There’s a Vancouver divorced dad-blogger who blogs about life in downtown Vancouver with his 5 children in a 1,000 sq. ft. rental condo. In fact, he probably lives just few blocks from us.
Well, it’s admirable he has some of his growing children in bunk beds. And the kids are only with him for 2 weeks each time, every 2 weeks, in shared child custody arrangements with his ex-wife.
Our Big Family: Full-Time Living and Keeping Sane
Unlike this blogger-father who seems to effectively self-promote this lifestyle, via local media outlets, it was different for us in some ways. My mother, a full-time housewife was probably trying to maintain her sanity and energy with 5 of us underfoot in our 1 bedroom apartment in a southern Ontario city, while my father worked as restaurant cook. Our apartment would have been smaller than his Vancouver chic 1,000 sq. ft. apartment.
Unlike the blogger-dad, she didn’t speak English. She could only voice her frustration to my father who would listen but was somewhat helpless. Occasionally my mother chatted with other Chinese-speaking mothers in our Ontario small city, 100 km. west of Toronto.
Child Innocence Highlights Poverty
I recall, the restaurant owner’s wife was babysitting us when mother had to tend to my father who was in the hospital after a fall. She asked me where we slept. As the eldest, representing my frolicking younger siblings, I answered logically for an 8 yr. old: on the living room floor. It was obvious. My parents kept baby in bedroom with them while rest of us klunked out on foam pads unrolled for the night.
Needless to say, my mother was not pleased when I told her this. Shame of poverty was real for my parents. But how could I have denied the obvious truth?
Less Toys, Other Ways to Imagine, Live
The Vancouver dad-blogger promotes some advantages of raising children in small space — children learn to share, the family learns to acquire only things absolutely essential. He points out his children have very few toys (though I wondered what was at his ex-wife’s home). We also grew up with one large cardboard box full of toys. We had 2 dolls. I don’t recall playing much with our doll. It was blonde with hard curly hair and a vaguely Heidi-Austrian like dress.
Outdoors we made up people out of sticks and stones for their twig-outline pretend house on the pavement.
House with 1 Bathroom: 6 Kids and Coping
When I was 10 years old, we moved into my parents’ first house — 3 bedrooms for now, 6 children. A den and living room were converted permanently into additional 2 bedrooms. Our dining room was a family table in the kitchen where mother prepared food also before it was cleared to set table for 8 people at dinner. We had 1 bathroom. As a teen, I had phone conversations in the bathroom for extra privacy because we didn’t have any phone cord outlets installed in our bedrooms. We could only afford 1 landline. iPhone didn’t exist nor the Internet in the 1970’s.
My Adult Space Needs and Impact on Habits
Yes, a baby sibling learned to sleep with muffled rumble of older siblings playing outside the bedroom door. I used to marvel how much baby brother and later youngest baby sister, could doze off angelically through it all. But then, I too learned to sleep through the night when newborn cried for milk and attention.
To this day, I have a moderate tolerance to work with some noise and conversation floating around me in an open work office environment. During my first year away from home, living off-campus at university, I found my 2 bedroom apartment with my room-mate just too hollow and quiet. I missed the hubbub of a large, bustling family. It took 2 weeks before I revelled in the peace for quiet study.
Enough Space to Live for Many Years
For the past 30 years, I’ve always lived in approximately a 770 sq. ft. 1-bedroom condo. First solo and then later, shared with Jack. Though it’s abit more complicated for table set-up when I do art, it works.
There’s enough space for 2 computers, clothing, art supplies and books –with the latter slowly being whittled down as I donate a couple volumes to the local library to sell or place in nearby Free library cubby hole birdhouse in the neighbourhood. Digital personal photos are god-send.
It is more liberating to worry about less physical assets because there’s less space. People talk about physical exercise running up and down stairs in house. Well, for me, it’s living near a park and services within walking distance.
I appreciate the dad-blogger hopes his children will learn to move out and find a place to live once they earn money or similar as a adults.
How much personal living space do you need long term?
*Feature photo on left-hand side taken at East Village neighbourhood. Downtown Calgary, 2017.