It's a very odd thing to feel yourself growing angrier and angrier over what you know is completely ridiculous. My head is all Why the heck are you getting mad about this? This is nothing. Let it go. Meanwhile, my chest is getting tight and my face is getting red. I'm so pissed off at Matt. About whether I drink an average of one or two cups of soda and coffee per week.
So when I'm cussing out the kitchen in my head, ranting to Matt about our apartment only having three windows (we had 15 in Chicago, remember?), and our dining room chairs, "china cabinet," and Abigail's dresser all three literally falling apart, it's hard to tell if we really are outgrowing our grad-school lifestyle or if I'm just being hormonal.
On one hand, Matt and I are both fed up. After so many years of moving and marriage and with a growing family, we want some freakin' stability. We wanna stop storing our out-of-season clothes at my parents' house. We want some control to install child safety locks on the stove, salt our own walkways, and turn away maintenance men when they show up unexpectedly at 8am and we're still in our pajamas.
Which brings me to my next frustration: raising a family in an apartment is really difficult. I can't control it if my upstairs neighbors decide to vacuum right at naptime. And when maintenance doesn't shovel or salt the parking lot and I slip and fall while taking the trash out, there is nothing I can do. I can't rip out this terrible, cheap carpet and put in some hard-surface flooring so that I can just sweep three times a day instead of breaking out the vacuum three times. And my ultimate frustration: the ability of the complex to enter my unit at any time. We recently received a notice that management is having the entire complex re-wired for cable. Residents will get 48 hours notice to have all furniture moved away from all interior walls. I flew into a rage. This is my life! I get that for them, it's just a business, but this small space is my whole world! How can they jerk me around like this?!
I looked around my apartment at all the furniture touching an inside wall. My wall of bookcases - I'm going to have to empty at least the top three shelves of all four cases in order to move them a few feet away from the wall. Where am I going to put all those books? Should I just stack them up on the coffee table and let my two-year-old "read" them to her heart's content?
My dresser, my husband's dresser, my daughter's dresser (the one that is literally falling apart)? At the very least I'm going to need to clear off the entire tops of them, stash all that stuff in my room (on the bed?) and then lock Abigail out of that room all day.
If we needed to have something like this done in our own home, I could schedule it. Maybe for a day Matt has off so I have some help moving stuff? Maybe for a time when we can hole up at a friends' house so I don't have to spend the entire day keeping my toddler from helping herself to my perfume and wine glasses? Leave Abigail with the friend and run back home for the timed appointment? Stash her at grandma and grandpa's until Matt and I can get furniture back in place? But to have everything sprung on me with 48 hours notice against my will? So the next residents who live here and pay for a TV package can have a clearer picture? Ugh.
My final frustration is with the car. When we selected the town we currently live in, we had a handful of leads that would leave me with the car. But they all dried up. It's very stressful to get myself showered and ready, get Abigail dressed and ready, get us both fed, and out the door by 7:45am in order to get Matt to work on time so I can use the car. I can't imagine doing it with a newborn.
I know what you're thinking. It's what any logical person would think: Buy a freaking house! Buy a freaking car! Buy a freaking dining room table! Allow me to find reasons to complicate the issue.
Am I just being hormonal, or:
- Are we being honest with ourselves about our housing situation?
- Are we demanding a "luxury level" lifestyle?
- What about our big, Dave Ramsean dreams?
I just read in The Week, which was quoting WSJ.com that "the typical American living in poverty has a house 'larger than the home of the average non-poor French, German, or English man.'" Now we don't live in poverty, but still, that's says a lot about what Americans expect. Matt chimed in that in the graphic novel Maus, the family is very rich, has a governess, and lives in a two-bedroom apartment. The average home size in the 1950s was around 1200 sq ft, one bathroom was standard, and most families had more children than they do today. (Source). Even though the quality of living nowadays is higher, will my quality of life really suffer in any real amount by sticking around this two bedroom, two bathroom apartment another year or two? Am I being honest that we've outgrown this place or am I just lusting after more?
