Pour mes lecteurs francophones: Voici une traduction de ma publication “Famille nombreuse de 7 enfants dans maison trop petite”. Vous pouvez trouver la publication originale ici.
The most entertaining part — and it can become an obsession — of owning a blog is to read the site stats, especially the search engine terms summary. For those who are unfamiliar with the technical underbelly of blogging, every time someone lands on my blog following a Google search (or any of the other search engines) I get a little note in my stats telling me what those searches were. It allows me to make better use of the tags (and change some language, especially in French regarding twins nursing, that tends to attract, ah, er, readers that are not exactely looking for family fare *cough*). All this to say that someone landed on my blog while looking for “Large family with 7 children in house too small”. I was inspired.
Now, by popular demand, I am translating this post. Ok, one person requested. But we’re all about customer service here!
First, in the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I do not live in a house too small with my large family. In fact, my house is too large and I dream of designing and building the smallest house a family of 10 can comfortably occupy. When I say that I dream of living in the smallest possible house, what I mean is that I dream of a house I can keep clean. Unlike this one:
My husband, who has a design hobby, drew a 1,300 sq. ft house for our family inspired by the ideas found in Sarah Susanka’s The Not So Big House: A Blueprint fot the Way We Really Live. I have no doubt that it is possible to live in a house too small for a family with 7 children. However, what is usually lacking in North American houses is not so much space as well-designed space.
It reminded me of a conversation with a friend. When she and her husband bought their suburban house, they thought “This house is a good size for 3 or 4 children!” She added: “In another country, a mom like me would look at this house and say ‘This house is a good size for 3 or 4 families!'” And the families would probably be bigger!
You can observe the evolution of what is considered an appropriate house-size for a family by moving from the downtown area of most Canadian cities toward the suburbs. I’m always reminded, whenever I see this type of bungalow (below) that they were once considered a good size for 3 or 4 children. They usually have 3 bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen with an eating area and a living-room. The basements were meant as storage, as witnessed by the size of the windows in the foundation: you could not build an insurable bedroom with windows that size. Some houses had single attached garages.
In today’s suburb, a single-family home has two storeys, a finished (or finishable) basement, a kitchen with eating area, a dining room, a family room, a living room, 4 bedrooms and a double garage. And yet, several features show that these houses were built for families of 4 and can feel cramped for a large family. Even in our too-large house, we redesigned some areas to make them more practical for our growing family. Here are a few thoughts in no particular order:
1. Do not limit yourself to what should be in a single family house. Yes, most houses have a family room and a living room but most people do not have 5, 6, 7, 8 children. We used to live in a house with an eat-in kitchen, a dining room, a family room and a living room. In other words, two eating spaces and two resting spaces. We had a wall built between the living room and the dining room and turned them into a music room and a home office. Then we had a resting space, an eating space, a study space and a piano space.
2. Open concept areas were not invented by parents of a large family. We used to live in a house with a cathedral ceiling in the kitchen open to the second storey and a front hallway open to the second storey. Visitors would be all: “This is great! This way you always know what the kids are doing!” Maybe, but when my husband was grinding coffee at 6:30 am in the kitchen, he could have been grinding it right in the baby’s room for the difference it made in the level of noise. Not to mention that you could not have a kid practicing piano in the living room while another was doing homework or watching tv in another room. Avoid open concept or try to close it off.
3. Think function. When we moved in our actual house, two of the children’s room had huge walk-in closets. We turned the walk-in in the boys’ bedroom in a small 3-piece bathroom (toilet, sink, shower) and a small laundry room, separated by sliding doors. Believe me, I appreciate my upstairs laundry room more than my boys decry the absence of a closet. Where do they put their clothes? Right now, we re-purposed bookshelves but it does look a bit disheveled. We will eventually get a couple of Ikea wardrobes.
4.Beware of yourself. Too often, our houses become too small because of too much stuff, not to much people. I know families who perform miracles with very large families in very tight quarters (we’re talking 8 kids in a 3-bedroom row-house with no backyard) and still manage to make their space look bright and cheerful. These people are, without exception, compulsive about what they bring into their house and what they keep there. They do not keep anything that has lost its function or outlived its usefulness and they certainly don’t get emotionally attached to stuff. For a good dose of motivation on the cost of clutter — personal and financial — I recommend Is There a Life After Housework? from Don Aslett. In a nutshell, if you have any storage area dedicated to things you no longer know what to do with, see part of every mortgage payment as rent for your stuff.
I realized while writing this post that we have done a lot of small changes to our living areas to make them more family friendly. My husband suggested that I expand on that in future posts, which I will do. Eventually.