Care and Feeding

Our Downstairs Neighbor Has an Impossible Request

It’s gotten to the point where I feel bad for getting up to check on my baby.

A person holding a rattle leans over a crib with a baby inside.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by LanaStock/iStock/Getty Images Plus. 

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I live in a second-floor apartment with our 11-week-old daughter. A little over a month ago, we were contacted by the apartment complex’s management office with a noise complaint from our downstairs neighbor—not about the baby making noise, but about us moving around too loudly in the middle of the night.

We were quite confused since we don’t do anything to make excess noise while we are up with the baby, but eventually realized that there are some creaky floorboards in front of our bed that we have to walk over to get to my daughter’s crib.

The day after receiving the noise complaint, we left town for a month to visit family in another state. When we returned a few days ago, there was a lengthy (and frankly obnoxious) note from our downstairs neighbor thanking us for “keeping Quiet Hours quiet” by “avoiding that LOUD spot on your floor.” Now that we’re home, we’re making every effort to move as quietly as possible across those spots, but the floor honestly seems to creak no matter what we do. I am someone who hates any sort of conflict or confrontation, and I have been living in fear that we will receive another noise complaint or note on the door. I also feel guilty because her note indicated that she was getting much better sleep while we were gone (which she of course thought was us just trying to be quieter). It’s gotten to the point where I feel bad for crossing the room to check on my daughter during the night.

My husband tells me I should not spend any more time worrying about this because it is out of our control, and we are doing our best to move quietly. He says that she is being unreasonable and should not live in a first floor apartment if she is such a sensitive sleeper. Should I leave a response note on her door explaining that we were out of town but are now trying our best to avoid the noisy spots? Is there some solution I am not thinking of that would allow us to be considerate of our neighbor without compromising our own needs and the needs of our baby?

—Not Trying to Be the Noisy Neighbor

Dear Not Trying,

I tend to agree with your husband on this. It would be another story if you’re blasting loud music and hosting dance parties at midnight—but you’re simply walking through your unit to take care of your baby. There is no rule that states you must stay in your bed during “quiet hours.” You’re not doing anything wrong here. If she thinks this is bad, wait until your daughter learns how to walk (and run).

If it makes you feel better, you can respond to the neighbor’s note by informing her that the reason why it was so quiet was because your family was out of town. You can also say that you have a baby that requires care throughout the night, and that means you will have to get up frequently. The most important thing is to firmly state that you will continue to do whatever it takes to care for your child, and that may include inadvertently stepping on squeaky floorboards. If she has a problem with it, she should speak to the building’s engineers. Parenting is hard enough without feeling that you can’t walk around in your own home without upsetting someone.

As your husband said, she should’ve known what she signed up for when she chose to live in a first floor unit. Before I bought my current house, I lived in a first floor unit, and the people who lived above me were big-time partiers who constantly woke up my kids. After a few confrontations that didn’t change any behaviors, we decided to move elsewhere. In other words, I wasn’t about to let anyone else control my peace of mind.

If this situation is a big problem for her, she should look into other nearby units on the top floor. In the meantime, continue to be a kind neighbor and try to avoid the squeaky floorboards if possible—but you should be completely unapologetic about doing whatever it takes to be a good mom to your baby girl.

More Advice From Slate

I have three boys: a teenager, tween, and toddler. The toddler is about as demanding of attention as a toddler usually is. The teenager has mental health issues and requires more attention than the toddler most days. That leaves my tween. He is an amazing kid. He does his homework without needing supervision. He makes straight As in a highly academically competitive school. He’s well-behaved, helpful, well-liked, and self-confident—just an all-around awesome kid.