Stubborn Parents Need to Step Up to the Plate on Safety Issues

Received Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Perspective and Opinion on ISYN I am a live-out nanny to a wonderful 1 year old girl. I've been with the family since she was about 5 1/2 months old. The parents are fantastic people and parents -I really enjoying both working for them and knowing them. They both work at a large company in relatively high positions and have demanding work schedules at times. They don't have any family in this country (they are both here on work visas) and this is their first child, so they tend to consult me on childrearing advice and include me in most decisions that involve the baby.

Now, here is the problem: They aren't babyproofing their house. Their daughter is such a delight to be around - happy, curious, and very busy. She has always been a very active baby - she skipped "scooting" and moved straight onto crawling, and she never crawls now that she can walk. She has such determination and is such a bruiser - if she falls or hurts herself, she just gets right back up and keeps on going. She rarely even cries when she hurts herself.

Since she is such an active baby, I have suggested that they babyproof their house from the time that she first started crawling. They bought a baby gate for the stairs and outlet covers upon my request. However, I've had to take the initiative and put in the outlet covers and search online for particular outlet plate covers (which the mom bought when I emailed her the link). I've removed baby toiletries and medications from the changing table cabinet when she learned to open the doors (when I mentioned it to the mom, she told me that the baby learned how to open the doors the night before ---- so why didn't she remove the dangerous items then???) I've emptied out the bottom drawers in the kitchen, which contained many choking hazards and turned one of the drawers into a baby drawer filled with tupperware to play with, etc. I've gone through her room and moved breakable objects from the lower shelves and removed choking hazards from her toy bins. I've done all of this because I understand that as busy first time parents, they don't spend a lot of time with her at home, so they may not be aware of how active and curious she can be. And most of all, I care deeply about the baby and so I don't want her to get hurt. (Plus, there is a liability issue as well.)

Although we've all been discussing for months how as the baby develops, the parents need to step up the babyproofing, they simply haven't. Last week in particular was extremely stressful and scary for me. On Monday, she reached onto a table and was walking around with glass votive candles that were within her reach. On Tuesday, she grabbed a decorative plate from the hallway table and it fell to the ground - luckily I was standing right there and we able to stop her before she placed something in her mouth - loose change, bobby pins, scraps of paper, paper clips, etc. My final straw was Wednesday morning. I was refilling the diaper wipes container, when I heard the sound of glass breaking from the kitchen. I ran into the kitchen (which is steps from her bedroom) to find her standing in the middle of broken glass. One of the parents had left some dishes and glasses drying on the counter top on top of a kitchen towel. Apparently, the kitchen towel was hanging over the edge of the counter, just low enough for her to reach it, which caused a glass to fall on the floor. I can't even begin to tell you how scary it was to see a baby standing in the middle of broken glass!

That day, I called the parents and asked if they were able to come home and meet me for lunch. During our meeting, I told them what had happened that day and they immediately agreed that they needed to step up their efforts and babyproof the house. (Did I mention that they own cabinet and drawer latches, but have never installed them?) It concerned me that they may think that I wasn't watching the baby close enough and that they may feel that was part of the problem. I brought up this concern and they reassured me that they didn't think that at all - that the baby broke things and hurt herself often on the weekends while they were watching her as well. The fact is that although I interact with her all day, there are periods when I do need to do other things, like make her a snack, go to the bathroom, etc.

So now it's the following week and only one thing has changed (they placed the baby medications on a higher shelf). I don't understand - I'm not asking them to completely change their decor and inconvenience them by installing numerous babyproofing devices. I'm just asking that the common areas that the baby and I spend a lot of time in are safe for her --- namely, her bedroom, hallway, kitchen and dining room. The rest of the house can be made inaccessible by shutting doors or by the existing baby gates.

What should I do???


Nanny Taxi said...

Hi! You've got 3 strikes going against you.

1. Mom and Dad are from the "Old Country" and were probably allowed to wander as children and maybe even had a coin swallowing episode of their own.

2. It's their first baby.

3. They are busy.

All of this adds up to you. You are going to be the one to install the latches and make a daily once over in the common areas.
I personally think it's no big deal. Mention hiring a baby safety specialist, this might goose their interest.

Here is a link for one:

Maybe you can find one in your area.

Good Luck!

Baltimore Nanny said...

Perhaps if you make specific requests for baby-proofing "tools" or buy them yourself with the parent's reimbursing you, it would help.

Its also possible that they don't want their entire house baby-proofed. Obvious things like moving breakables, gates at stairs, etc are one thing.

Also, when you are distracted with refilling the wipes container, fixing a snack, running to the bathroom etc, stick the baby in the crib or high chair so there is no chance of curiosity getting the baby or you into trouble.

Kaitlyn and Daniel said...

