On the scale of parenting worry, I fall somewhere in between “chill mom” and “freakout mom.” I’m concerned about my children’s well-being, of course, but not obsessively so. When I got an email one evening from a camp my son had attended about a deer tick problem and cases of Lyme disease, I calmly checked his skin the next day and let it go. So I was surprised by how sucked in I got to babyproofing our house for our 10-month-old.
With my first two kids, we bought safety covers for outlets, a few drawer latches and cabinet locks, and some cushy wrap-around cover for a coffee table with sharp edges. We tucked away window shade cords, and put up a couple of baby gates.
As our third child inched toward crawling, I began looking online at babyproofing gear, and I was overwhelmed to find there are now approximately a kajillion kinds of latches, locks, outlet covers, padding and gates. Suddenly, I was scared of all the ways Ben could hurt himself throughout the house. For sure, this time around I knew we needed to secure some pieces of furniture to the wall. I’d realized that we should have done for our other children after seeing the tragic headlines about children dying from tip-overs. But just how nuts did I need to go?
It’s been 11 years since I last had a tot, and parents seem to be more hyper-concerned about their little ones than ever. Yes, all the babyproofing and sanitizing gear taps into our worst fears. Yet it also seems like the drive to raise tots who quickly learn to eat on their own/poop on their own/do calculus on their own has extended to some parents’ urges to overprotect them. Mine, too, evidently.
I rapidly started noticing the many potential areas in our home where Ben could hurt himself once he was on the move, and I began adding lots and lots of items to my shopping cart on Amazon, planning to click “Place your order” when he was right on the verge of crawling. I couldn’t sit in a single spot in our home without deciding it wasn’t totally safe for the baby. It was consuming, and distracting. Rather than enjoying Ben’s giggles as we played on the kitchen floor, I was eyeballing a little piece of metal jutting out of the bottom of the fridge and wondering if it could maim him.
Then one morning, as we hung in his bedroom, I spotted an angled corner on the molding of the bottom part of his bookcase. Eeep. I snapped a photo, and posted it on my local mom’s Facebook group for advice on how to deal with it. I got a bunch of suggestions for foam corner protectors, along with warnings that they tended to fall off and kids could choke on them. Super!
The most eye-opening response of all about how to babyproof that corner was this one: “You don’t. They bang themselves and you hope they figure out not to…. Or Darwinism.”
Her survival-of-the-fittest suggestion made me smile, and also made me realize that I was worrying too much. When I was growing up, the only babyproofing my mom did involved putting away vases and other breakables, and my sister and I are still in one piece. Then again, back then parents also thought it was fine to let babies snooze on their stomachs and now we know that back sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS.
Being careful about baby safety and advanced protective products are definitely a good thing. But as with everything in parenting, you can’t get too obsessed. Kids have been running around houses like maniacs for centuries and the human species continues to perpetuate just fine.
The amount of babyproofing also depends, to some extent, on the kind of child you have. It remains to be seen whether Ben is the type to scale furniture like Mount Everest.
I’m liking the idea another mom in my Facebook group mentioned: creating a “safe” room that could be gated, with toys and no visible or accessible outlets or other issues. As she noted, “Honestly, not babyproofing made it slightly harder at home at first but made it MUCH easier to bring my kid to others homes which may/may not be babyproofed. He knew what he could touch and what he couldn’t.”
Meanwhile, my safety gear shopping list has dwindled. I’m going to do my best to stay sane about babyproofing and stay on top of my baby, but I am not going to get consumed by it. I’m choosing to focus my parenting energies elsewhere — like, getting the baby into Harvard early admissions.