Thursday, December 1, 2011

A House or A Home?

Time is flying by at the moment. I cannot believe it's December already, and I haven't blogged for 2 weeks. I'm in the middle of writing another article for Playtimes magazine and it has been all consuming. So of course just days from my deadline we decided to take a little break and spent the weekend in Manila, and now I'm blogging, writing something that does nothing to get me closer to finishing the piece I'll actually be paid for. Anyhoo...

We're in a bit of turmoil at present. We bought a house just before J was born and moved in when he was 8 weeks old. It was smaller than the one we were in, didn't have a proper kitchen and, unlike our rental, was only partially furnished and had no outdoor space. I managed to convince my husband that we had to at least paint inside before we moved in and we've managed to re-do the bathroom, but we're still living with mostly second-hand furniture, a truly awful kitchen and a living area that gets smaller every day. I know, cry me a river, at least we own our home, something which isn't always easy or affordable in a place like Hong Kong. It just doesn't feel like home sometimes, and making it more homely will cost money we simply don't have. This is a big issue for me right now (and the cause of the aforementioned turmoil) as I've been bitten by the nesting bug pretty darn hard.

Friends and family who've been to visit recently have all politely enquired, when glancing around at all 800 square feet of our house, where we will put the baby when he/she arrives. We've laughed it off and said "we'll figure it out," secretly knowing that unless we empty a drawer in the wardrobe in our room for little BITO to sleep in, he/she won't fit anywhere. So, we recently made the tough (crazy) decision to try and sell our house before the baby is born. Moving house with a newborn sent me into a state of depression, and caused such unnecessary angst that I swore I would never do it again, so if it doesn't sell before the end of January we'll stay put. Even if we do sell we won't be able to afford to buy again so we'll be renters. But what we could afford to rent is palatial in comparison to what we currently own - a very appealing prospect indeed. We'd also have enough cash to finally be able to buy our own furniture and ditch the Ikea hand-me-downs, hooray!

The week we made this decision, despite all its pros, my blood pressure skyrocketed and I was lying awake at night feeling like I was about to lose something very special. There was such a sense of achievement when we bought this house, our first home, and despite its MANY imperfections, it is ours, and a huge asset. It has a lot of potential, and we had big dreams for the things we were going to do to it, to turn it from a house into a home, and we'd both be really sad if we had to give that up and start living in someone else's house. I keep veering wildly from one side to the other, wanting desperately to sell and move, then secretly hoping we have to stay. One day last week I stood in J's room (my favourite room in the house) and looked around, thinking maybe we could stay, feeling guilty that I was even considering taking my little man away from the only home he'd ever known right before we drop a sibling on him. Then I realised that it's what you do to a place that makes it a home, as long as we took our little bits and pieces with us, all the stuff that is familiar to J, the 4 of us could make a home anywhere. So I was back on the side of selling.

We had a couple come through, prospective buyers, within days of deciding to sell, and it all felt a bit too sudden. I didn't stay and left the inspection to my husband. The dog and child were also banished from the house to give the illusion of space - we didn't want them cluttering up the place! After a wicked woman came through a house we were renting several years ago and told me it was "cosy" with a nasty sneer, or the real estate agents who laughed and said our colour scheme was "so 90's," I've always been a bit defensive during inspections, even more so now that this is my own home and not a rental. So you can imagine my distress when I came home and found that my husband had put away and rearranged some of my objet d'art and trinkets (aka clutter) for the sake of making the place look bigger. I was on the verge of tears as I put it all back, and wanted to pull the pin on the whole business once again.

After spending the weekend in Manila, in a bazillion square foot apartment, with 3 massive bedrooms and a living area that is larger than our house and the one next door combined, I definitely feel like we need to live somewhere bigger. J is a light sleeper and hears me get up to pee in the middle of the night, so you can imagine how much a crying baby is going to affect his sleep. And what about poor BITO trying to catch a nap during the day while his/her big brother is creating a ruckus downstairs? Our marriage only survived the first few months of J's life because we had a spare room: a sanctuary for the sleep-deprived parent to hide away in while the other parent (although equally sleep-deprived) tended to the baby in the other room. What will we do when there's nowhere to escape to? We've had a few more couples come through this week, and while the comments have been mercifully positive ("we love it," "what a view," great bathroom!"), the big but has been the same each time..."it's too small." Which really is stating the bleeding obvious - it's why we're selling!!

Now, after two weeks on this real estate rollercoaster, my husband confessed that he doesn't think we'll be able to sell before my deadline/due date, and we're back to square one. I desperately want to feel settled, to feel like there will be a space for our new little one in a few months time. I want to paint some walls, rearrange some furniture and, when the time comes, buy some gorgeous gender appropriate linen, maybe even some bunting. I want an armchair in a quiet corner of the house that I can breastfeed in without having to watch Playschool or be leapt upon by a couch surfing toddler. I want my baby to be able to sleep peacefully upstairs while I watch Playschool and couch surf with his/her big brother. If we don't sell BITO will be sleeping in a gender-neutral moses basket, wedged into a corner of our bedroom until he/she graduates from high-school. Or maybe we could ditch the beds altogether and lay some tatami mats down on the floor, when in Rome, hey? I wish I was the kind of person who could rise above all that, not be too caught up in material things like houses and nice furniture. I should be happy that my family is happy and healthy, and I am, but these damn hormones (and too much time at home) have me itching to create a more comfortable space for my growing family, whether under this roof or someone else's, and it's deeply unsettling. There's nothing like not knowing where you're going to be living, and not being entirely happy where you are, at a time when the concept of home has never been more important.

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