That's really scary. My advice would be to offer to do it for them (on their dime of course). Say something like, "I know how busy you guys are and I wanted to offer to do it for you. I know how important the baby's safety is to you."

Also, do they have a playpen? If you need to make a snack or go to the bathroom you can just pop her in and out really quickly, just for convenience and your peace of mind. That might be another thing you can suggest they get.

LOL said...

I thought baby proofing companies were only on the Simpsons. So funny Nanny Taxi.

nyc mom said...

I have never been a big fan of the whole babyproofing thing either. I did it with my first child, but not so much with the next two. I have a 17mo now and have done just the basics which is primarily baby gates for the stairs and a few corner covers for some sharp edges. We do naturally keep medications out of reach in upper medicine cabinets and, given that we have 3 kids, we don't really have any expensive or breakable items around these days anyway. It definitely sounds like our house is set up in a generally safer way than the one you describe, but it hasn't been a function of conscious babyproofing so much as a way of life with 3 kids.

My reason for becoming increasingly less of a fan of babyproofing is that I find it makes people watching the childen (which include myself, my husband, and our nanny/occasional sitters) lazy and too relaxed. A lot of it fails to provide any real protection. Plus, if something is "off limits," my kids just wanted it more. My first and third kids are incredibly active and curious. If I let them touch something and play with it for a few minutes (supervised) then the allure quickly wore off and it was less of a draw. Also, my children have never had any trouble learning to beat all those drawer and cabinet latches in a matter of weeks, even as young toddlers. They tended to just provide a false sense of security and another opportunity for smashed fingers. They learned to remove the outlet covers and they just become a choking hazard themselves.

So with our #3, we just have a general rule that he should be in your line of sight all the time. It is relatively easy to live like this once you make it your general lifestyle. If I go to the bathroom, he comes in and sits on the floor while I give him a cup and a few small items to play with. If I do laundry, he comes along and "helps." If I'm in the kitchen, I again have a few common household things like pans and spoons that he plays with for a short while. If I have something to do that would be too time consuming or dangerous, I will reserve that time for him to watch a tv show while strapped in his high chair and will make sure I do the task in view. Or I time things with his afternoon naps. In your OP, for example, I would make sure he stayed in the same room as me while I refilled the diaper wipes.

Regardless of how much I had babyproofed the house, I would never want to count on no one (including my other kids) ever making a careless mistake that could be harmful. I understand why people want to go to the bathroom in peace, but I sort of gave up on that luxury years ago! I can't imagine feeling safe using the bathroom while my son roamed around unsupervised even for 5 minutes, even if I had babyproofed the place 10 times over with a professional service. What if my husband left an open can of soda out? What if my son picked this time to learn to climb the dresser? What if my daughter left her hair ties out or my son his coin collection? In your post, no amount of babyproofing would have prevented the example you gave of the child pulling the glass off the kitchen counter. That's not babyproofing - it's safe living. The child was safe because you were nearby and paying close attention. I just think it's a much safer way to live to assume that a child that age simply needs to be seen at all times. So to answer your question of what you should do, OP, this is what I suggest. I know it seems undoable at first, but I honestly think it has been a much easier and safer way to live than relying on babyproofing. Sounds like you've already done a great job of rearranging the house safely and I would continue to do those things whenever you can. But you can never control the environment 100% no matter how conscientious you are.

NannyInCharge said...

I would just start doing it myself. It doesn't sound like they get mad when you change things around so why not.

I hope the parents don't have to learn any lessons the hard way. A baby in broken glass would have given me a heart attack.

oh well said...

Before babyproofing the whole house I would ask the parents to buy a playpen, as one of the posters suggested. It is obvious that you need some space in which you can leave her safely for a while, but it does not have to be the whole house, which probably cannot be entirely baby-proofed. You could keep some toys or books she does not usually play with to distract her at these special times. I understand your frustration at the parents, though, usually first-time parents are completely paranoid about safety.

Emily said...

NYC Mom, I kind of agree with you. While I'd never suggest that someone not baby-proof their home, I do think that it can lead to overconfidence and then to poor supervision.

OP, have you considered that instead of wishing the parents were doing more to lock up dangerous things, etc. you could just become a bit more vigilant about always being with the baby? That's one huge advantage that nannies have--our job is to watch the children so we can do it pretty much nonstop for the workday.

Baby-proofing efforts will frequently fail. Baby gates can't be trusted to withstand a determined toddler, those plastic door locks often break, outlet covers only protect empty sockets, and children can easily harm or kill themselves by playing with a socket that has a plug in it.

If you accept that the only real way to know the baby is safe is if you are always watching her then all your baby-proofing worries will disappear.

nannyneedsanap said...

