It is funny how sometimes really positive events can be overwhelming and stressful. We recently bought a house, and while this was a wonderful change for our family, it also brought some new and unforeseen challenges.
We only moved a mile away from the apartment where we had lived for nearly nine years, but the entire process made me realize why moving is way up there on that list of “Life’s Greatest Stresses.” (IMHO, moving with children should be up just a notch on that list, but anyhoo…)
I took a week off from work to move, and when I returned to my job, I was greeted by people who excitedly wanted to know all about the house. In some cases, I actually had to “fake” my pleasure a bit when I told them all about it, because I was just so tired and emotional about the whole thing. In other cases, I was able to explain to people how having a new house is akin to having a new baby.
1.) It is an exhausting flurry of activity that is hard to remember. Much like the hazy weeks after the birth of both of my children, when I was too sleep deprived for my brain to actually transfer anything into long-term memory banks, moving was just that– moving. Constantly. For days on end. Until our bodies were sore and I was so tired all I could do was cry. It reminded me a lot of pacing the floor with my colicky newborn boy, uncertain how many minutes or hours were flickering by and always being surprised by how fast or slow time was ticking.
2.) It is disorienting. Living in the same five rooms for nearly nine years, I developed a certain muscle memory. I could reach for things without looking, or collapse into my favorite spot without really thinking about it. But in my new house, everything felt out of whack, awkward.
It reminded me a bit of how it felt breastfeeding those first weeks, finding new positions to be comfortable in, and figuring out how to hold a nursing baby while reading or talking on the phone. With a new baby, my body needed to learn a whole new language of moves for nursing, consoling, and playing. It eventually came and became natural. In my new house, I am learning all the new twists, turns and contortions to make it comfortable and familiar. It will come, but at times feels funky.
It has been strange at times for the children too, as they adjust to new space, especially for our three-year-old daughter. Emily is having some major sleep regression and feels really frightened when she is alone in her new room. We are all trying to be patient with one another during this enormous transition.
3.) It is shockingly expensive. I remember dry-heaving a bit when I learned how expensive day care was going to be. While we are doing everything in our new home on a tight budget, it still feels like I blink and another couple hundred bucks has disappeared. Shower curtains, paint, a new duvet cover, shelf liner– it all adds up.
4.) There is tons of unexpected crap that goes down. When I was expecting our first-born, I imagined a placid little tot who would sleep for hours on end, eat contentedly from my breast, and coo like a dove at my voice. Imagine my surprise when I got a fussy, high-needs, perpetually hungry, non-sleeper of a baby. This rude awakening felt very similar to the experience we had when all of our plumbing backed up almost immediately after signing on the house, necessitating extensive (read, expensive) rotor rooting, despite our careful and thorough home inspection only weeks prior.
5.) It can take some time to fall in love. Of course I loved my children before they were even born. Of course I did. But with both of them, it took me a while to get to know them, to appreciate their quirks, and to feel that intimate connection.
My first week in the new house, I cried every night that I wanted “to go home.” But each day, I found things that delighted me a bit more about my new environment. The way my hardwoods gleamed after a good swiffering. The tranquil lavender accent wall in my bedroom. My family’s coats all hung neatly together on hooks by the front door.
6.) I get to see my spouse in a new role. When my babies were born, I was amazed at how my husband became a father. A whole new side of him emerged with this new title, and it took my breath away to watch him find new ways to soothe a fussy Jack, or how he would chatter and play with kicky Emily.
Upon taking ownership of our new home, my husband chose paint for our children’s rooms (with their input, of course), and did an immaculate job painting them. He has trouble shot issues with our plumbing and heating. He has raked and re-raked our leafy lawn. He installed new shades. He hung a bird house. He even bought a fresh evergreen wreath to hand on our front door so we would look festive for the holidays! The care he is putting into our home delights me, just as it did to watch him with our children for the first time.
7.) There is no better time to practice Radical Acceptance! I often wish for a do-over with my Jack during his newborn period. He was such a challenge for me, and I think I could have done a much better job being his mom. But all his challenges were, in fact, a tremendous gift to me because it ultimately taught me the importance of Radical Acceptance in this motherhood gig.
When Emily came along, I was much more prepared for sleep deprivation, feeding issues, and the general discomfort of parenthood. It made for a much more peaceful postpartum period because I was in the moment with Emily, as opposed to trying to bend a situation to my will– which is almost always a futile situation. My mantra became, this is what makes me a mom.
For me, it has kind of been the same with the house. Rather than getting overly frustrated or upset with the ups and downs of home ownership, I have been able to embrace the trials and tribulations that go along with home ownership, and also to accept my own feelings about this move, whether trepidation, sorrow, or excitement.
8.) It is an incredible time and opportunity for new memories to be made. I am not a great cook, nor do I relish cooking, but I will forever remember the first stir-fry I made in my new house. In our old apartment, cooking was dreadful in the postage-stamp-sized kitchen. But in our new house, the spacious kitchen is pretty cool. We all sat at the table and it just felt great.
Much like all of the enchanting firsts after having a baby (the first yawn! the first sneeze! the first time they poop/pee/puke on you! the first smiles!), creating new firsts in our new home is sweet.
We waited a really long time for our first home. We dreamed about it, talked about it, and did a lot of soul searching about it. In the end, it seems like it was a good choice, and will continue to be well worth the labor of love– just like a new baby.