I cant stop comparing what we have to everyone around me

(50 Posts)
CrossWords Sat 20-Jul-13 23:01:14

We live in a wealthy area but in a small flat. It makes me miserable that we dont have the space for my kids to invite other kids back for playdates or sleepovers. All their friends are in big 3 or 4 bedroom houses. I feel like they are beginning to realise they are not in the same boat which makes me really sad. Is it better to move to a different area than be less well off in a nice part of london?

hernow Sat 20-Jul-13 23:10:22

we live in a wealthy area in what some would consider an expensive house but to others they would see our house as the cheap end of the market and their own as far grander. I see others who live in similar to ours and others as slightly smaller but better set out making it nicer place to cope with greater numbers than our own. I also feel miserable that we dont have the space for my kids to invite others back for playdates etc and also feel miserable at times that others have huge expensive homes that can accommodate friends much easier. In the end you have to put on a big warm welcome, let the children fit in where they can as long as they are having a happy time they are happier in some where where the welcome would be less genuine and we all notice if someone doesn't like us to feel at home don't we. trying to make you feel better by saying I understand but kids love just being together and any that make snarky comments about space or having more are just not nice kids and get left out as they get older.

AbbyGally Sat 20-Jul-13 23:11:15

Do fun different shit! Buy a treasure hunt (bout 15 quid) but do not feel you are missing anyone out on anything. OR make a camping night a big thing(?). Do not feel apologetic x

Leviticus Sat 20-Jul-13 23:17:42

You have a lovely family and live in a lovely part of London.

Try to see what you have rather than what you don't.

CrossWords Sat 20-Jul-13 23:23:45

You are all really helpful and i feel bad now for moaning. Its just i feel like i've failed when one of the kids asks why we dont have an upstairs or a garden sad

valiumredhead Sat 20-Jul-13 23:26:19

We lived in a flat for years with no garden, always had ds's mates round to play.

Dunham Sat 20-Jul-13 23:31:03

CrossWords no ! please don't move because of that. I used to go to school where everybody else had mansions/estates/swimming pools. We had a 3 bed on an estate (not in london). But my Mum said my friends said they were quite happy for friends to come round and play. And my friends were not concerned with the size of our house. Likewise, it would not bother me if one of DD's friends lived in a flat. All we care about is that she has friends. Kids can play anywhere. They don't need a garden or upstairs.

marriedinwhiteagain Sat 20-Jul-13 23:41:11

You are what you are and you have what you have OP. Mine have had friends who have lived in a small flat and they have always come home and said tHey had a lovely time and wish our house was cosy like a flat.

If you give out hteen eyed vibes your DC will pick it up so don't go there.

CrossWords Sat 20-Jul-13 23:49:39

oh no im not jealous for myself - i dont want my kids to be "different" is all

timidviper Sat 20-Jul-13 23:53:18

Someone told me years ago "Happiness is not getting all you want but is appreciating all you've got". Life is happier if you can try to remember that.

Leeds2 Sat 20-Jul-13 23:53:27

I really don't see why you can't have a friend round for a play date. Kids really aren't judgmental.

firesideskirt Sat 20-Jul-13 23:55:36

my kids have had many a great playdate in friends' smaller flats! I think it's sad if your negative feelings about your home is stopping you letting the kids have friends round. You don't need a large home for it to be welcoming. Or a garden - most of the time the weather is crap anyway!

Mammyisthegirl Sun 21-Jul-13 01:21:24

Timidviper: Hear, hear.
We live in very modest semi in nice area, some of my colleagues like to talk about "your little house". Except that we live within our means and I think it's a happier state of mind than (a) swamped by debt or (b) rubbish area. Children don't care where they play. Try and be glad for all that you have - sorry that's such a boring Pollyanna-ish thing to say.

Chatteringarses Sun 21-Jul-13 09:32:33

Sorry for huge post here. DP and I are in the same boat (bit cramped in here innit) grin and this feeling has bothered me for some time. We have other non-negotiable reasons for needing to stay living in this area, which happens to be in a naice part of town. In any case right now we can't afford the costs of moving out from our tiny 2-bed flat which we really stretched ourselves to buy pre-DCs. God knows what we will do when interest rates go up.

The costs of buying a bigger flat locally are way beyond our wildest even if we both worked full time and didn't have to now factor in for childcare. We have one baby DC and I am SAHM partly because the costs of local nurseries are so incredibly crazy because of the minted local clientele.

I suspect it's not that helpful for me to encourage you to be grateful for what you have. I think what you're saying is you are grateful, it's just that you worry about the possible effects on your DCs. That is legitimate to have as a worry I think even if you do get to enjoy the up-sides of living in a naice area, of which there are many. (DP and I each had previously always lived much more cheaply in dicey parts of town before this and have been victims of crimes there.. So the difference in terms of a liberating feeling of greater personal safety etc in just walking the streets is brilliant. Esp. Now we have a baby to take out.)

but I have all the worries that you do about how much where we live is making a lot of decisions for us. I know loads of people have to make this same choice for financial reasons and i really feel for them, but I am becoming increasingly sad that we will have to stop at one baby. If we had another and they were of opposite sex we would have to move to get them an extra bedroom and we can't move. Also the second bedroom here is minute so even if we chanced it and got same sex baby again they two would be in bunk beds with virtually no storage space each until they left home! As it is, once our DC is older, we won't be able to sleep with them in our bed for the night if say, we want to have the grandparents to stay overnight on the camp bed in DC's tiny room. (I really feel for families affected by he bedroom tax because not having a spare room makes all kinds of family and friends relationships and the possibility of occasional informal childcare impossible unless you have a massive sofa and give them your bed...)

