Parenting is a fine but diminishing art. When you have one child, you can lavish them with all your attention and care. However, with consecutive children, the standards slip. This is obvious in the way we have changed our style in bathing our children.

Baby #1

You purchase cartons of the purest spring water and heat it gently to the right temperature before pouring it into a custom-designed baby bath. If you’re on a budget, you collect buckets of rain water and use that instead of the heavily chlorinated water that comes out of the tap. You only use all-natural, all-organic soaps and shampoos which make your baby smell nicer than you ever have. You place your baby in her perfectly-heated bath and keep one hand on her at all times, even though it means you can’t reach the baby’s organic cotton towel and have to dry her on your shirt instead.

Baby #2

You run a bath of water at the correct temperature, checking it carefully with the inside of your wrist before putting your baby in. You bathe your baby first and then let your toddler use the same water for her long, playful bath. There’s a smidgen of the organic soap left, so you use that or another child-friendly soap that caught your eye at the supermarket. While your toddler is in the bath, you’re comfortable sitting in the corner of the bathroom and may even read a book if your toddler is happy enough. If a “floatie” emerges, the bath is immediately evacuated and everyone is given a hot shower to sanitise them again.

Baby #3

The baby seems to get clean enough from going in the shower with you, your toddler and your pre-schooler. The only complaint you have is that you never seem to get to shower by yourself anymore. The kids are washed with whatever soap is close at hand, even if it’s just the liquid hand soap. Bath-times are still treasured, but more for babysitting purposes than for getting clean. If a “floatie” emerges, you scoop it out and play resumes. You might venture a room or two away and can hear your two children playing in the bath and can judge acutely how much water will be on the floor when you return.

Baby #4

By this time you’re convinced that your baby doesn’t really need soap. And baths? Not so much, either. Not much of a baby gets dirty. You occasionally wash your baby in the kitchen sink before you do the dishes (until they start grabbing at the dirty pots and then you wash them after you’ve done the dishes). You’re back to bathing your three older children in rainwater — but it’s only when they play outside in the rain without clothes on. You have hosed down the toddler once or twice after a particularly explosive poo. And if a “floatie” is found in the bath, you ask the perpetrator to remove it.

And at our household, Baby #4 was bathed tonight like this (without soap):

What standards have slipped in your house?