April 23, 2016
This is the third post in my Montreal apartment tour series.
I'm currently taking you on an tour of our Montreal apartment. But as I sat down to write the next installment, some other thoughts surfaced so I'm taking time to share those today before we go back to the tour. With me, the practical must always be mixed liberally with the philosophical. Or sometimes the other way around.
Our apartment is approximately 1,100 square feet. I haven't measured, that was the number given in the "apartment for rent" advertisement.
I have visited some beautiful Montreal apartments in areas of the city with older, grander housing. When we came to the city last spring to secure an apartment we Couchsurfed at one such place in the Plateau-Mile End neighborhood.
It was so beautiful and funky I felt like I was on a movie set. Our apartment definitely lacks the character of those classics. On the other hand, it's what we could afford and the location and amenities are great.
When I'm tempted to feel my lot in life is "not enough", it honestly does not take me long to leave this frame of mind by broadening my perspective just a wee bit.
I live in a city of apartments. And families of all sizes, big and small, live in these apartments. I have friends who lived in a camping trailer for four years with four little kids as they saved to build their off-grid, mortgage-free homestead. I have a friend who lives in Japan in a much smaller apartment than mine with her three young children. These are people I know. They are a drop in the population bucket.
Our family is blessed with tons of space.
It's all relative.
I am drawn to blogs that tell beautiful stories of family life. I don't follow a ton of blogs these days, but almost all of the family lifestyle blogs I follow, intermittently or devotedly, feature acreage/rural/wide-open-spaces/single-family dwelling living.
It's not that I'm longing for that kind of lifestyle myself. I've experienced "living surrounded by nature" and it was amazing.
Last night I was driving the kids home after spending a full day with other homeschooled teens and families at our homeschool co-op. We were on the always busy Trans-Canada highway through Montreal, surrounded by other vehicles including plenty of tractor-trailers. Thankfully, because we waited until 7:30 to make our commute home, traffic was flowing smoothly. You learn the tricks.
Traffic on the Gaspe Peninsula
The sun was setting and we were admiring the clouds. It was a pretty sunset, for the city. But it paled in comparison to the sunsets on the Baie des Chaleurs. And my heart longed to be in a natural place for that moment; back on the Gaspe Peninsula, on the Appalachian Trail, on the open prairie of my growing years.
I know, from intimate experience, there are many places in which to watch sunsets without traffic, buildings, or human-made structures to block your view. I've lived those experiences, and now I get to live the unique experiences of the city.
I like to follow blogs that tell stories of family life, but I haven't found many about families in cities or in apartments. I'm not sure why this is.
I crave beauty and to pass muster the lifestyle blogs I read need to feature beauty prominently. Is apartment/city living less beautiful? That doesn't ring true for me, I am continually energized by the beauty of Montreal.
Where are all the beautiful families-living-in-the-city lifestyle blogs? And not just living there, but wanting to live there. There are plenty living-in-the-suburbs-hoping-to-build-a-homestead type blogs.
I enjoy reading the blogs of families making beautiful lives, and for reasons I don't yet understand, these tend to be homestead-focused. On one such blog I read I came across a comment from another reader which basically said, "the homestead life is the best gift you could give your children".
I've said a lot of things in blog comments that I wouldn't want people to pull out of context and quote me on, so I'm not trying to do that here. And we all have biases about what is best for families and children. I've written things here that people have called me on, ideas that were insensitive.
But I feel there is a ring of truth to the sentiment of that comment, the bias towards "rural" life. Maybe it's just a bias in my online world.
I didn't take the comment personally. (It wasn't written to me, for one thing!) Nor did I feel offended that I wasn't giving my kids a homestead life. I noted it with curiosity and a bit of incredulity. If a statement like that is true, most parents on the planet are failing to give their kids the best gifts. Logically and statistically speaking, that just can't be true.
All the people I know, online and in person, want healthy, vibrant family lives. They want the best for their kids.
But I also see families, or at least mothers, living in the shadow of other people's choices and biases, believing those are the choices they too must make for their families. I've done this myself. It's easy to blame the media but I think social media is a larger influence.
Assuming you are raising your kids with a measure of self-awareness, lots of love, and enough food it's not a certain lifestyle that defines what is best for your kids.
What's best for Your kids is the best You can offer.
By virtue of where we are born, how we are raised, and who we are as individuals and couples, the best you offer is different and unique from every other family in your neighborhood, your community, the internet, the planet.
I hear from you in comments and emails, you say things like "we're considering living like x but it feels so different from y, we're not sure..." If x feels like your best, if what you get outweighs what you give why not go for it?
Not all "getting" is selfishly motivated either. A lot of people achieve satisfaction and purpose by living their calling in ministry-related work. And what they "get" from raising kids in a big city, for example, is a fulfilling sense of mission.
There is no best overall and there is no right way to do it. My systematic mind thinks in these terms. These are the words I use. Your words might be different, but the sentiment is the same.
You can have a beautiful, vibrant family life living in the woods, in an apartment, living on the road in an RV, building a homestead, living in a small house, living in a big house, living "overseas" (one person's overseas is another person's homeland), living in the suburbs, etc.
It's not about the "container" - the structure you live in or how much space your children have to free-range. It's about how the choices you make line-up with your goals and values as a family. And if your goals and values are different from some of your friends, your family of origin, your favorite blogger - appreciate the differences, don't use someone else's lifestyle as a standard.
Differences are beautiful, not scary.
I know we talk about this in homeschooling, and in mothering. And so of course this applies to lifestyle and housing also.
Find your best, your beautiful.
If you enjoyed this post you will probably appreciate the Finding Home Podcast series. Learn more here.
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