Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Childproofing your home…for other people’s kids October 24, 2011

When I saw this article about how to childproof your home for a visiting friend’s child, I had an instant and visceral reaction.

On the one hand, I would never want anything untoward to happen to a child in my home (or anyone else’s home for that matter) and I consider myself an accommodating host, but on the other hand I thought, “Childproof my home? Is she flippin’ kidding me?”

The article offers suggestions to plug electrical outlets and invest in some toys and books, as well as other inexpensive items, such as a highchair, play yard (aka fence), and baby tub. I tried to imagine buying these things to accommodate a visitor, and frankly, I couldn’t. Again, not because I wouldn’t want a houseguest to feel welcome, but because I couldn’t imagine having these items in my home – for someone else’s baby.

I had an experience a couple of years ago where Mr. Fab had guests with a baby stay for a few days when I was out of town. I returned to my home to find plastic plugs in all my outlets, baby wash and baby shampoo in my bathroom cabinet, and a portable highchair in my closet. There were baby wipes under my kitchen sink and a baby cutlery in with my knives and forks.

I remember feeling, not exactly violated, but certainly intruded upon. It was a strong and surprising reaction, and when I remember it, I try to figure out why I had responded that way. It was more than just having baby items in my home, because they’ve since been removed one way or another. I’m not even sure it was about feeling disrespected that my obviously childfree home was changed to suit someone else.  I’ve even wondered if was just plain jealousy.

I wish I could put my finger on it, because I felt that same reaction again when I saw this article, and I still don’t fully understand why. Any suggestions?


17 Responses to “Childproofing your home…for other people’s kids”

  1. monka Says:

    Would anyone would do the opposite. Does anyone “child-strip” their house for those of us struggling? They wouldn’t think of it, nor would magazine writers think to suggest it. Our “home” is a place we’ve had to re-imagine without children. We have had to exercise the images of a nursery, floaty toys, and sippy cups from our sense of home. To come back and see those painful ghosts is a little cruel and an affront. It is supposed to be our safe place, our sactuary, and although seemingly insignificant still violating.

  2. Colleen Says:

    I think some of these suggestions are a little over the top. Really, getting a highchair, play yard, and baby tub? If they are coming for overnight, can’t they bring their own stuff?

    I do have the toys for kids to play with but to be honest I have found that kids like to play with our stuff. Like I have these colored plastic cups that my one friends kid loves and the other just loves to play with my blue exercise ball. Kids really seem to love to run around our house. I also have play-doh which one of my friends said I was crazy to have. Jeez, I have to clean it up like once a year and the kids do not move from the kitchen table for hours. What more can I ask? They love it. I’m happy. They are happy. It is a win, win.

    After our Christmas party last year, I have to say there is a point where you should kind of baby proof the house. Like move your remotes and your phone to higher ground, and for that matter anything you don’t want broken. The thing is with our family, I need to baby proof the other guests. I had someone’s cup of coffee and another’s cup of soda both end up on my carpet…..Adults don’t put your drinks down low! The kids pull them down! 🙂

    I have to say though that I expect everyone to take their stuff home and the toys get packed away the minute the kids leave. Having permanent stuff around all the time would really bug me.

  3. Dorothy Says:

    I don’t think you are jealous at all! I wonder if your feelings are the result of psychological boundary violations. A person’s mind and home form a place of sanctuary and yours were crossed by all the child-proofing and baby items left behind. It is only natural to have a reaction to this, and I do not think it is jealousy.

    I reacted the same way to the article because — once again — my sense of personal boundary was crossed by yet another well-meaning-but-insensitive-so-and-so talking about how my life has to be amended to accomodate children. I wonder how the author would feel if I preached about fixing her spiritual house up to make room for Christ?

  4. Kemish Says:

    I wish I knew what the ‘feeling’ was too and how to deal with it. Even with my possible child bearing years long since past, I still can feel ‘pushed’ by women with children as if I am secondary in society since I am unable to have children. So since I don’t understand my feelings (but all I know is that I hurt) I have carved a life for myself that doesn’t include plastic outlet covers, sipper cups or even going to church anymore and I am doing pretty good considering this is the life I got not the one I had planned.

