Today is brought to you by the letters “M” and “F,” which stand for “mind-fuck,” and really reflects how I’m feeling about grown-up decision-making.
For the first time in my life, I’m about to put the needs of other people before my own in making a major decision. Those other people happen to be my children.
The decision we’re about to make also happens to be the largest and most expensive investment you will ever make in your life. A new home.
Four years ago, and about 48 hours before our wedding, Otto and I purchased our first home. It’s our starter home and one that we thought we’d be in for around 5 years. We’ve move into a nicer neighbourhood and bigger digs when we started our family. Only, after living in the house for about 1.5 years, we adopted our children.
Our house isn’t a house. It’s a home. It’s great and lovely, even when it’s not. It’s a place that nearly tore our marriage and finances apart when it fell apart. But my dear Otto is amazing and we’ve mostly put our humpty dumpty house back together again. It’s in an up and coming location, in close proximity to work, great access to the river and biking trails, public transit, the grocery store is around the corner, and it’s really close to everything you can need in a city.
There are two things that are not so great about our ‘hood. These two things also happen not to be little things.
Since we weren’t planning on having kids so fast, nor planning to have two at the same time, nor planning that they’d be so old when we got them, we never looked at our ‘hood in terms of its family and school offerings. There are no kids here. None. Zilch. Nada.
Well, there’s kids of divorced parents who visit once or twice a month (so, that’s about 4-ish playmate hours a month) and the kids around the corner who are Francophone and not allowed to play with our kids (I don’t think it’s because we’re Anglophone, but because the mother is a teacher at Bubaloo’s school and he didn’t make the best impression his first year there).
Our kids need friends and they need opportunities to develop social skills. Have you ever tried to arrange a play date for your 14-year-old? Yeah. Silence of chirping birds. It doesn’t work so well – for the kids and the parents. This is why we need to have opportunities for natural social interaction and where they can learn to build and maintain friendships on their own. When you only give your kids time at school and one local playmate in very select time chunks, you begin to find out that you’re not really assisting them in their personal development.
We need a neighbourhood. With kids. And in Ottawa, this is seeming to mean a move to the suburbs.
While there are some lovely neighbourhoods that we’d love to live in – Old Ottawa South, Wellington Village, Glebe, Westboro – finding a 4 bedroom home under $500,000 that won’t require an additional significant financial investment to make it livable isn’t likely to happen. We’ve been casually (okay, I look at the MLS listings religiously every Saturday night) for about 8 months and we haven’t seen anything in these areas yet.
Slowly, our search radius has expanded. We’re straying beyond the central core of the city and we’re researching places that look slightly more urbanized that the suburban mid-sized cities where we grow up.
The suburbs give me hives. Everything about being a queer person rejects notions of suburbs. Suburbs – rightly or wrongly so – represent every norm and notion of adulthood I’ve tried to not become.
Only, now, I’m a parent first, a queer second and a person with a value system tied to the place I call home third. This means that in this housing decision it’s highly probable that someone’s needs are not going to be met. The someones here should be Otto and I.
We’re going to look at a house tonight. This is our second house. It’s suburb-like.
Our kids could walk to school. They’d be walking to the top schools in the city. In walking the dog there this afternoon, I spotted one teen girl Bella’s age, two boys Bubaloo’s age, and some younger kids coming out of the house across the street.
In talking with Otto today, I realized that there’s really nice, super awesome, meets all of our house criteria around the corner. It just doesn’t meet our family and school needs so we’d never buy it. This house meets most of our housing requirements (except location) and completely meets our family and school requirements. We cannot change the funds with which we’re going to buy a house, so something is going to have to give.
I’m struggling, oh how I am struggling, but this may be the very first time our kids come first in making the most important decision of our family. Where to live.
It’s a six-year committment. We’d have to live in the same home until our kids both graduate from high school. I’m just not quite sure yet if six years seems easy-peasy or a prison sentence.