The world, it seems, was created for throw pillows.
And light gray upholstered furniture. And white rugs. And delicate vases on coffee tables.
The world consists of trendy home stores and "master bedroom reveal" blog posts. Even my own daydreams are filled with the stuff of grown-up living and kid-free zones (hey, I'm guilty of this myself). Just today I was spot-cleaning a throw pillow cover which up til now had escaped the perils of the laundry room, but this morning was mouthed by a child who had just consumed a bowl of half-frozen, extra juicy blueberries. No good pillow goes unmarked.
Saturday night of Father's Day weekend, Sean and I shopped around for some new outdoor folding chairs. We ultimately decided on a sturdy pair of these, but we poked through the "outdoor seating" departments of a few big box stores to get an idea of what else was out there.
Ha. You know what's out there? Outdoor throw pillows. Outdoor light gray upholstered furniture. Outdoor rugs, and delicate things to put on your outdoor coffee table.
All in all, it's stuff of such quality and expense that I wouldn't even want to put it in my living room, because it's TOO NICE, and my kids would stain in in two hours flat.
And so hubby and I sighed and laughed, and talked about how when we don't have little kids with blueberry-stained mouths running around, maybe then we'll buy outdoor furniture like this.
And therein, I believe, lies the problem. I've bought the two-part lie that the culture is selling:
1. the goal of life is to have "nice things"
2. "nice things" get ruined by children.
Now this is not a post that bashes capitalism and this is not a post that bashes interior decorating and this is not a post bashing NFP. This is a post that at its root is about, I think, contentment--especially the contentment that comes with building a family, not just a model home.
Even beyond just the tiny fingerprints and carpet stains, I see the other signs of age in my home that have nothing to do with its smallest residents.
I see "dated" pink and purple tile in the master bathroom. I see kitchen cabinets with peeling paint. I see old light fixtures with shiny brass trim and frosted white glass.
I see all of this and know I need to "update" all of it. But these updates are all the non-essential type. We actually had a "house updates" budget line item going, but putting in a new HVAC system last month quickly brought that line item down to $0. And while new air conditioning is a great luxury in the summer heat, it's not quite as instagramable as a new bathroom vanity with non-fogged mirrors.
Last month I read this article on Curbed by Kate Wagner of McMansion Hell fame. I've seen my house with new eyes ever since:
Remodeling and other house-fussery has become a national pastime. In 2015 alone, Americans spent $326.1 billion on renovating. Previously contained to affluent households and the glossy pages of architecture magazines, remodeling has been transformed by 24/7 media like HGTV and websites like Houzz, Pinterest, and Dezeen. While older media, like early issues of House Beautiful, discusses the process as mastering the careful art of interior design, newer media is more neurotic and self-loathing, describing houses in need of renovation with words like “dated”, “immature,” or “wrong.” Whether presented as a self-improvement project (update your house lest you be judged for owning a dated one) or a form of self-care (renovate because it will make you feel better), the home remodel is presented as both remedy and requirement.The answer? That's probably going to be different for every person. But it's interesting to think that in this age of "body shaming" and shame in general being such a bad word, I often look at parts of my house with guilt and shame, thinking that if and when I don't have little kids in my house, I'll probably be able to afford those updates.
Instead of falling prey to this thinking, take a moment to consider this simple idea: There is nothing wrong with your house.
Most of the time, this statement is true (especially if one lives in a house constructed relatively recently). The roof does not leak; the house is warm or cool when it needs to be; there are no structural or electrical issues; nothing is broken or needs to be replaced from routine wear and tear. Why, then, do so many of us feel dissatisfied with our perfectly fine houses?
BUT. What if that wasn't my mindset? What if that wasn't the mindset of even, say, every Catholic family? What if we planned and hoped for a lifetime of children in our houses--and made that a good thing, not a merely tolerated thing?
What if a block of families looked at their homes and said hey, updates and cosmetic renovations are all well and good and indeed can make us really happy. But even if we don't have the money to rip out our perfectly fine 1970s tile and replace it with white subway tile? Well, that's just fine too. We're lucky to have a home.
What if we saw the showrooms full of antique armchairs and Italian leather sofas, and laughed and said, "Yes, how gorgeous! Now, please direct me to the washable, slipcovered hide-a-beds."
What if we wished for a lifetime of children in our homes--little children, grown children, and grandchildren--and said yes, these are the "nice things" in life?
I write about this because it's hard for me to live with the contentment mentality. I want the new things! The clean things! The nice things! I want ALL the things! It's not even that I want to really limit my family size. With NFP, that the door is always open to God giving our family another baby, of course. And a baby is, arguably, a more tidy housemate than a child from ages 2-12.
These are merely the ramblings of a 30-something mother of four, pondering her life which still includes roughly 10 more years of fertility and about that many years of a mortgage. And taking this life (and this beautiful, lived-in, stained and sweet home of mine) and comparing it to the seeming perfection of child-free living always makes me grumpy. It gives me a bitter cup of never-to-be-fulfilled materialistic longing.
But contentment--contentment with this life, with this home, with these crayon-colored walls and blueberry-stained pillows... Contentment takes my cup of joy, fills it to the brim with a coconut margarita, and hands it back to me with a wedge of pineapple and a paper umbrella.
It's not perfect. But it's better than yearning for more throw pillows.