  5. Red Nelly Says:

    No way! I want my friends kids to be safe and entertained and all that but I’m not buying a bloody highchair!  Personally i think kids are great and I’d love nothing more than to have a flat full of our own babies and baby crap but the chance are we won’t. So in my minds eye an empty highchair sitting in the hallway would always have an massive arrow pointing to it saying: “you should have a kid in here by the way”.  We love having kids round and keep a box of toys and books and crayons for them… but to have something as big as a highchair or bathtub taking up my space would make me feel so lacking…so child-less.  Besides, did you see the prices of some that gear?!

  6. Iris D Says:

    I have cable. I entertain kids with video on demand, from cartoons to Harry Potter, I can usually find something, and then there is always the exercise ball. I have a fenced in yard (locked gate) and they are free to roam and explore. I have a butterfly friendly garden. I have a few friends with kids, but they do not visit very often, and their kids are older. When a friend stayed overnight once, she brought all her own stuff. Her daughter is a darling, was always very, very well behaved (did not touch things she should not be touching) and at age 3, she ate everything adults would eat, salmon, asparagus, shrimp… All that said, I don’t enjoy walking through the baby section of a department store, nor walking through the baby things isle at the grocery store. So why on earth would I want these things in my home?…. And when your guests left, they should have taken all of their things with them. The word “sanctuary” posted here by others really hit me. Your home is/should be where you can control what you want and don’t want to see, so the idea that even your own private space has to be set up to accommodate others by filling them with things that lure your focus in the direction of thoughts best left unthought, is an invasion of your personal space.

  7. Ruth Says:

    I had 2 friends kids under age 10 over for a week at my farm. I bought 2 child sized helmets and child stirrups for horse back riding. I got them on the horses and set them off in the morning and night.That was the only thing I bought for kids at my place. And we don’t have TV either. I put them to work cleaning stalls, coops and feeding the animals before they got fed. My sanctuary stayed mine and they had fun being included at my place.

  8. Emma Says:

    This idea makes me feel..not angry…irritated. There seems to be a growing idea in some circles that everything has to revolve around children. I am similarly irritated by some buggy pushers who seem to think that absolutely everyone ought to get out of their way.

    Fortunately in real life common sense p[revails and I think that my friends with children would be horrified (even a little disturbed) if I went to the extent of buying a highchair and providing equipment.

  9. Angela Says:

    I want to go live with Ruth! LOL Sounds like the life! I get SOOO tired of having the TV on all the time, but my husband can’t just turn it off…..
    But seriously, no way would I buy my own baby stuff for other people. They can bring their own crap. Our house is set up for US and is not baby friendly. My friends who bring their babies over take a look around…..and hold their babies the whole time! Not that I want them to be nervous, but they don’t want their kids breaking my things, either, so that works for me. We have a box of toys/colors/video games for the older children, and they can play in the huge backyard, and that’s the extent of the kid accomodations. I agree with Emma, my friends would think I was creepy or obssessive if I bought baby equipment for my own house.

  10. Jenny Says:

    Yeah, I agree, rather presumptuous to expect me to spend money on that kind of thing. If you’re bringing a baby to my house, bring toys and be prepared to watch him! I’m all pointy things and corners, here!!! No apologies, either.

  11. Marcie Says:

    I know exactly what you are feeling. My thought is that you are NOT jealous, just annoyed by others inconsideration for you and for their own child. If they need these things they should bring them…AND take them back home with them!

    When I know I am having guests with children I remind them that I don’t have anything! My house is not childproof! Don’t expect to bring your child and let him/her run wild…this isn’t Chucky Cheese! May sound rude, but it is my house so it is my rules. (The only time I will get to use this parental phrase! LOL!)

  12. Mali Says:

    My idea of child-proofing is moving one or two precious things out of reach. Temporarily. I certainly think the idea that we should buy high chairs et al is ridiculous and incredibly selfish and self-centred. (Especially as these days you can get portable high chairs that attach to any table). I can’t read the article as it’s no longer on-line, but seems to have been written by a very entitled parent.

    My friends and family with kids have always brought what they needed. In fact, one friend has always said “this is YOUR house. You have rules, and my kids have to respect that. Don’t worry about that. Just tell them that in your house we don’t (fill in the blank).”

