You don’t know me, but I recently read your Elle Decor piece, “I Made a Huge Sacrifice to Buy My Dream Home,” and I feel like we could talk. The title was immediately eye catching and of course I wanted to know about you and your life.
Like you, I have shared my family story online. I have shared my financial fears and anxieties. Many years ago I may not have raised an eyebrow over what you wrote. But now I know better.
Let’s talk, Sarah.
You begin your story saying, “We built a luxury dream home but can only afford to have two children. Most people do not understand this statement.”
I think you are wrong there. I believe a lot of people understand how expensive raising children can be. Some might even commend you for recognizing the costs involved and deciding only to have two children.
You continue, writing about the sacrifices you and your husband have made. Living in a luxury home was a priority for you both, so corners would need to be cut elsewhere. Who wouldn’t get that? It’s budgeting 101. Still with you on this.
It’s when you began to list the sacrifices you made that I realized we were never on the same page. It’s when I realized the word “sacrifices” might be in air quotes for you.
Included in your list of sacrifices:
- only one vacation a year at a bought-and-paid-for timeshare
- having to stick to a budget for items like a ride-on lawn mower and a generator
- children have everything they need, not everything they want
You also share that you’ve made the choice to stay home with your children and are able to “because of the carefully premeditated financial choices” your family made.
I wonder if you realize how amazing that is? I couldn’t imagine actually being able to afford to make a choice about such a thing like staying home with my son. Child care is not anything I could budget for and no amount of sacrifice was going to get me there. Sounds like you know more about budgeting than I do. Maybe you can tell me how you did it?
After listing the sacrifices made to achieve your dream house, you reveal your huge secret. I lean in, because who doesn’t love a grand reveal?!
“…we would like to have one more child.”
Oh Sarah! I so hear you on this! Me too!! I would give anything if I could have another kid, if my son could have a sibling! I absolutely know how hard it is to struggle with infertility … oh. Wait. I should not have made that assumption. You don’t mention anything about fertility problems. Why can’t you have another child? Health risks? Genetic factors?
“We have come to the conclusion that the decision to buy our dream home last year has eliminated the possibility of having any more children. Unless circumstances suddenly change, in order to have one more child, we would need to downsize.”
Downsize. Ah. Well, OK. Wait. Why would that be so awful? Sarah! If you want another kid and are physically able to do it …
“This would mean another move and tearing our two kids away from the house they now call a home. And it would mean that I would need to return to work full-time, taking away from the quality time our two children enjoy having with me and putting them (and the hypothetical third child) in daycare which my teaching salary would probably just barely afford.”
I don’t understand this, but if this is what you guys have decided to do, then you need to do what’s best for your family. Really only YOU will know that. Making choices based on finances is smart. Of course I envy you and your assumptively working reproductive system, but it seems like you are being rational. Rational can be hard. But rational pays the bills.
Then I kept reading, Sarah. And my heart kind of broke for you. You reveal, “I have begun to resent the dream house and our decision to buy it.” You feel like owning the house is what is keeping you from something you deeply desire: a third child. You feel stuck. Trapped.
You wrote, “Sometimes, I can see us living in a smaller, older home somewhere, selling this one, and adjusting to accommodate life with a third child in a home that is definitely anything but a dream …”
This is why we need to talk. The house is not the dream. The fancy appliances or square footage, nope, not the dream.
The dream is your family.
The house can not be the dream. It can not be THE THING you invest your everything into because at any moment, the house can be gone.
A few years ago my family was in a lovely house. We lived near a golf course and next to a lake. We had air conditioning. We had a garage. We had multiple bedrooms and bathrooms and porches and space. We had a washer and a dryer.
For us it was an unexpected job loss followed by living on savings for over half a year. Then we no longer had a house. Poof! Gone. We were homeless. We were on government assistance. We were terrified. We didn’t dream of luxury houses, we dreamed of being able to stay together.
I can never fully know what you have experienced in your life, Sarah. But I can tell you this, as someone who has lived a comfortable life and then had it all vanish, if you are unhappy with where you are now, you are very fortunate in being able to change that.
So many people have no control over the variables in their life that you do. We can’t make choices about having children, or moving, or staying home. It makes me sad for you that you seem so unhappy within these gifts of opportunities.
Seize your day, Sarah!
I did notice that your piece on Elle Decor received a lot of critical feedback. Usually in the online world we tell each other to stay away from reading the comments, but I think you are strong and you could benefit from some of the things people have been sharing.
The common theme of the comments is that you may be lacking perspective about how other families experience what it is to sacrifice. That is a challenging thing to learn if you have never been through hard times, and I do NOT wish you hard times. Instead I suggest you have conversations with people outside of your neighborhood and circle. Take the kids to a food pantry and volunteer for a day … and listen.
I hope to read an update from you in a few months. I’m rooting for you.