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Is Your Home Family-Friendly?

Taylor Hengen Newman

It’s been, um, two months since we moved into our new house, but it’s also been kind of balls-to-the-wall on the work front for me, and Kaspar and Aaron have been trading head colds back and forth for about that same duration; needless to say, while we’ve unpacked our essentials, we’ve been a little preoccupied and are not exactly ‘moved in.’ And actually, I’m okay with this. We talked, before moving, about setting up our new home in as family-friendly a way as possible. We want to create an environment that works for all of us, presenting the minimum number of reasons to tell Kaspar “Be careful/No/Don’t-touch-that,” and providing us with the spaces we need to effectively work, cook, and relax without feeling like we’re living on Sesame Street. Given that we really do use our home for everything from working to making art to making dinner, and that Kaspar is, well, pretty attached to us, proximity-wise (e.g. we always wake up with him in our bed), this is going to take some creativity and planning. But the fact that we haven’t yet gotten everything settled around us means that we won’t have to re-do our hard moving-in work as we re-organize to realize our vision, so our tardiness is in this respect a plus.

That being said, it’s about time we got a move on. There are some basic baby-proofing  bases that we had covered in our old place but just haven’t gotten around to in the new house. Kaspar’s over outlets—no need to cover those up now—but cupboards are a different story. When I cook, I cross from counter to counter over an increasingly cluttered floor as Kaspar systematically empties each cabinet’s contents around my feet (and then asks me for spoons so he can “stir”). Aaron watched this scene with some amusement the other day, and then caught my eye and said he’d install cabinet locks, stat (thank you). Invoking our new home-setup strategy, however, we’ve decided to not only leave one cabinet unlocked and dedicated to the little man (something his Montessori teacher suggested), but also to keep an eye out for a good kid-sized play-kitchen toy so that Kaspar can “cook” alongside us.

I’ve been using the kitchen table (slash a local coffee shop) as a desk for over a year, so I announced firmly upon moving that the office in our new house will need to accommodate two desks. One for me (just to be clear). I’m still shopping around (I like this one. OOoooo pretty), but my work space will be separate from the rest of the house. In fact, we’re keeping the office itself entirely separate. Closed door policy. That’s family-friendly from the adult survival side. This new strategy doesn’t have to be all-inclusive, all the time.

Kaspar gets his own space, too, though. While he didn’t use his baby room at all, I’m really rocking out his toddler room so that it’s a fun space for him to play, read, and sleep (he falls asleep in his own bed, at least), with or without us there. It’s not finished yet—I’ll give you a virtual tour when it is—but right now his bed, bookcase and toys are all in there, and he’s recently started playing quietly on the rug for occasional ten or fifteen minute spurts, no-mom-necessary. I’m glad he’s getting to a phase where he can entertain himself for short periods of time, and his room will be a colorful, engaging space that’s conducive to calm, creative play. Just watch me work my magic.

In contrast, with its clean lines and mostly off-white shades (plus punches of color), our bedroom feels like a little retreat in the back of the house. Although there isn’t really any privacy in any room of our house at this point, our bedroom and bath at least feel like ours. This makes a difference, psychologically-speaking.

As for the rest of the house, we’re mixing grown-up and kiddo-tastic features throughout. Bright colors and dark woods, Kaspar’s Stokke next to our red sparkly diner chairs, an activity cube next to the couch, children’s books and Harper’s Bazaar: this is how we live. Together. And we’re still drumming up ideas for making our spaces reflect and facilitate our family dynamic. Kaspar’s teacher offered to come through and give us more Montessori-inspired suggestions for our home, an offer we’ll definitely take her up on. I’m thinking of other things like installing a swing indoors (for Kaspar), hanging Aaron’s paintings (for us... or for you, if you want to buy one...), and re-upholstering our favorite—if worn—  mid-century lounge chair and placing it in a sunny corner of the living room as the starting point for a cozy reading nook, complete with blankets, pillows and lots of good books (for all of us).

What about your homes? Are they full-on family fun zones, or do you reserve certain rooms just for adults (my parents only let us in the dining room for holiday dinners)? What adjustments have you made, or what features have you added, to make your home kid-friendly? How about parent-friendly (do you have a Mom Cave)? I’d love some new ideas to incorporate into our home as we finally finish unpacking and get ourselves all set up!

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