My mom made a cross stitch years ago that featured a little house in the center and this saying around the border: "A house is made of brick and stone. A home is made of love alone."
Late last year, I had a lengthy and fruitful phone conversation with one of my teaching friends, Camille. We like to talk about how we are reinventing ourselves, what works, what doesn't work, and how we can possibly fulfill multiple roles (wife, mom, friend, teacher, writer, etc.) successfully without loss of who we are, who we want to become, and who God made us to be.
We got on the subject of our homes. Currently, I'm part-owner of a four year old, split-bedroom ranch with a two car garage, two bathrooms, an eat in-kitchen, and a large backyard. It's clean, new, yet it's modest (no chandeliers or granite countertops). I would describe our home as comfortable and welcoming.
But, I can't see how we could live in this house with two children. Right now the home is the perfect size for our three-person family. But add another child into the mix (when we adopt again), and I can see how mommy might need some medication.
I am all set to move (bigger and better) in the next year or two. But the other night my husband surprised me with his projection; we'll probably stay in this house for another two years. I was surprised and slightly annoyed.
I am the primary child care provider, and I'm only at work about ten hours a week. I spend a lot of time in my home. I know it well. And I know how much smaller it might seem once baby number two makes his or her debut.
There are some issues....
First, we have one living space where our one television resides. Our living room is THE place to be every evening and on weekends. It's our entertainment facility, my daughter's playspace, the bill-paying station, and the entertainment space. It's multi-purposes can be overwhelming sometimes---and we can get on one another's nerves. My husband might want to watch the auto auctions on tv (GAG!), while our daughter is ready to play, and I'm tired and just want to read a magazine in silence.
Second, we have one eating area: our eat-in kitchen. We have a charming antique table that belonged to my grandfather. The seat creaks when a diner makes any move, even just reaching for the salt. Four dinner guests is about all the space can handle comfortably; however, we have managed to seat ten or more using a creative placement of a card table. It can be tight.
Third, the garage. It's tight. It not only houses my Honda Accord, my husband's Toyota Highlander, but also two bikes, one mower, tools, the garbage can, the recycling bin, grass seed, a deep freeze, a pile of grass stained laundry, and a jogging stroller. Now, before I go on, my husband has organized the space beautifully (and I am thankful for his initiative to not have a garage that serves as a catch-all junk storage facility but rather a real garage)---so I'll give credit where credit is due. It is nearly impossible not to let the car doors ding each other or get the baby into the car without scraping an arm against the garage wall.
I began to realize I was spending far too much time pondering what I didn't like about our house. And after my conversation with Camille, we both came to the realization that though things aren't perfect, we are blessed. There are benefits to a smaller space:
First, there's far less cleaning and organizing. I can dust, vacuum, do dishes, mop, pick up, etc. in less than two hours. Easy.
Second, because of our limited communal rooms, we are always together as a family. We work (chores!) and play together. (Luckily we do each have our own spaces for mental well-being: I have my office, my husband has the yard---though he may think that's just a work space, and my daughter, well, she' claims the whole place as hers).
Third, we aren't stressed out with a mortgage payment and utility bills we can't afford. (The number one reason couples argue is over money).
Fourth, I always know where my daughter is and what she is doing. I can see from one end of the house to the other. There's a sense of security that comes with that.
So for now, I'm focusing on what I can do to create a happier space instead of constantly listing in my mind the complaints and possibilities. We do have plans to move in the next two years; however, looking too far ahead promotes too much yearning and not enough carpe diem.
May you find peace in the home you are in now and blessings in the smaller spaces.