moisteriser, I want to emphasise that I am not preaching about the optimum number of baths a week. Just that, for us, three baths a week works for now and I'm happy with it. Also we have not received any complaints from the nursery about DD's personal hygene.
And now for my ingenious use of bathtime. Obviously a two-year-old cannot be left alone in the bath, so you're pretty much held hostage for about half an hour. I don't impose a time-limit but DD's inbuilt clock usually signals that she's ready to come out after 30 minutes or so. So what can you do with the time to stop you pleading, after the first 10 minutes of watching her play, "haven't you had enough? Wouldn't you like to come out now?"?
First you have to understand that I hate cleaning the bathroom. My whole apartment could be spotless and I would leave the bathroom for another time (usually ten minutes before guests arrive - sometimes I'd invite guests just to motivate me to clean the bathroom). Not so anymore! Now, after I've washed DD's hair and soaped her down, I clean the bathroom whilst she plays in the bath. These days she's practically climbing out of the bath herself whilst I quickly finish polishing the mirror.
Once I'd got into the swing of this routine and was feeling more than a little smug about my ready-for-guests bathroom facilities, I had to admit that my bathroom really didn't need to be scrubbed to that degree of cleanliness three times a week. So then I started to find other things to fill the bathroom time. Tonight, whilst DD played in the bubbles with her plastic cups and animals, I gave myself a pedicure.
If it were still fashionable to fill a tin bath in front of the fire in the kitchen, the possibilites would be endless...