Houses

A couple of weeks ago, we visited Kendra and her husband in Charlotte. It was the first time we had been to their new house since they moved from Salinas, California and we were impressed with their new digs. They live in a grown-up house.

Not their house, but close enough. Source

Their house is what you think of when you think of a place to raise a family. Front porch, a big family room, an upstairs that enables everyone to have their own space. Some of their neighbors even really have white picket fences. The place is beautiful and spacious, and I’m proud of my friends for working hard and being able to live in such a place.

We drove there on Saturday morning, and when we arrived around three, Miss C was her regular genial self. In about an hour, though, her impending teeth got the better of her. She was inconsolable for several hours, more inconsolable than she’s been in months. B and I tag-teamed her upstairs so that one of us could hang out with our friends, but around the 2 1/2 hour mark, I got upset and worried that it was something else. Thus those mama tears started flowing.¬†Bedtime was an ordeal. She’s usually down by 8:30ish, but that evening was harder than usual because she had refused to eat when she had been so upset. Plus, she was in a different place. She finally went down for the night around 10:15. And I was harried and relieved that the day was over.

She would have cried the exact same way if we had been in our own apartment. Those teeth don’t care. They come wherever she is. She has since cried that hard at our apartment. But it was easier at Kendra’s place. Her place is big so C’s cries have more space to roam and my head has different things to focus on. At Kendra’s house, you can put the baby in a stroller and walk her around the neighborhood until she settles. At Kendra’s house, it takes three minutes to make the gauntlet around the place, as opposed to the 45 seconds it takes to slowly stroll through our entire apartment.

I hate our place when C cries. The apartment does a poor job of containing her frustrations. Or, more likely, my own frustrations. I sit on the sofa with her in my lap, doing everything I can to sooth her, and the opposite wall that’s ten feet away infuriates me by its close proximity. I get up and waltz her through her room, the living room/ kitchen, our room. B is there, not seven feet away, and it feels so crowded. “Can you try?” He takes her and jiggles her while I sit on the sofa, annoyed and tired of the wall. I miss every other place I ever lived.

My brother and I grew up in houses. The first in Memphis, the second in Oxford, the third one in Murfreesboro, and then the last one in Germantown where my mom still lives. Those houses seemed big, but then again I was small when I was there. I knew kids growing up whose families lived in apartments and I always felt sorry for them. I equated apartments with divorce and day care and eating Domino’s for dinner not because it was fun but because the parent didn’t have time to prepare something.

And of course, here we are living in an apartment. Not a great one, either. I often whine to myself that it’s not fair that my dad never even finished college, yet we always lived in houses that my parents owned. B and I both have master’s degrees and we live here. But who am I whining to? The world? The world doesn’t care what’s fair and what’s not. And it certainly doesn’t give one iota that we spent some of our own time getting educated. Would we ever want to even own a home? We tell ourselves that we wouldn’t. It’s too much work to maintain. It’s a long term investment that may never pay off. It ties us to jobs we will likely want to leave. Those things aren’t worth it just because I don’t want to stare at a wall ten feet away from me and because owning a home when you have children is just what one does. No, not for those reasons alone.

We were driving home from Charlotte the following day and B ask me, “So what did you think of their neighborhood?” Coming from him, such a question wasn’t as innocent as it sounds. We’ve had many cynical conversations about home ownership, so he was just gauging me to see if I still felt realistic about where we live.

“It was really beautiful.”

I left it at that. Right now, our life is a small apartment and I will be content.

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41 comments

  1. a gripping life · · Reply

    I totally relate to this post. My husband and I didn’t get our first house until we’d been married 8 years and had two children. (The economy was way different then – much easier.) Anyway, I know that cramped, boxed in feeling. We were both over educated, living paycheck to paycheck in jobs that we hated. Eventually things turned around and we were able to buy a house (my dad helped with the down payment) As you know, it comes with major headaches and expenses. There’s a huge trade off, lots of pros and cons to consider. I have no doubt that one day you’ll have your house and neighborhood. For someone like you, that grew up in houses, it’s important to ‘touch that base.’ It’s an emotional pull. I think you’re wise to find some peace through acceptance for right now. And don’t forget, your apartment is like a total fantasy for someone else. : )

    1. Wow, can I get an “amen” for that last note?! So, so true that others would kill for what we have here. I’m rereading What Is the What right now, a book about a Sudanese refugee living in America. It’s been reminding me to stay grounded and realize that my life is so blessed.

  2. Being content in your apartment is a wonderful way to be.
    I too would love a house, and I still can’t figure out how my folks pulled that one off.
    Ah well…

    1. I know. We all seem to have grown up in another era (lol..when did that happen?) It’s not that our parents were smarter or more hardworking, it’s just that things are different now. We’ve gotta figure out how to acquire the new American Dream. (BTW I hate that phrase but you know what I mean.)

  3. I know exactly how you feel about apartments. It’s weird how a baby makes you suddenly take back every cynical thing you ever said about home ownership, huh? I hope we’ll have a house someday, but then the idea of it still sort of terrifies me. haha

    1. It sure is! I am currently compiling a list of all the things I never thought I’d say after I had a kid. That is near the top.