Since the parents are obviously not going to be any help to you, I would suggest picking one or two rooms that you spend the most time in with the baby, and get those baby-proofed. No need to go crazy. Just make sure all the outlets are covered, all mini blind cords are out of reach, and all brakables and choking hazards are put up. Rather than installing the door latches, I suggest not storing anything dangerous in the baby's reach. All three of my kids learned to outsmart them by the time they were two.

Phoenix said...

My little sister started walking at 9 months, she was a monster of a child. The only thing we really did was put those things on the door knobs so the baby couldn't open the door, and latched the cabinets. to no avail she figured them out within the first few months.

It sounds to me that the parents are busy and being from a different country they are not as anal as American parents tend to be. You should take it upon yourself to install the latches and stuff. You need to make sure that she is safe while you are watching her.

Like others have said get her a play pen and put her in their while you do your chores. You sound like a very caring nanny, and the parents are lucky to have you. Show them how good you are and take the initiative (sp)and baby proof the house yourself.

If only more nannies were as caring as you are.

mom said...

As the mom of a "dresser climber," I have to agree wholeheartedly with nyc mom. (I laughed when I read that nyc mom, because my first dresser climbing incident involved a snowstorm of baby powder and my nearly having a heart attack over the thought of the dresser having possibly toppled over on my baby!)

I babyproofed in every possible way and then still had to keep my child(ren) in sight at all times, because a busy and clever baby will find things to do in a split second that never even occurred to an entire team of MIT educated babyproofing specialists! I once found a one year old toddler at nearly the top of my gated staircase, on the OUTSIDE of the stairs...having climbed up by putting her feet on the stair edges between the posts and holding onto the rails as she climbed...and she was over a marble floor. A disaster waiting to happen. Third kid...the thought of doing that had never occurred to me, or to either of my first two children. You just never know what they will think up! And, give a determined baby a week and he will outsmart many of the devices. As far as I'm concerned, those devices, while great, only buy you extra seconds to turn your back and push the toater down...not the freedom to let the baby wander unattended.
(It the same principle that caused so many public pools to prohibit the use of "wings" for toddlers. While responsible moms used them as an "added" precaution...a lot of moms used them, sometimes with tragic results, as an excuse to ignore the baby in the water.

The bottom line is, babyproof, but NEVER TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE BABY.

Do your extras when the baby naps in the crib, or when you have her otherwise in sight or restrained (as in her high chair). Sure, it's a lot more work to make lunch when you have to run out of the room to grab the baby 100 times...but it is part of taking care of a baby...which is your job. It gets easier over time. This is the hard part right now.
I also have sort of always objected to the idea of playpens. I suppose that is because the people I have known who had them sort of abused the idea by leaving the baby in there too much to make it easier on themselves. My personal belief is that babies learn a lot be being free to explore and walk around. Why have a playpen when you have a crib...if you are really only using it for brief snippets in emergencies?

vintage said...

OP here...

Thanks for all of the advice. After reflecting on it, I think that I'm not really asking for babyproofing per se, but am looking for "safe living" (to quote nyc mom). I don't want them to have their house locked down like a padded cell, I just wish that they would keep breakables and chemicals out of reach. I understand that cabinet locks fail and aren't a replacement for supervision, but since they keep on moving the chemicals and breakable recycling back under the sink, I don't know what else to do...

I really do keep the baby in my line of sight. I, myself have an elementary age child and have been a nanny on and off for years. No child under my watch has really ever been injured or hurt (well, except for the normal bumps or bruises from learning to walk or ride a bike, etc.)

They don't really want the baby to be in a crib, high chair or playpen, so that's not really an option. I don't really support these choices either. Well, perhaps for emergencies but I think that they are sometimes used to much as a crutch.

I guess I really just wanted to clarify that it's not really babyproofing devices that I desire, but just a baby/kid friendly environment. (After all, I do agree that there is no substitute for close supervision and interaction.) All I really want is for the baby to have an environment where she can feel free to explore without constantly being redirected or told no. (I prefer redirection to saying no though.)

mom said...

OP, I hear you on that...but you do realize that the luxury you are speaking of really only happens in a one child household anyway, right? I was able to keep a pretty safe environment for child number one...but when there is an older child in the house too, you have to keep a constant eye out of coins, tiny lego pieces, etc. all of the time anyway. (However, I am mystified that these people don't have the common sense to at least keep their chemicals out of reach. I do that for my dogs!) And the glass on the towel hanging over the edge of the counter is a no brainer too, as is turning pot handles in when cooking, etc. Maybe these people really don't spend enough time alone with their child to have a real clue what kids can do.
How about printing some articles from the computer about child safety. One about cords on blinds, one about househod poisioning, etc. Give them to the parents and tell them you all need to find ways to protect baby as much as possible now that she is mobile. Maybe start a coin jar and put their discarded coins in it and tell them you put them all there when you find them, in order to protect the baby. Hopefully they will eventually follow suit.

