I recently read an article about a woman in the States who lives in an apartment building with her toddler and found a less than pleasant letter on her door telling her how she was a horrible person for raising a child in a tiny apartment and how she probably should not have reproduced.
This one hit home for me. For most of my daughter’s three year life, we have lived in a two bedroom condo.
And almost on a monthly basis, we have had a discussion on whether we are horrible people for raising our spawn in a luxury-sized chicken coup.
There are reasons why we chose to live in a condo in downtown Ottawa. I live across my workplace. My husband’s work is a ten minute drive. My daughter’s daycare is a five minute walk. Life has been simple, oh so simple.
But then there are the downsides. We constantly play Tetris with our closets and storage areas in order to organize and re-organize items. It is impossible to keep our living room/dining room/guest room/den/home theatre clean and organized. I probably have some tiny part of a toy permanently lodged in the padding of my foot and have stop noticing it because I am constantly stepping on and falling over the spawn’s toys.
When our families visit from out of town, we step on each other’s toes. Literally only, not figuratively. There is only one bathroom so that one of us is perpetually hoping on one foot outside the door as someone else is using it. Space is limited so home décor dreams have to stay on the back burner.
In winter months, when we are cooped up inside, we constantly worry whether our daughter is getting enough sun and exercise. Should we stick her out of the window and air her out for a bit?
We don’t have a backyard so she can’t have sandboxes and water tables. My husband yearns for the first love of his life: BBQ-ing.
The three of us spend about 80% of our awake time on the same couch. If that couch could talk, the stories it would tell (mainly of milk spills and Cheetos in its crevices).
But I have absolutely loved our condo life in spite of my doubts about raising a child in a limited space and here are the reasons why:
- The spawn is almost guaranteed to never grow up with claustrophobia.
- There is a vibe to downtown living. Hippy restaurants, cozy cafes, trendy clothing stores, gleaming Christmas lights on streets. And where you live, defines who you are. The other day I was making beef stew and asked my husband to grab bread. So he walked down to the little Italian bakery across the corner and brought home warm buns. Imagine that! In summer months, we walk by that little bakery on our way to the splash pad and buy focaccia bread and munch on it happily under the swaying trees while our daughter soaks up water and the sun. We are so spectacularly hip.
- There is character everywhere you look. Downtowns have history. They have grown organically so the dilapidated, hundred-something old houses have a charm like no other. Suburbia is calculated, designed and devised. It has an antiseptic feel to it. Carefully manicured lawns don’t have the same allure as wines growing with wild abandon on black, wrought-iron gates.
- There are three parks within walking distance of us. In winter months, we walk on the Rideau Canal holding cups of hot chocolate, and in summer, we paddle boat and feed the duckies.
- Limited space also breathes fulfillment I find. Because I have a small home, I am not trying to fill it with excess. In this world of ours that is always chasing more, it’s a content feeling to have just enough, just right. The bigger the space, the more you feel like every corner needs to be filled and fulfilled.
- My daughter is learning about opportunity cost. She has to choose what she can take home, the play kitchen or the toy tent. If she doesn’t play enough with a big item, we get rid of it instead of hoarding it.
- Cleaning and maintenance is a walk in the park. I can go around and vacuum and dust before you can say “Swiffer”.
- Proximity to our workplaces means we get home early and our daughter spends limited time in daycare. This means we have plenty of time with her before bedtime. It also means that I have the time to cook a fresh meal every day. Even though we are surrounded by restaurants, I prefer cooking at home most days and it has had a serious impact on what we eat and how we eat it. We have cut down on processed food because I actually have the time to make things like pasta sauce from scratch.
All of these advantages aside, we know that the suburban life is in our imminent future as the spawn gets ready for school next year. This is not to say that you can’t do a perfectly reasonable job of raising kids in small apartments but at some point, the need to find the best possible education and more space for your kid has you cruising through suburban neighborhoods, envisioning a different life. The rhythm of a new routine. Extracurricular activities that allow you to meet other parents, build new connections, create a support group. More house, a deck and a BBQ. Oh the BBQ.
But till then, we are here, in our life that exists within a ten minute radius. And on Valentine’s day, when my daughter brought home cut out heart shapes with her favorite things listed on them, one of them said “I love my house” and I realized, we apartment-dwellers may not be horrible parents after all.