Negotiations About Moving on Up

We bought our 2 bedroom 1 bath condo in S. Arlington at the height of the real estate boom in 2004. Eight hundred square feet wasn’t posh, but it was enough for me and my husband. If he was watching a movie, I could go into the Study (our second bedroom) to read or surf the Web.

When Sweetpea arrived in 2007, friends and family asked us if we’d be moving to something bigger. Nah, we said. How much space can a baby take up? One kindly old lady even said we could let Sweetpea sleep in a bureau drawer. We splurged on a crib.

But that crib meant no more study. And then where to put the Rainforest Jumperoo? And the stroller? And the high chair? Baby accoutrement seemed to be designed for 2,000 square foot homes, not pint-sized pads.

I started fantasizing about the type of home that would’ve made me shudder in my early twenties. You know, the kind with a yard, a driveway, no assigned parking, and maybe, just maybe, more than one bathroom. When I was feeling especially extravagant, my dream bathroom would feature two sinks. Crazy! I know!

“So what do you think about getting a bigger place?” I asked my husband.

He looked concerned. He wondered aloud about having enough for retirement, and Sweetpea’s college fund, and that three to six months of living expenses that Suze Orman told us that we needed. All reasonable concerns. Instead, he said, “I think we can make this place work. I’d like to try a live below our means.”

A reasonable response. A green response. People in Manhattan raise children in small apartments. People in Hong Kong live in 100 ft X 100 ft spaces. Maybe I was falling prey to the American ideal that bigger is better.

I reminded myself of these things when I lugged my groceries from the parking lot to the front of my condo, and then up a flight of stairs, while trying to make sure Sweetpea didn’t run into the road. I reminded myself of this when I tried to drown out the sound of my husband’s sci-fi t.v. show while typing in the bedroom with the laptop in my knees. I reminded myself of this when trolling for a parking place at 10 o’clock at night, because there wasn’t a single spot in my lot.

My husband tossed out inventive storage solutions: hang our bikes in the stairwell, and use a pulley system to lower them down (I imagined him coming home to find me squashed underneath my hybrid bike); spend extra money on closet organization (we did and what a difference!).

But there were some things we couldn’t get around: We could never have more than one friend over because of the lack of parking. My in-laws couldn’t stay with us because there was no where to sleep except the couch, and no one wants to sleep on a couch once they’re over the age of 25.

We endured. And then one day last month, my husband agreed to consider moving if we could get the numbers right. Since we download our finances on Mint.com, determining our monthly expenses was a snap. Once we did that, we figured out where to cut back (Coffee, Books, Eating Out, Target), so that we could handle a larger mortgage. We tapped an uncle for a loan, and through a realtor learned that we may be able to make a little money on the condo.

Suddenly, that shining 3BR, 2BA home shifted from “would-be-nice” to “possible,” all because my husband and I sat down and had a conversation about (gasp!) money.

More or Less Connected?

The other day, as I was walking with a friend at lunchtime, she told me about a close friend of hers in high school who still hadn’t made the leap to Facebook. At her urging, the friend joined the social networking giant, but much to her surprise, their usual phone conversations became more and more infrequent because they “saw” each other on Facebook.

When I read the New York Times article “Antisocial Networking?” that asks how does technology affect kids’ friendships, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my friend’s story and reflect on my own friendships since the dawn of email, texting, and Facebook.

The trajectory of social media, particularly Facebook, coincided with the birth of my daughter, so I can’t tell if I talk on the phone less because I Facebook or instant message (IM) friends more, or because my almost three-year-old daughter sees it as a personal affront if I do not spend every waking minute fixated on her. But I do talk on the phone a lot less. Gone are the marathon conversations with my girlfriends. They’ve been replaced with smiley faces in emails, uploaded images to online albums, and a status update. Not exactly fulfilling or deep or meaningful, but they get the job done.

Maybe it’s because I’m so much more guarded about my time. If I have two hours at night, as a working parent, I might decide to (gasp!) do absolutely nothing, paint my toenails, or catch an episode of Top Chef rather than engage in a conversation with another adult.

Does this mean I’ll lose my mojo? Sometimes I have flashbacks to entering the middle school cafeteria for the first time: Who will I sit with? What will I say? Am I even capable of sustaining a decent conversation?

My grand answer: I think so.

When I look at how I use social media now, it’s not a substitute for an actual conversation, but rather a starting point. I can look at a friend’s status about what a lousy day she’s having or about something hilarious that his son said, and when I grab coffee or lunch with that person, follow up: “Hey, I saw your post about X. What’s up with that?” I use IM to set up lunch dates with girlfriends or quickly ask when she might be home so I can call her.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I won’t worry about technology warping my daughter’s social skills when she’s old enough to stop pretending a banana is cell phone and ask for a real one.

This is an original DC Metro Moms post. EvonneY also blogs about navigating the fine balance between self, mother, and wife at Arlington Mama. PHOTO: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bengsoon/ / CC BY 2.0