  4. I have felt that way too – I have an MA and can barely afford our small house – and my parents had less education and always had ‘grown up’ houses. I’ve pretty much convinced myself I’m not tall enough to join the grown up world…
    However what I found is perception is one thing and reality quite another. We preceive all these other ‘perfect’ lives – but in reality, it ’tis often not so.
    Find contentment where you can – and being in a grown up house is quite possibly overrated :)

    1. Agreed. Pretty much the only things I’ve ever done that actually ended up being as rewarding as I thought they would be prior to going in, are getting married and having a baby. Most things in life really are overrated.

      But not bacon. Bacon is pretty awesome ;)

      1. Ha ha – I love being a student – I’d go to school to avoid adulthood FOREVER if I could swing it.

        working overtime is definitely over-rated!

        I know many people that would agree with the bacon feelings. I feel that way about cannoli…I wish I could eat it 24/7.

  5. Ooh, I sympathize. I hate when my son cries. It can make a room feel very claustrophobic. It’s like his cries are directly connected to my central nervous system. When it happens in the middle of the night, I sometimes feel a jolt to my body.

    1. I know. When she was first born and I was having those postpartum miseries, my body would literally ache and I’d feel despondent when I heard her cry in the other room. I think I read a comment you left on another blog where you said you struggled with PPD. It sucks balls. I could have never been prepared for it.

    2. I like ear plugs – but my ‘baby’ is now 9 :)

  6. I can relate. I hardly ever think about it until I see someone else’s house, and then I think, heyyyy, that looks nice! As long as we live in California, I am not sure we will ever own a home–it is just crazy out here, and that makes me feel a little better about our apartment. ;)

    1. I know, right? I think you have to make at least a million dollars a year to buy a house in LA.

  7. I have been itching to get into a house with our new little one, but we’ll see when that happens!
    Also, for teething, I have a bunch of friends that swear by amber teething necklaces…i have no idea how they work or how you feel about that sort of thing, but I’m definitely going to give it a try when my little guy starts teething. Apparently they help with the pain? Idk. There are some on amazon for $20.
    Anyways :) thank you so much for your honest (and often hilarious) words here. Keep on keeping on, strong mama!

    1. I just heard last weekend about how awesome those amber necklaces are. I think I am going to give them a try! Thanks!

  8. We lived in a 700 square foot apartment with one baby, a large dog, and a cat. I look back on that time in my life and realized it made me grateful for EVERYTHING we had later in life.

    1. Such a great takeaway lesson ;)

  9. I know Germantown! I have a cousin who lives there and we have driven theose streets many times! It’s a small world after all…..

    1. Germantown is awesome! I miss it.

  10. I’ve heard that ‘renting a house’ is the new ‘owning a house’. For just the reason you mentioned –jobs and lives change, and people want to remain flexible. While people like your parents had one career, maybe two, it’s not uncommon for people now to have 5-6 careers. (I feel right on par with that! ;) At least your not-great apartment is filled with love and life!

    1. Renting a house sounds so nice! One day, one day. ;) And if being a mom counts as a career (as it should), I’m currently on my fourth, so it sounds like I should be winding down pretty soon. Fingers crossed.

  11. The house next door to mine is being rented; lots of the houses in my neighborhood are. Both are families where mom or dad does some kind of work that requires moving, like the military. One family might buy the house they’re renting if “the new job works out.” I, myself, am planning on moving to a different situation, like a townhouse, that has less outdoor stuff to maintain. The house maintenance is killing us. So, maybe you could rent a nice little house. We’ve owned three and learned something with each that we wish we hadn’t had to learn!

    1. That would be so ideal. My mom wants to move too because of the yard. My dad was really the primary keeper of the yard, so since he passed and I moved away it’s been a struggle for her to maintain the enthusiasm to keep it up. It’s hard to appreciate how much of a time suck an ornate lawn and garden are.

  12. Nici Roberson · · Reply

    i can understand your thoughts and why you feel the way you do, I know I am prob not the first to say but home ownership is not all its cracked up to be, we just bought a house 6 months ago and well here we are its on the market under contract and I am so ready to be in an aprtmnt, a house is so muchhh maintenance and costly.. taxes the opps fund for the o crap it broke days, the do i really have to de-clutter the gutter every month weeding etc etc… I am not complaining in a bad way some people might love the idea of these stresses but me, I am ready to call up maintenance and say fix this please, im sure having fibromyalgia has a lot to do with my lack of being able to do this stuff, but i will say I had grandiose dreams of the white picket fence lovely neighbors kids playing together etc.. it def wasn’t all it was cracked up to be for me, id say the best way to get an idea is rent or lease a house first wish we would have, just to see the neighborhood the schools, what the neighbors were really like and what the house/responsibility of it was going to be like :).. i wish you lots of luck in your future,

    1. Thanks. It sounds like a lot of work, so hopefully one day we will be able to upgrade from a rented apartment to a rented house.

