Growing up in a cramped, one-bedroom apartment, I never guessed that as an adult – and especially as a parent – I would come to appreciate the value of a small living space.
Although I loved living in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village as a kid, our housing situation became more complicated the older I got. As a teenager, it felt claustrophobic not to have my own door to slam.
Four people vied for the single bathroom, and when I snuck in late I passed right by my parents, who pretended to be asleep on the air bed they inflated on the living room floor each evening.
Growing up in apartments
With the exception of my senior year of college, I have only lived in apartments, and only with other people. It’s what I know. And now that I’m a parent to a rambunctious toddler, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of modest apartment living more than ever.
When my son was one month old, we moved to the suburbs just outside New York, but remained in an apartment. It was large by Manhattan standards – a two-bedroom – but humble by suburban norms.
“Oh, it’s so…cozy…so urban…” guests said as we crammed them in for my son’s first birthday party.
But as my son grew more and more active, I became increasingly thankful for the natural restraints of our home. We had no stairs to gate – although we do have to climb a set to get to our second-floor apartment, so my son still gets plenty of practice.
Early on, we had a baby monitor, but when it broke we realized we didn’t need to replace it – we can hear my son in his room, even with the door closed, from every room in the apartment.
Built-in safety features
Once my son gained some independence and was moving around the world comfortably, I felt good knowing that we could safely be in different rooms for short periods. In a small space, nearly every inch needs to be kid-friendly and safe.
There’s not much that’s off-limits, and I love that I can be washing dishes in the kitchen and still keep an eye on him in the living room. He is, at least for now, oblivious to the fact that our home might be considered small. It’s his kingdom, and he is quite happy there.
Recently a friend came over for a play date and she started to follow our sons around as they played. “Have a seat on the couch,” I said. “You can see right into his bedroom from here.”
Her face lit up at the thought of not chasing them around a house, and – for perhaps the first play date ever – she relaxed a little. She commented on how nice it was to live in a manageable apartment with a kid, and I realized just how lucky I am.
Bigger isn’t always better
Last year, we had the opportunity to move into a house, and my husband and I considered it carefully. Who wouldn’t want more space? But at the end of the day, we decided that it just wasn’t worth it.
Moving is a pain, and expensive. We envisioned buying more furniture and stuff to fill up the extra space, so it would cost us more money that we didn’t have.
And, most of all, it would mean chasing a toddler around a bigger, probably more dangerous, space. Staying in our apartment meant less hassle and less expense on a number of levels.
Of course, it’s easy to say this when there are only three of us, one of whom is a mere three feet tall. With baby number two on the way, we may reassess down the line. Or perhaps when my sweet little toddler boy turns into a man-sized teenager, we’ll all feel like things are a little tight.
But for now, it’s just right.