I have come to the conclusion that the environment that we live in, the home that we spend much time and money on to get it just how we want it when we set up home with our partners, is just not fit for purpose when it comes to having kids. Most people’s houses are crap when it comes to accommodating offspring, and ours is no different.
Firstly, there is rarely enough space. True, if you refer to an area of your house with terms such as ‘the East Wing’ or the ‘north annexe’ then granted, you probably can squeeze in a few nippers without too much trouble. But most of us spend a large portion of the nine months of our pregnancy chucking stuff out, throwing stuff in the loft and finding new nooks and crannies to now house the clothes drier / the exercise bike / the unspecified piles of shit that we have no idea why we are keeping but best not chuck them out, just in case. In place of which detritus, we add unwieldy cots that don’t fit through doorways, swing chairs that were designed specifically to aid toe-stubbing and a cupboard’s worth of baby bottles, plastic dishes and non-spill beakers that leak.
And if that initial de-clutter is not enough, once the crawling starts, you have to basically strip your home of any moveable feature from the waist down, just in case little Johnny takes it upon himself to chew on a ceramic figurine or try to get into the log basket for a better look. Kitchen cupboards have to have baby catches on, guaranteeing a day will not pass for the next six months where you do not break a fingernail as you forget, for the three hundred and twentieth time, that you have to undo the catch to get a bowl out.
As they grow, so do their toys. Shelves and shelves of them, a horrendous shrine to over-consumption that you have to do a midnight raid on to fill a bag for charity, to stop the entire family drowning in battery-operated plastic nonsense.
And the items in your house, so lovingly chosen on those pre-kid weekends when you and your other half would saunter to the shops for a spot of shopping and some lunch (if I squint really hard, I can just about remember them) are now looking more than a little worse for wear as they were patently not designed to withstand the rigours of children. Sofas sag under the weight of exuberant jumping. Kitchen tables that no matter how many times you wipe, your elbow still manages to locate the sticky spot of a substance that even a blow torch does not trouble. Chairs that are not wipe-clean and so have an attractive patina of food stains, documenting every baked bean or spaghetti swirl that did not succeed in the perilous journey from plate to mouth on a wobbling fork.
The item in our house that is the most inappropriate for use is our bed. It struck me, as I lay there one morning with a four year old squashed up against me, gently banging his head against my shoulder and scraping his toe nails down my thighs, as a baby wriggled on my arm leaving a trail of milky saliva, that our bed is crap. As I clenched my buttock muscle to stop me toppling out the side as someone unadvisedly attempted to change position, I realised that the design was fundamentally flawed. What is required of a parental bed is the same facility that tables often have: leaves. You know, handy flaps that fold out to accommodate visitors. ‘Oh look, two friends have turned up unexpectedly for lunch, George’. ‘Don’t worry, Martha, I will just pull the leaves out of the table and hey presto, there’s room for all of us’. Our bed desperately needs leaves. One on either side, so that come 6am, when our visitors arrive from their own bedrooms to drink milk or just generally annoy us, they can do so without having to sit on our faces.
Have you read Jodie Newman’s debut book, Womb with a View? You’ll have to shout louder, I can’t hear you. If not, then you can buy it from www.jodienewman.co.uk (where you can also read some more words that have tumbled unbidden from the ends of my fingers in my Navel Gazing blog) or, for Kindlites, you can get the ebook from Amazon. Enjoy.