What idealistic notions of family life did you bring to parenthood?
One of mine was the fantasy of a three bedroom home in the suburbs with a sprawling backyard. It’s a scene lifted straight from my childhood, complete with lemon tree, compost, huge clothesline and a fence around the edges.
But life as it turned out, had other plans for me.
Now a mother of two young boys, I find myself living a relatively chaotic everyday life in a two bedroom apartment on the outskirts of the CBD.
Convenient for the commute? You bet. Spacious, private and idyllic? Yeah, not so much!
The sprawling backyard of my dreams has been replaced with a communal garden, the size of my parent’s driveway. And the square meterage of the entire apartment is akin to two of the three bedrooms I grew up in.
Logistically life is very different
Right from the get-go, family apartment living has come with its own unique anxieties and challenges.
The garden is a shared affair. Ditto the clothesline. The stairs up to our first floor flat (thank god for small mercies), comes with its own set of keys. Great for security. Not ideal when your hands are full of shopping, a toddler and preschooler all starving and tired at the end of a long day.
While not far from the city, you wouldn’t call ours a noisy neighbourhood. But the parties and late night TV-watching habits of the neighbours above us don’t gel well with the 7pm bed, bath and story routine.
Probably a fair exchange for the early morning hell I am providing in return, I regularly think to myself as I’m stirring the pre-dawn porridge for our cute, but infamously demanding offspring.
It’s not all bad though. In fact there is plenty to delight in about life as an apartment-dwelling family of young kids.
The sense of community is a big plus
Our first Easter was made extra delightful (and sugar-enhanced) by an incredibly generous and anonymous Easter bunny, who gifted us an array of chocolate deliciousness and cute little bunny notes the whole week before.
Friendships have bloomed, too. Particularly for our eldest (nearing preschool age) who made a BFF from the same building within the week of our arrival. A happy coincidence for all concerned, we have play dates and easy companionship at our fingertips – not to mention somewhere else to go on those rainy days.
While I could still live without the trek to the back garden and back up the stairs to use the communal clothesline, I have returned home more than once to find my laundry folded on the doorstep and once even tumbled-dried.
How nice is that?
But my favourite thing of all has to be the cosy nights. When the lights are dimmed, the kids are (finally) asleep and it only takes one heater to warm the place through! The muffled voices of my neighbours and the hum of the washing machine for the apartment behind, gives a real sense of security, in a funny old way.
These early parenting years have been far less lonely than I imagine they would have been, even with a backyard and clothesline to myself.
Here are my tips for making the most of apartment living with kids:
1. Less is more
Try and do a big cull before you move in. Extra clothes/toys/books and other kid paraphernalia will just make you feel more claustrophobic.
2. Storage is king
If you don’t have built-in storage, invest in some you can take with you. Even simple stuff like storage boxes that can sit on top of your cupboards, clearly labelled, will help you feel more organised and streamlined.
3. Smaller = easier to clean
Limited space means limited areas to clean – you can be done and dusted and out in the park in half the time you’d spend cleaning the house. #winning
4. Be friendly
This doesn’t mean change your personality (if you’re introverted!) It just means be open to others. Smile and wave and make eye contact with your neighbours; it’s the little things that matter when you’re building connection.
5. Introduce your kids to everyone
Let’s face it, kids are the opposite of quiet! But if you show your neighbours their sweet side too, well, it’s going to help in the long run.
6. Change your mindset
If you’ve gone from house to apartment, don’t consider it a downgrade. The layout can be better, more modern and open plan than older houses and this can enhance your feeling of space.
7. Embrace the balcony (if you have one)
Kids love balconies. A couple of buckets of water and some toys, or a few pot plants mindfully placed can provide entertainment and some private ‘green space’.
8. Speaking of green space…
Having an apartment can mean you are in closer proximity to the park or even a beach or pool if you’re really lucky. Take advantage of it!
9. Bedtimes can be smoother
How? I hear you ask! Well, simply because your child can see you so much more easily. You can be sitting in the lounge room and they can be in the bedroom and still have a (tiny) peek at you before drifting off to sleep.
This post is sponsored by Woolworths Little One’s nappies