One day my kids will be too big to carry around in tote bags.
“What’s it like living in an apartment with a baby?” is a question I am often asked. Usually it’s from someone expecting her first baby and trying to decide where to live.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from all these years of apartment living, it’s that I don’t need a house to have a home.
And that’s the truth. There is something really special about having a story that begins, “When we first started out, we lived in a small apartment…”
But that’s not all there is to it of course. When all our friends were buying houses, we chose to stay in an apartment, and here is how our experience has been so far.
We lived in a one bedroom apartment when we found out we were expecting Lane. After the shock wore off, one of my first thoughts was for the nursery. I wanted a room that was beautiful just like in the pictures I saw.
We had a small side room with a slouchy couch and a television set. We sold the couch (and later the television), and turned that little space into a baby room with a crib and a changing area. We turned a wet bar cabinet into an organized baby closet. With just a few changes our one-bedroom apartment had a nursery.
I wished I could paint, but I learned to live with apartment beige. (Apartment beige is like builder’s beige, but with 20 layers and extra overspray.)
We had no option but to live with less stuff than catalogs say you need. We chose “travel size” for a lot of things. We didn’t need a baby bathtub when we could give our kid a bath in the kitchen sink. Craigslist was our storage unit. Knowing we couldn’t keep baby gear long-term, I bought and sold stuff as we needed it, and sometimes I even sold things for more than I paid.
We didn’t buy many toys, but our baby didn’t mind playing with apples, pears, and sheets of paper, the occasional cardboard box, or stuff from my closet. We often reminded people, “We don’t have much space in our apartment,” and they helped us by considering that. Most toys came from grandparents, and some toys stayed at the grandparents’ house.
Our big challenge was storage: not baby storage, just regular stuff. We didn’t have a kitchen pantry, so our crackers and dry goods were in the bathroom under the towels. With everything stuffed into every possible storage space in whatever way it could fit, we often left it exposed for baby exploring. It was so easy for her to pull out everything that was accessible, and I spent a lot of time putting stuff back.
Having a patio outside space saved my sanity more than once. We frequently went places, visiting parks and coffee shops. Every weekend we were glad not to have to keep up with a lawn.
Baby #2 was coming, and I briefly thought about staying. Our rent was cheap, but our apartment was lacking. We decided to pay more, and we moved to an apartment that was bigger and better with a park close by. I’m glad we decided to pay the extra money because with two kids I stay home more, and it’s nicer. I think the lack of windows in our old apartment was making me depressed.
The kids share a room, and a while ago I shared a tour of how we made a place for both of them. It has its challenges (one kid is a light sleeper).
Sometimes I wish I could decorate any way I want. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have carpet. Wow, I’m just thinking of all the reasons why I wish we didn’t have carpet.
We use cloth diapers, but we have our own washer and dryer. I don’t think I would use cloth if I had to go to a laundromat, though I know more persistent people who have done it.
We invite small friends to play and it makes it really noisy for our downstairs neighbor.
I like being able to always know where my kids are. I like always being within earshot of them.
Sometimes we drive by our old apartment which is just five minutes away, and my four year old always says, “I don’t like our new home, Mommy, I like our old home better. I like my old room better. It’s little. Little kids need little rooms.” So there you have it.
I don’t know how long we’ll stay in an apartment, but it’s definitely helped make our lives better. It’s been good, and it’s been worth it.