    And if I do come out with toys, or something special (ice-creams in cones for eg) for the kids, it’s a real treat and they love it!

  13. mina Says:

    The link doesn’t work anymore so it’s not really possible to see if the article was written in a sensible moderate way or if it just displays once again the arrogance of parents towards the childless and society in general, that everything should revolve around the kids! I think its highly individual and depends so much on whose children you got in the house, to what end and for how long/how often. Of course if you’re regularly babysitting nieces and nephews for hours on end, you might end up buying one of those chairs. For me, for the rare occasion my friends come to my house with their toddler and my baby godchild, it’s enough to move the phone out of the way – the kid is having fun enough throwing my sofa cushions around and i don’t mind that. Most of the time i end up going to friend’s homes exactly because its easier with the kids – all the toys etc. are already there.

    If this was meant as a general idea that everybody who in the slightest way ever welcomes a kid in their home – i.e. the arrogant version – then I’m with monka: I’ll only completely childproof and equip my house for kids if my friends with kids “adult-proof” their house every time i come round, i.e. remove all dangers of stepping on some toy with wheels and falling down, getting all sorts of horrible substances on my clothes, and remove the children completely from the room while we’re having a meal or conversation :-)!

  14. Julie Says:

    I agree: I think the author’s idea of child-proofing goes way above what I would ever be willing to do. I move anything breakable if small children are coming over. And I’ve learned that the friends who do have kids, when they bring them over, the adults apparently want a break from actually minding their children. The kids run around unattended, and do things that would have gotten me in major trouble when I was growing up. At first I felt awkward telling their kids to stop doing something (it is the parents’ job, I thought), but after I kept getting irritated, I started yelling at the kids occasionally to stop doing whatever it was they were doing.

    For my nephew, I kind of want to have some toys for him, but we have a game called “pillows” where we stack up every pillow in the living room, count them as we do it, and then the stack gets wobbly, and it falls over, usually toward one of us. It’s hilarious. 😉 He doesn’t get to play this at home because my mom won’t let him get that crazy. So that makes it more fun and special to me, and I didn’t have to buy anything!

    Anyway, I think child-proofing should only go toward protecting my things from the child, not protecting the child from my things; the parents should do that.

  15. Kate B Says:

    Our nephew came to visit last summer. I moved anything breakable out of reach and used a blanket to cover one speaker that has sharp corners. Other than that, I’m not baby-proofing my home, nor am I providing baby items. The parents can do that. If they lived close enough to visit on a regular – such as weekly – basis, I would do more, like having toys and a baby seat for the table, but for the once in a while visit – not happening.

  16. Gwen Says:

    This one made me angry. I do have outlet covers, locks for cabinets under the sink and a couple of child gates but I purchased those because we had friends with a toddler living with us for 2 weeks. They borrowed a playpen/crib setup, stroller, high chair etc from a friend. I’m not going to store all that paraphernalia suggested for kids who are coming over for an hour or two. Hell, I have friends with kids who visit for a week once a year and I’m not buying it. Most of my friends who are parents avoid the whole childproofing for visitors issue by hosting when they want to socialize. their kids are on familiar turf with all their toys and gear already set up.

    It strikes me as a special kind of presumptuous to expect child-free people, whatever the circumstances, to buy everything you’d buy if you were expecting your own child just for visitors. Plus, since baby gear gets recalled so frequently, how do you know that what you bought isn’t just as unsafe as letting the kid run wild anyway.

    Home is my safe place and the last thing I want is a room full of reminders of the children I can’t have.

  17. Tabby Says:

    Um….. NO. I remember being a kid and being told how to behave in somebody else’s house. At two. I did not touch a damn thing that should not be touched, and nobody moved a thing /anywhere/. I learned very early that when not at home, you do not go around fingering someone else’s property. PERIOD. And believe me, my mother’s friends had FASCINATING things that I wanted to touch. But it was drilled into my head not to unless I was told otherwise. Why do people think others should rearrange their homes for the children at all? the children need to learn to keep their little paws to themselves.

    And I say this as a person who is fond of some children.

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