  13. I’ve lived in small spaces my whole life, until we moved last November (and we won’t be here forever; the owners intend to tear down this bungalow and rebuild). I’m enjoying the amazing neighbourhood while I can. Although I’ve come across some funny unexpected “big house” issues, like not getting to my cell phone in time and having to schedule floor-cleaning days. My husband wants us to own a house one day; I’m fine with whatever :)

    (Hi, sorry, I moved my blog.)

    1. I would love to live in a nice neighborhood. We don’t have sidewalks here, which makes me really nervous about taking the baby out in her stroller.

      Your blog move in duly noted! ;D

  14. Think of a home as something that would make it harder for you to leave a city you do not want to be in long term. As we search for a new city, the thought of selling at just the right timing to move is daunting. It would be so much easier if we rented and could just end the lease and be gone with the wind. Until we truly find that perfect city to raise our family.

    1. I totally feel you. That’s why the whole house thing makes me nervous. If we ever wanted to move, then it would be such a headache to try to sell it. I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to find someone to sublet our apartment in Chicago when we were about to move to Korea before the lease was up. I swear that whole ordeal oddly coincided with the arrival of my first gray hairs.

  15. Once again I can feel your words in my heart and then my eyes begin to cry ~~~
    A home is simply enough room to grow and love. You will eventually outgrow where you are now. Whatever comes next is just that. You and B will always do the next right thing, you always have.

    1. I love you! Thank you for being so understanding!

  16. We have had a house and lost a house. The whole time we had the house, we were afraid of losing it. When we did lose it, we felt relieved. Now we rent a house that’s much bigger than one we could afford to buy, and in a nicer neighbourhood. Whether we’ll ever get into the market again…who knows? It’s a distant goal, but it doesn’t feel as pressing as it did the first time. Losing everything financially puts in perspective the good things you do have. And it helps you let go of stuff you don’t need.

    1. Very, very wise words my friend. I hope you’re enjoying your new home. It sounds like you are. Gonna catch up on your blog in the next few days.

  17. Right now, at this point in my life, I CAN’T WAIT to get a house. I want to feel grounded, I want to have that sense of ownership, I want more space, I want a yard to garden, and I want peace and quiet. Living in an apartment in a college town is reeeaaaalllyy getting old for me. That said, I very much appreciated your take on things. I imagine I’ll be complaining about property taxes and all the upkeep once I am a homeowner….

    1. Living in an apartment amidst coeds is probably one of my worst nightmares. I hated living in campus apartments when I was a student so I can’t imagine how miserable it would make me now. I totally know what you mean about feeling grounded. A house is emblematic of stability and staying still for more than four years. I want that. One day, one day.

  18. Your post is thought provoking in many ways. The housing situation at least in the U.S. is completely insane. When you mentioned going to Kendra’s house I couldn’t help but think yeah, they moved from CA so I’m sure whatever they could buy in Charlotte seems like a steal to them. When David and I got married he didn’t want to own a house, having always lived in a manse owned by the Church. i thought he was nuts but it didn’t matter because home interest rates were up to about 19 percent if I’m not mistaken. It just so happened that after I was pregnant with Martin a first time home buyers program came out which let us buy our first home at 13 percent interest. Otherwise I guess we’d still be renting.
    When Martin and Anna got their apt in Brooklyn which was probably 600 square feet he told me they could live there at least until they had a child of one years age, bc a child could just sleep in a crib and wouldn’t need a bedroom. RIGHT!!! Where a child might SLEEP is not an issue! I’m just so grateful that CeCe has her own room so that you can go in there and be alone while Ben has her in another room. Things will work out for your family just the way they are meant to.

  19. I remember how those baby cries could make the walls close in, it was smothering and we live in a house. Our house is small, 1460 square feet, and built in the late 70’s and ever since our first boy was born our house has started to shrink. Our house also sits on a little over an acre just outside town so we do not have a real neighborhood with sidewalks and streetlights. There is no nicely manicured fenced lawn to send them out it, but untamed forest and a small patch of grass we laid ourselves a couple years ago. It is great for the boys to romp in now that they are older but I felt very disconnected with the world when they were younger.

  20. You know, that’s interesting that you feel the need to replicate what your parents provided. Maybe it’s because I was 7 by the time my parents bought a house, but I figure anything is better than the double-wide that was my first house. And even that I have fond memories of. I figured, my parents were broke when they had my older bro and me, surely I can make it work, too.

    I ended up buying a house before the kiddos, but I promise, it’s the size of your apartment. And I love that it’s small. Because I tried to clean it yesterday and if it was one square foot bigger I would have thrown the mop out the window.

  21. You are a real grown up, you are a mommy! No house will make you feel more accomplished than that. It’s weird how we each have something the other wants. You have a baby, I have a house…wanna trade off every now and then? Haha. Love you Em!

  22. I’m torn about home ownership as well, and had the same feelings as you did growing up about apartments. I don’t know why it feels like living in an apartment is losing some sort of invisible contest, when I’m perfectly content with it right now.

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