My wife and I are currently debating whether or not we should move out of our large 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment (1050 square feet/98 m2) and into a house. We do not want to move because we live in such a great area and houses in our area are out of our price range. What are the major challenges that we should consider before we try to raise 2 children in our apartment?
What are the major challenges that we should consider before we try to raise 2 children in our apartment?
My wife and I had our 1st child while living in a 750sq. ft. 2 bedroom apartment and our 2nd child while living in a rather large 3 bedroom house. We immediately adapted to both. If you love your kids, you'll find a way to make it work in a 500sq. ft. studio--though you may need to get rid of some luxuries (big TV, big couch, etc...)
Having said that, here are the things I considered most important:
- Ease of Access: Getting your kids in and out of your home/vehicle can be the most stressful activity of the day. Living on the 6th floor can make this absolutely miserable. Private entry is a God-send.
- Sound: Will the neighbors keep your kids up? You will scream bloody murder if you can't get your kids to sleep/eat because of someone else's noise.
- Space: Crib, Pack'n'play, changing table, toys--and that's just their stuff.
- Environment: Kids need to run outside. You need to be able to stores quickly. Is that an option?
Is it worth it to upgrade to a house?
That depends on your tolerance level. No matter what, you will make it work out, it's just a matter of what you're willing to spend your money on. Your best bet is to find some friends who are in each situation (apartment and house) and see what suits you and if it's something you're willing to do. Gritting it out in an apartment now to get more cash may pay off later--but if your apartment sucks it might be worth the financial hit for some peace of mind.
Something to consider in either situation-house or apartment-is lead. Lead can be found in paint, pipes, and bathroom fixtures (like the tub, for instance). If you live in a newer apartment complex, or purchase a new home, this is not an issue.
If you currently reside in an apartment, and lead is present (there are lead test kits available in most hardware stores) there may not be much you can do about it. Landlords are not required to remove it, and since encapsulation can be expensive, most won't do it. Since it's not your property, you can't take measures into your own hands.
On the other hand, if you decide to purchase a home, and it ends up having lead paint, as a homeowner, you have the ability to remove or contain the lead hazard, but, for the same reason a landlord won't do it most homeowners won't either: because it is quite costly.
I realize that you aren't specifically asking about safety issues. The other answer really covers everything else quite thoroughly, but I thought i'd add this bit since it doesn't occur to most folks until they have children, which you didn't when you chose your apartment. I didn't have kids when I chose my 3 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath victorian double parlor apartment with an enclosed porch either, and ultimately it was the combination of the chipping lead paint around the beautiful original stained glass windows (which are made with lead came, by the way) and noisy neighbors (mentioned above) that drove me to purchase my own home. Believe me, it was tough, it was home to us for many years, but I'm glad I did it. Kids give you enough to worry about-your home should be a haven, not a hazard.
Sharing a Bathroom
In a two bedroom one bathroom apartment, you will have to share your bathtub and toilet with the kids. This may mean having to clean up bath toys diligently daily so you can shower. This may mean having to wipe down the toilet seat every single time you need to use it because a kids potty ring leaks on the seat. Child flushes a toy down the toilet? Now you have no working toilet until you get the toilet unclogged. These are all just minor inconveniences you might have to live with if you remain in a one bathroom apartment.
Kids need fresh air and playtime outside. Where will your kids play outside? With a house you usually get a private backyard that can (as your kids get older) be supervised from in the house. With an apartment, often you only get a tiny balcony. If you have a climber, you can't leave them on the balcony without careful supervision. If you have a 4 year old who doesn't follow directions and likes to lean over the edge of the railing, likewise. Not being able to go outside to play during his younger brother's nap was one of the hardest things for my 4 year old about apartment living. If kids play outside the front door or downstairs, you may not be able to see them to know they are playing safely, and depending on where you live, you may worry about your neighbors calling CPS to report unsupervised kids ;-). So there's usually less autonomy about being able to play outside. On the plus side, sometimes apartment complexes have kid-friendly amenities like pools, basketball courts, or play structures.
Going in and Going Out
The bane of my existence. Getting the heavy groceries, a one year old who knows how to climb up stairs but not down, and the four year old all in the upstairs apartment without an assistant. Where to store your strollers and similar baby gear is another consideration. We had to pay extra to rent a garage to store our bikes and bike trailer so we wouldn't have to clutter our tiny balcony with them. We had to store our strollers in the trunk of the car at all times. Does your car have space for that? And should you have twins, bigger strollers! You may have to select different baby gear than you would otherwise to make apartment living more bearable. Like we opted for a 7lb baby bucket carseat instead of the 12lb model that would have lasted until 1 year instead of 8 months. Or selecting strollers based on weight instead of other convenience criterion like reclines and snack tray.
Small apartment? Well, babies come with a lot of stuff. No, they don't have to, but you will find yourself constantly compromising between what you'd love to have and what you have room for. Child #1? Lets just skip the baby bathtub and put the baby in our lap for baths in the big bathtub. Child #2? There is no way I want to get undressed every time one of the kids barfs on himself to get in the tub. The other child will get in too much trouble. This sling seat for the big tub looks way more compact than a baby bathtub. So much bending and leaning though. Lets just get the baby bathtub that goes on the kitchen sink and sacrifice all of the counter space to store it...
But all things said, if the apartment enables you to be in a better location, or live within your means easier, maybe it's a better choice.