The Littlest Houseguest: How To Visit With Baby And Stay Sane

The holidays are here and that means visiting family with the fussiest house guest, your baby

 

When you have family who live in Florida, it’s pretty much a given that they’ll be the relatives you visit most often. So when we learned my father-in-law had moved from his teeny tiny condo and into a spacious ranch bungalow, we didn’t waste much time in planning a quick trip.

At the time, my daughter Megan was three-years-old, and her brother Riley was six-months. He was mainly exclusively breastfeeding, but had already started a few solids, including rice cereal that I mixed with breastmilk. As I packed my breast pump into its handy-dandy travel case, it occurred to me that I’d be storing the milk in someone else’s fridge. I wondered how long we’d wait for the awkward accidentally-used-the-breastmilk-in-my-coffee joke. (Answer: one day).

At first I thought staying in someone’s home with a baby would be way easier than staying at a hotel or resort. And in a way, it was. Having access to a kitchen and laundry 24-7 is hugely convenient when you’re travelling with a baby. But, small houseguests that tend to be quite grabby (with grubby fingers, natch) in a house full of precious and fragile knick-knacks can create tense moments for visitors and also the host. This is even truer if your host isn’t used to having littles under their roof anymore for extended periods of time.

The visit was a pleasant one—we quickly discovered that maintaining personal space and privacy was tantamount to us not outstaying our welcome. Also, I am overly vigilant (as a houseguest, anyway) about picking up after myself and the small people I am responsible for. And I took it upon myself to quickly baby proof the areas of my father-in-law’s home that we’d be spending the most time in.

I knew the glass grapes that had somehow survived four decades of prominent display wouldn’t last one second in their current location on the lower shelf of a bookcase, so they were moved to a higher spot. Additionally, I knew the bookcase wasn’t secured to the wall, so I was extra vigilant about keeping the kids away from it. Fortunately, Riley was not yet mobile, but Megan insisted on carrying around a cherished ceramic dog until it mysteriously “ran away,” and I discovered ancient Tupperware cups in the back of a cupboard that saved the glassware from their destined breakage in the hands of babes.

To keep the peace, we took a break within our break, and headed for a beach motel for a few days to break up our stay. We’d brought our own travel crib from home so it wasn’t imperative to choose a place that could supply one. And in spite of my father-in-law’s insistence that we use his vehicle, we are so glad we rented our own car so we could come and go as we pleased (and install our car seats without worry of mucking someone else’s car up).

All in all, the trip was a success. The kids spent some time with their Grandpa, and we had a break from the Toronto cold. And while it wasn’t necessarily easier to stay as a houseguest instead of staying in a hotel, extra planning, creating safe spaces and respecting boundaries meant we all enjoyed a nice visit.

Corinne McDermott is the founder of HaveBabyWillTravel.com, a website with a mission to inspire, motivate, and help families travel with babies, toddlers, and young children.

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