Every now and then someone writes something somewhere on the internet that makes everyone go, HUH???
A few weeks ago it was a blogger names Sarah Scott.
She wrote an article for Elle Decor telling the world how she and her husband have sacrificed their very strong desire (she mentions her "aching uterus" at one point) for a third child in favour of having/keeping their dream house. I say dream HOUSE and not dream home, because I kind of think this woman has the two mixed up a bit.
Now, please understand that I am not here to judge another person's choices about where they live, how many kids they have and how they define happiness and living fully. I do however, have some thoughts about the kind of world we live in that makes us think that "having all the things" and living in a Pinterest-worthy "American Dream" is what is going to make us happiest in our lives.
My husband and I have built three homes together. Each one bigger and better then the last. Each one designed, decorated and built with as much hands on that our contractors would let us have and with the full intention (each time) of being our dream home. The first was a modest three bedroom, two story house in a new development and was a definite learning experience. After three years in the house, too many disputes with our builder, one dog, and one child later, we made the decision to move to a more mature neighbourhood and start fresh.
House number two was an infill build; a lovely Craftsman style bungalow situated on a beautiful tree lined street, in the neighbourhood we loved. Our contractor was amazing, our house was practically perfect in every way, and we moved in when my son was six months old and had spent at least one day a week of his entire life on a construction site. We had the best neighbours, lived a three minute walk from a playground and an elementary school and couldn't really ask for more.
Except at some point we could and we did. Another kid arrived on the scene and all the stuff that comes along with two children started to pile up and the space in our house seemed to shrink. The flaws in our original design became apparent (to us), and we found ourselves buying more and more home magazines, and spending a lot more time watching HGTV and browsing through the HOUZZ app looking at modern houses with big windows and even bigger everything else. We started to dream of yet another "dream home". We convinced ourselves that with the kids getting older and needing more space, that we would soon outgrow this house. We needed better planned out space, professionally-designed space, much, much, more SPACE.
And here we are in house number three. Still in the same neighbourhood we love (yes, another infill build), but now with a modern, 2500 square foot bungalow, on a 13,000 square foot lot. We wanted more space and we got more space. A LOT of it!
We do love our space. The house was designed so that all the rooms in it were thoughtfully designed and are used every day. When you walk into our home, every part of it oozes US. My husband and I sat down one night and sketched out the floor plan as it exists today. We hired our previous contractor to build it for us and it is everything we ever wanted in our ultimate dream home. And this one, THIS ONE FOR SURE was going to be our forever home. Our home with the big back yard and beautiful giant trees, the expansive driveway that the kids can play on, and the huge deck that we can use as our outdoor room. My dream kitchen with a 14-foot island that is the centre of everything and huge windows that span one whole side of the house. The house with another 2000 square feet of undeveloped basement area to be decided upon and designed when the kids are bigger and need even more of their own space.
Dream Home level unlocked. Living the good life. Fully.
A funny thing happens when Life decides to show you just how fleeting and fragile it can be. A lot of the things you had dreamt about and had previously thought were important and would somehow bring you joy and fulfillment, become just that - THINGS.
This past year has been one of healing, transition and re-prioritizing for my little family and in a lot of ways, we are still on this path. Spending time together, learning from each other, taking care of our bodies and our minds, truly listening and seeing each other, and enjoying the precious time we have together on this earth. These are the things that we want to do. There are also quite a few things we do not want to do, like spend all of our weekends and family time doing lawn work, weeding the giant flower/shrub beds, repeatedly shovelling what seems like a full city block of snow (in the winter), and constantly cleaning 2500 square feet of floors and 5 bathrooms. We don't want to have to limit our travelling and exploring because we have to think of how much our municipal taxes are increasing every year, and it is no fun being literally OWNED by our banking institution for a good part of our adult lives.
What we are starting to realize is that this house may not be our dream anymore and that more space, more things, and more house, doesn't necessarily translate to more joy in our lives. One of the most important lessons I have learned this past year is that my dreams, my happiness and that of the most important people in my life, are not attached to things. Home is not where you spend the most amount of money to get the biggest lot, the nicest countertops, coolest light fixtures and fanciest new stovetop. Home is not about the perfectly decorated playroom or the walk-in closet the size of a small bedroom. Home is not the things in your house, or even your house itself.
Home is the people in your life and the time you spend with them and the love that you have for each other. Home is wherever you are together, living joyfully.
This is what bugged me the most about Sarah Scott's post (and trust me, there are so very many things that were problematic about it and my friend Dresden covered them nicely in this letter to Sarah). Aside from the extremely privileged space that Sarah is writing from (and full disclosure, I am as well), the fact that she seems to be placing a higher value on the THINGS in her life, i.e., her dream home, over her and her husband's desire to expand their family, makes me feel very sad for her. Not in a judge-y way that I think I have any kind of say in how they live their lives, but in a way that in some ways I can identify with, because I have been there too.
I get where Ms. Scott was coming from, really I do. It is extremely easy to become attached to an idea that you have worked so very hard for, and I see this in Sarah's sentiments about her dream house. I also see her need for some kind of validation and acknowledgment of the sacrifices that they made to build their home and have their "American Dream". What I also see, is the growing resentment that she is feeling about her one huge sacrifice (I would call it a decision, but whatevs - poTAYto/poTAHto) of not having another child and I only hope that this resentment doesn't turn to regret and spill out into her family and her relationships.
The truth of the matter is that life happens, and all our carefully laid plans can be up-ended in an instant and staying attached to an idea or a dream that no longer fits into your life becomes limiting. The great thing about dreams is that ultimately, we are the ones in control of them, and they can change, grow, and evolve as we do, and this is not a bad thing.
Sometimes, the best thing to do might be to read a little book called "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", take away the main concept of the whole KonMari process, focus on what #sparksjoy in our lives, and try to apply that simple concept to ALL the things - even our dreams.
Because when we are focused on what brings us joy in our lives, and not what brings resentment or regret, that is when our dreams are truly fulfilled.
And yes, (since I know you're probably wondering) my Houzz app is getting used a whole lot more once again, as we continue to re-evaluate how much space we really do need.