My dad's EX (thank GOD!) wife was a nightmare about that. Looking back I think she was being passive aggressive because she HATED how much my dad loved my son...and me...and made no secret of that. When we would go to their house there were always a number of very obvious hazards for my son, which she refused to have altered in any way. The worst was this butcher block island she had that had a bunch of very long, very sharp knives protruding underneath it...right at about face level of my toddler son...and right in the main area of the house where we would all be gathered. I was always afraid he would wander into them and cut himself terribly, so when we would go there, I would take the knives out of their slots and put them on the island. She would go immediately behind me and put them all back. We would do that a couple of times back and forth and I would explain to her that I was afraid he would get cut and she would just look at me and wordlessly put them back. We would only ever be at their house for an hour or two at a time, so it wouldn't have been any hardship for her to wait a bit. Thankfully, my dad saw what a complete witch she was to us, it was th elast straw, and it was too much for him to keep her sorry ass on his "ample payroll." Now she's alone...and working hard to make ends meet. Don't golddiggers realize that they need to at least PRETEND they have something positive to offer besides an amazing talent with a credit card?

NannyJ said...

Sorry OP, but what is wrong with a playpen? A well made play pen is not a jail and the safest (and fun) place for the child to be while you are "going to the bathroom", "making a snack" or changing out the wipes. Frankly you lost a little bit of credibility as a nanny to me when you made those comments. What DO you do when you go to the bathroom? I sure hope you take her in with you. Why was she out of the bedroom when you were changing the wipes? that just doesn't make sense. I one year old can be kept in the same room as you at all time through the magic of doors.

nyc mom said...

I agree with mom and am not a big fan of playpens either. Simply cause I don't see what they offer beyond a crib. A highchair I like because I can put my son in there with some finger foods and small cup of water and let him practice eating and making a mess. Or give him some toddlers crayons or markers, tape down some paper and let him go to work. I like the opportunity to let him safely make a mess in a highchair and explore things he would not otherwise. OP, how do you feed your charge if not with a high chair or secure booster seat of some type? Like nannyJ I don't get how you go to the bathroom either if you don't use a crib, highchair, or playpen - how do you (you mentioned in your op that going to the bathroom was one of the times the girl was alone)?

Anyway, you sound like a reasonable and loving nanny who is genuinely concerned for the child's welfare. I do also agree with Mom though that after you hit two kids, all these safety luxuries go out the window! I think you are unfortunately going to have to address each unsafe item individually. Perhaps suggest to the parents that you are having trouble keeping track of the safety issues so would they mind if you worked together and posted a big list on the fridge of all Safety Concerns that you can all add to and work on implementing. You can write "Keep cleaning products out of reach." as number one and then every couple days ask to review the list with them and come up with solutions together. This way you are suggesting working as a team and saying you need their observations and feedback too, which might engage them more in the process. Even if I thought my nanny was being overprotective (which I wouldn't think, but just in case!), I would think it was super sweet that she was doing that and I would feel guilted into being more self-aware and perceptive about safety issues myself. You have to somehow creatively get the parents to truly believe you are working together to solve a common problem, rather than fighting each other to control the household environment. Sounds like right now they feel a bit of a turf war, almost like they are annoyed that you keep moving things around for reasons they don't seem to understand the importance of. Good Luck!

Vanessa said...

While I do support your babyproofing idea, I also believe that because the little girl is so curious, you should never ever leave her side. If you see anything that she might grab, you should move it in advance so that she doesn't get it. Be very aware of her environment and all the possible things that might be hazardous to her. You can't rely fully on the parents to do that because, understandably, they are busy and I'm sure that after a long day of work, they only want to play with the baby and not worry about other small things. I'm not saying you should be responsible for everything of course, it is good that you talk to them and explain to them how dangerous all these things are to curious children.

Baltimore Nanny said...

I don't agree with leaving a baby in the playpen or crib or highchair all day, they deserve to explore.

However, when you are going to the bathroom, moving laundry, fixing lunch/snack or something like that, you can't leave them run the house - that is common sense.

In those instances, there is nothing wrong with putting her in a playpen, crib or highchair with a few toys for the few mins those things take. In fact, I do this with my son and he seems to enjoy the few minutes he gets to himself (since we are on him like flies on poo the rest of the time, lol).

As for fixing lunch/snacks, why not do it while the baby sleeps. That way they are prepared ahead of time and you just have to re-heat and serve (or serve, depending on the food).

And don't forget, while the highchair can be a safe place, make sure she's strapped in and don't leave her unattended with foods.

worlds best nanny said...

Just take the bull by the horns and babyproof the rooms yourself. I also agree with the playpen, if it is not used as a punishment tool, it's great as a safe place for baby for a minute or 2.
Can you gate off a safe room so you could leave her say to run to the bathroom?