I like to brag that I didn't read a single baby book while pregnant with my first child. I was given a copy of Ann Douglas' The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, which I kept by my bedside and looked at periodically. I got car seat recommendations from friends and baby development updates from my obstetrician. I preferred to stay blissfully unaware of my pregnancy, except when I could no longer do up my boots or coat.
I did all this because I was afraid of what I was getting into—raising a child scared the maternity pants off me. And, as a generally fearless person, this was a big deal.
Starting a baby gift registry only confirmed what I was feeling. There were locks for toilet seats, gates, alarms, monitors and a product called Thud Guard that was recommended to me by a store employee. As I navigated the narrow aisles with my huge cart and even bigger belly, I wondered whether or not it was possible to be pregnant forever, because, from the sounds of it, my baby was safer inside me than out in the world. That is, if all the baby-proof product manufacturers were to be believed.
I'm not the only one who felt that way. Into The Woods actress Emily Blunt recently admitted she didn't read up on parenting before having her daughter Hazel last February.
“[Raising] is such a fear-based industry,” she says in an interview with Net-A-Porter.“There used to be one book that everyone read, now there’s How to Raise a Gluten-free Baby, How to Raise a Scientific Baby... It’s insanity! So I haven’t read anything, I’m just letting her do her own thing."
And she's right. For every possible physical risk that your baby may accidentally encounter (like a sharp-edged coffee table), there's gear to protect them. This isn't to say that all baby proofing gear is terrible, but it breeds feelings of anxiety while making a fortune off nervous new parents.
But here's the thing: We can only protect our kids from so much. If anything, I've learned that my kids will find ways to injure themselves in completely safe and supervised situations (like the time Isaac broke his hand on a school trip and knocked out some teeth in our living room). Raising brave children who are willing to take risks means that, as parents, we need to listen more to our intuition than we do experts and books. It's hard work, but a whole lot cheaper than buying gates and gadgets that provide us with a false sense of safety.