My husband and I bought our first home when I was 19 and he was 21. It was a long, laborious process because we were so young that we hadn’t established much credit and we honestly had no idea what we were doing. When we began house hunting, we were surprised at the budget the bank allowed us and knew we would be stretched by the monthly payment if we searched for a place in that price range. We decided instead to look at places that were half that number so we knew we could always afford our mortgage in case someone lost a job or we decided to start a family — I always knew I wanted to stay at home when the time came.
My husband Adam and I have made hundreds of mistakes with money over our nearly 10 years of marriage, but that was probably the smartest thing we have ever done.
We only looked at a handful of homes before we fell in love. I am sure our family felt like we were crazy when we walked them through; the house was an outdated foreclosure and would require a lot of TLC to make it a home. The floors had ’70s shag carpet and all the walls were dark wood paneling. There was little closet space and the bathroom is smaller than a handicap stall in a public restroom. Still, Adam and I could only see the potential this house held and we thought how much equity would could acquire when we decided to sell in a few years to put down on a more spacious, fancier place to raise a family. After jumping through dozens of hoops and crying way too many tears, we finally closed on our first home and Adam moved in. I would move in after our wedding a few months later. We spent many hours painting walls, laughing at how I always managed to get paint all over myself like an unsupervised preschooler. With the help of my father-in-law, we made a lot of improvements to our space but we still had a long way to go.
Life is funny; it doesn’t really care what your plans are, does it?
We had a five-year plan but it was derailed in the best way pretty early on. One night, only six weeks after our wedding, I found out we were going to need to turn one of the bedrooms into a nursery — I was pregnant! Somehow Adam and I fit into the teeny, tiny bathroom and giggled and cried together. My belly grew and my little house was quickly filling with baby equipment. Why do such tiny humans come with so many giant things? When I brought my beautiful baby boy through the doors of our home I couldn’t imagine going back to work without him. I turned in my resignation at work and committed my time to my son. Because we made a choice to live below our means, I was able to do that. Finances were often tight, but we had a home and each other and that was what mattered to me.
The years passed and we have added three more beautiful children to this tiny 1200 square foot house and I have been so blessed to be home with every one of them. Sometimes, however, comparison comes creeping in and overshadows my gratitude. While we started out much younger than most, sometimes I feel like we are falling behind because we haven’t “upgraded.” I see so many friends on Facebook buying houses much newer, nicer, and larger than ours and I start thinking of ways we can move on and do the same. I see all the unfinished projects and worry what other people notice when they come over. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me when we were going to get a bigger house, I would have a lot of dollars.
But then I refocus.
I love my space and how cozy it is. I see how proud my boys are when they bring their friends over to play. They are so excited to show off their Nerf wall and their loft beds (which are an amazing way to maximize space, by the way). They love having a big yard to run around. I love that they are so excited to come home after spending the night away. It reminds me they do not care about the imperfections I see; they just love being home because it is home. When they’re all tucked in their beds at night, I feel so much peace being able to hear their little snores and sighs. My heart melts when I hear my three boys giggling in their room at bedtime, telling each other stories and singing songs together. I love bumping into them in the hall and taking that opportunity to kiss their foreheads while they hug my leg. When we have more space, I know these precious moments will not happen quite as often.
One day in the not so distant future, my youngest (my only daughter) will start school and I will no longer need to be a stay-at-home mom. I will have a career and a bigger budget to contribute to a larger home for my growing kids and I know they will need it. I look forward to not having to fight stinky boys for a miniature bathroom, but I know I will miss my little home and the gifts it has offered me: I have been home to help my working friends with their children, we have carved out space to host an exchange student, I have been able to attend every class party and field trip, and I haven’t had to miss a single moment with the people that mean the most to me in sacrifice of keeping a roof over our heads. This little home is literally a big dream come true.