Friday, February 5, 2010

It builds character!

I have three children, ages 10, 8 and 2, and they all sleep in the same bedroom.

That's right, I said my three kids share a room. Don’t think this is a big deal? Others do.

This is what I usually hear when mentioning it in casual conversation:

“But what about their privacy?”

“They should have a space all their own to express themselves!”

“I don’t think it’s healthy for boys and girls to share a room.”

“Can’t you afford a bigger place?”

These are reasonable things to say, I guess (except for the question about our finances – how rude!). I think, though, that our culture has become so wealthy that every child having their own bedroom is no longer seen as a luxury, but as a right. It’s simply the way things should be done. Most people I know feel this way, so I understand when people react with those questions and statements. Of course, even here in the U.S. we’ve only held this standard for 50 years or so, but that doesn’t matter much when we see so much of the past as only good enough when we were so poor we didn’t have any other options.

The truth for my family is that right now, we can’t afford a place with more bedrooms unless we are ready to give up some of the things that make our life enriched and comfortable. We live in the Chicago area – not as expensive as New York, Boston or San Francisco – but more expensive than most of the rest of the country. Each upgrade to another bedroom means an additional $3-400 more each month in rent. My husband splits his time between going to school, coaching, working part-time and being home with the kids. I work full-time, have a small hobby/business and am in school myself. We have a very busy life and we need to spend our money in ways that count the most. This means keeping food in the house, gas in the car, utilities on, clothes clean. We even have some money left over for sports & field trips for the 2 older kids, movie rentals, trips to visit family and treats like our recent purchase of a (used) Guitar Hero setup. We could scrape together $350 each month so that we could have another bedroom, but that would mean all these extras have to go and we’d be stressed over the necessities. We’ve been there and don’t want to go back if we can help it.

So – our kids share a room. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Actually, I think it’s a good thing!

No, my kids don’t have much privacy, but they are only 10, 8 and 2 – how much privacy do they need? Our daughter is the oldest, and yes, she is heading towards puberty. If her little brothers are in the bedroom, she changes clothes in the bathroom. Otherwise, it’s just not an issue right now. They know how to share and how to entertain one another. Of course they fight, but it can never last too long because they have to spend so much time together! I’m also not worried about them needing personal space to develop as an individual. Spending their lives together hasn’t kept them from becoming very unique people with different talents, personalities and interests.

Within the next two years my husband and I should both finish our degrees and our income will hopefully take a significant leap upward. We’ll have the money to rent a larger place or maybe even buy our first home. At that time, our kids will get their own rooms. I’m sure they will be chomping at the bit by then! However, I will see that as a special experience I’m providing them, not a right I’ve been delinquent in fulfilling.


Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, sis and I HAD to share a room, but it was because "mom says so". We did have an extra room but I was never allowed to move into it. It did cause a LOT of fights and resentments between sis and I. I can honestly say we hated each other. Until we both moved out of the house as adults were we able to become great friends and I love her to bits. I've always been jealous of those who can share a space with a sibling and be happy with it. I wish it had worked out for us, too.

Ashley said...

Yes - their frustration with one another is increasing, I've seen it even since I wrote this post. I think some frustration is good, they need to learn to work through it. But we are currently hoping to move this summer and are looking for places where my daughter (the oldest) can have her own room, even if it's something tiny.

What's the age difference between you and your sister? Did you fight a lot when you were younger, or was it more when you were teens? Or was it all the time?

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