When we decided to buy a house last year, we knew things could have gone either way and it was really more a matter of which pro/con list was more manageable. But hindsight bias has shown us that not getting the house was the best path for us. Sometimes life throws you curve balls and it's better that we're not tied to real estate right now. Frustratingly vague, I know, but you have to be careful about how much personal information you reveal on the Internet. Sometimes I romanticize that we should have rented a house, but the truth is that the amenities we get in an apartment are cheaper and better than those we'd get in a house on our budget, even sans basement or garage.
Next comes the question of "luxury lifestyle," which obviously crosses the line into "keeping-up-with-the-Jones'" pretty quickly. My furniture is cheap in quality and scarce in quantity. None of it matches, most of it is ugly, and almost all of it is falling apart after so many cross-country trips. It's embarrassing and humbling having even therapists over.
"What does your husband do?"
"He's an attorney," I respond from my stained, sagging couch, across stained, ugly carpet in my small apartment with leaky windows.
But is the purpose of my couch to impress people? And do I really want to buy a new couch for an apartment I'll probably be preparing to move out of by this time next year? Non-matching furniture does not diminish my quality of life. We're still getting out feet under us after graduate school. Of all the things I want to say I did when I look back on 2014, "used precious resources to buy new furniture" is not in my top five.
We want to be those people who have no debt outside of their house. And that's really freaking hard when you go to grad school. We were in a good financial position when went to Ave, I worked for the first half of law school, and Matt had a scholarship. But life is still expensive, especially when you have a child with serious medical issues and crappy insurance, your only car completely dies, and you move every eight months on average (every move we've ever made as a married couple has been for school or a job). Sure, we could take out a car loan on a second vehicle. We could definitely stop paying cash for everything and put "car tires," "Christmas presents," and "clothes" on a credit card and make monthly payments. We could definitely do all that and more to ease the frustrations of our current lifestyle. But the thought of more mandatory payments making demands on our income frightens me. It's so frustrating not being able to buy something I view as a necessity (full panel maternity jeans), but at the same time, it's so freeing not having a credit card bill every month.
And I question how much I need to "ease the burden of labor." Sure a hand vacuum would be easier than dragging out the big vacuum, but why is it so important that each of my chores be as easy as possible? It's not like I have to turn Abigail away every day because my list of tasks is that long. It's not like I can't get everything I need to get done on a regular basis because I'm just too overwhelmed. If I can't finish everything I wanted, it's almost always because I spent too much time on Facebook or Abigail had a demanding day or I ran out of energy. And I make the tasks up the next day. We're not in dire straights; I don't need more gadgets and more space for gadgets to make my life livable.
A little bit ago, I closely followed a debt-free lifestyle debate sparked by a friend's blog post and it really changed the way I view money. At first I was totally on the Dave Ramsey fan's side. No debt! Do everything you can to avoid it! But so many people on the opposite side of the fence had so many good points. Points that put words to my hopeless feelings about ever getting a second car and buying a maternity winter coat. Debt free + grad school + family is a nearly impossible task. And we definitely felt called to the grad school part and feel called to the family part. We spent a lot of time praying about Ave and about having Abigail and this baby. And we both felt God's input. And so many other people are living happy, stable lives with a monthly car payment.
So now I find all my thoughts in total flux. Do we still want to stick with our original plan? If we do alter it, what would be the best arrangement for our family? How quickly do we want to pay off debt? When do we want to buy a house? So many ways to solve these problems: which way do we like the best?
And the ultimate question: Should we answer any of these questions while I'm crazy emotional? If I'm bursting into tears over Meijer commercials (did you guys see that one with the old lady and the Christmas decorations they played on Hulu? - got me every freaking time), is that really a good time to decide what to do with our financial future?
I'm really glad I was not this way with Abigail. It gives me hope that I might not be this way with future pregnancies. I realize that this post is just me giving contradictory thoughts about what we should do with no real conclusion. For that, I apologize. Sometimes my blog posts are pretty, eloquent packages, but sometimes they are just chaotic messes. I guess in that way, they mirror reality.