'My childfree relatives won't let my kids in their house. Now I have an even bigger problem.'

How does the saying go? You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family?

Well as a non-expert in family relationships, I can fully confirm that this catch phrase is definitely on the money (well, for me at least).

I can say without a doubt that I was not consulted in the choosing of family members process. Although there were definitely some doozeys among the final selection, I would say that in regard to the ones that I do see on a regular basis, I did pretty well.

So, thank you family member selectors, *round of applause for you.*

But there is a problem.

One big problem.

You see two childfree family members of mine, a couple who are fun to be around, who are supportive and generous and who we celebrate every ‘big’ occasion with –  and who are generally top notch in every category of what makes a family member cool, won’t let us visit their house if our children are with us.

Yes. Our children are banned from their house.

shona hendley
Shona and her two daughters. Image: Supplied.

My two girls are now six and four and a half. They are pretty well behaved (and no I am not just saying that because I am their mother). They don’t often break things, they do listen (at least 70 per cent of the time) and they can move indoors at a walking pace if requested. So definitely in the 90th percentile of child behaviour.

But despite their repeated demonstrations of exemplary child conduct, my youngest daughter has never set foot inside their home and my eldest only visited once, when she was a newborn and could not move.

Now as any good family member I try and respect that we are all different and that we value and prioritise different things. I have tried to put myself in their shoes. Their clean, shiny, expensive shoes where I have no little people or animals that have minds of their own and who sometimes, on occasion make mess *cough, often make mess, cough*. Despite my best efforts, after six years it is making things difficult at times and sometimes, well frankly plain awkward.

You see, because we live five minutes’ drive from each other and will visit each other from time to time. Doing this has now become very one sided, where they will come to us or where we have had to become very well planned to visit child free which is not always easy.


It has meant every Christmas, Easter or birthday that we don’t want to go out to a restaurant or some other destination for has been at our house, which although definitely has benefits, is also sometimes a pain in the arse (I really hate cleaning, cooking and entertaining).

It also means answering questions from my two children when they ask why Mum or Dad are going to visit these particular family members alone, or why we have to ‘run in’ from the car and they can’t accompany us, or, “why have we have never seen your house?” when they are visiting us.

The answer to those questions is not straight forward and poses challenges when trying to explain to a kid.

shona hendley
"My two girls are now six and four-and-a-half and they are pretty well behaved. Image: Supplied.

What I would like to say is:

Option One - “Relative A and B don’t want you to come to their house because they are scared you will make lots of mess. I.E. you may touch their windows and leave fingerprints, you may pull their table cloth, so it is no longer symmetrical and you may forget to take your shoes off when you come inside the front door.”

Option Two - “The anxiety that you simply being in their house would most likely give Relative A and B a full-blown meltdown or even perhaps a heart attack and Mum and Dad don’t want to be held responsible for that.”

In the end, we have had to simply say that Relative A and B don’t let kids into their house until they turn 12 (probably not a much better response that option one or two but what can you do?).

The reality is the response we gave was accurate and it is due to a combination of both option one and two. These are the determining factors that make it an unspoken rule that my children, or any children, can’t enter their house until a certain age has been reached.

So, in knowing this, for at least the next eight years, we will be the host of every family Christmas and Easter and the inside of Relative A and B’s house will remain a mystery for my two girls.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. She is an animal lover and advocate, with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies. Shona is usually busy writing and raising her children: two goats, two cats and two humans. You can follow her on Instagram here.