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First Person Singular: Michele Spahr, 41, Round Hill, owner, Safe Start Baby


Michele Spahr is founder and president of Safe Start Baby. “One of the reasons I did child-proofing for my kids wasn’t just about the safety; it was for my sanity,” the professional child-proofer says. “I had more freedom when my home was safe.” (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

I had three kids under the age of 4 and a state-licensed child-care [business]. We had up to 12 kids at my house. It was my job to make sure all 12 kids got through the day without any major boo-boos. Day care is a lot of work, and then having three kids to keep up with after everyone leaves — it was just exhausting. I knew I couldn’t do that forever. I started thinking: What is it specifically that I am good at? I can look at kids when they walk into a room and know immediately what they’ll be drawn to, what they’ll see and want to get into. I know what they’ll trip over or hit their heads on. When I first started, I’d train myself by going to public places and trying to spot all the hazards. I still do it — like right now, this railing could be a choking hazard. The door slams too quickly and could crush tiny fingers. The table is wobbly. The traffic is too close. My husband calls me doom and gloom, but that’s not how I see it. I’m trying to stay one step ahead of doom and gloom.

I am not a fear monger. I’m not a child-proofer who believes in scare tactics. I’m not going to come into your house and tell you you’re a bad parent just because you don’t pad every corner and put gates all over your house. My theory is more about freedom than fear. One of the reasons I did child-proofing for my kids wasn’t just about the safety; it was for my sanity. I had more freedom when my home was safe.

“The main thing I’ve learned is how many different kinds of parents and parenting there are and that not one way is the right way,” Spahr says. (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

A big misconception is that child-proofing takes away a child’s freedom or that a parent who child-proofs is a controlling, hovering parent. It’s the opposite. It’s allowing the kids to explore and be curious, but in a safe environment. Some people say, “Why not just tell your kids no?” That’s not reality. You would be saying no all day long. They’re going to tune you out. And they’re not going to hear the difference between the no when they run out into traffic and the no when they eat a cookie they’re not supposed to.

The main thing I’ve learned is how many different kinds of parents and parenting there are and that not one way is the right way. That’s something more people need to realize. Moms can be so hard on themselves and on each other, especially online. All this mom-on-mom battling from behind the keyboard isn’t good for kids or parents. We all want our children to be safe, and we all have Bad Mommy Moments, so why not be a little nicer and more forgiving? When parents are happy, kids are happy.

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