I fear my DC's future local peers being judgey about our shoebox flat as in my limited experience (within my group of NCT mums) they live in either much bigger and swisher flats or bigger houses so that will be their norm.

I am realising in writing this that I am being U but I am so bothered by the other much more obviously wealthy (and definitely more sophisticated/materialistic) local NCT mums reactions to our place that I haven't invited anyone of them back to ours. This has probably already been noted as I am always very much on the edge of the group as they must be getting a 'don't get too close' vibe coming from me. My pre-baby RL friends who now have kids all live in cheaper ungentrified areas, mostly in houses which they find affordable although they are getting to worry about the quality of local schools, so its not easy for them either.

We almost entirely socialise at their houses (we bring our DC and the dinner to theirs and cook for the group at theirs on the excuse that then they don't have to get a babysitter). We have to do this as many of our friends have more than one DC now and at our flat there is hardly any space with two sets of parents, let alone multiple small DCs in the mix. One of their nursery age kids came over and mentioned how small our place was compared to her house and I didn't know what to say- I ended up apologising to a three year old!

I'm waiting for a flaming as I can obviously see how much this is 'a naice problem to have' and how privileged we are. but I do find it makes me feel anxious and isolated and is affecting my social life. Writing this I can see I am letting it dictate my DCs social life already which must be tackled before DC reaches an age where wants to play with others. The issue is not so much affecting DP as he meets his bloke friends out at the pub usually, or if myself and DC are socialising with him as a family, we will go to our friends' houses as I say.

OP- if you have managed to stick with this thus far, thank you- how many DCs do you have and how many bedrooms? What do you plan to do as they get older?

ubik Sun 21-Jul-13 09:41:02

I live ins flat in a nice area. I have three DC. Play dates are very important to children so I would think creatively about how to do them - trip to park then dinner at yours? We recently moved but when I had 3DC in two-bed flat we still had sleepovers - DP and I would let them all sleep in the front room.

I have no outdoor space and no upstairs. Many, many children across the world live like this especially in cities. You have to work round it - we have dinner in the park, we try to get outdoors as much as possible.

noisytoys Sun 21-Jul-13 09:42:59

YANBU. I live in a small 1.5 bed flat with DH and 2DDs. People always say how its enough room for us and how I should be grateful for what we have. These same people have smaller families and bigger houses and say themselves that they couldn't live where I live with the size etc, but its ok for us.

Chatteringarses Sun 21-Jul-13 09:48:46

Ubik thanks that makes me feel a bit better. Great idea to have a living room sleepover for play dates when ours is older.

ubik Sun 21-Jul-13 09:51:17

If you don't like it, buy somewhere cheaper - I could afford a three bed semi with a garden in another area but we want to stay in this part if the city.

Yes other people we know have lovely houses/flats with gardens etc ... but I don't feel envious but it's pointless, the choice is either move it make the best of it.

Pigsmummy Sun 21-Jul-13 10:09:33

I live in a very small house in a very nice area, I get frustatated by lack of space, every bit of space is utilised, under the bed is used for storage, top of wardrobes etc. It looks very very cluttered, not the lovely home that we moved into (a lovely couple were here before). I am going to have to get rid of loads of stuff and have started eBaying. I felt embarrassed to bring people here to begin but now I don't care. I have a lake within a 10 minute walk, parks, lovely little shops and a choice of schools. We don't need extra bedrooms, swimming pool etc to be happy, neither do you.

Chatteringarses Sun 21-Jul-13 11:34:33

Pigsmummy yes same here- trying to drastically reduce clutter wherever we can as the flat is groaning at the seams with just the basics and a few toys about and looks awful. Another reason why it's embarrassing having people over. It's annoying having no storage space- for example with food- I need to economise, buy essentials in bulk etc while we are on one salary but we have a tiny fridge freezer and no space to store sacks of rice etc, so it's hard. But there are perks- there is green space nearby so sometimes blackberries in autumn! smile

We also live in a lovely area but in a small 2 bedroom house. DS is only a baby but I already worry about the same things you do OP because most houses around here are 4/5 bedroom detached. Moving is out of the question for a long time so we have to make the most of it and declutter as much as we can.

justmyview Sun 21-Jul-13 11:58:59

It's all relative. In life, there will always be some people better off than you financially, others worse off. Learning to live within your means and appreciate what you have are all valuable life skills for your children to learn by example from you

ubik Sun 21-Jul-13 12:01:09

What I find most tricky is stuff the most people would put in a porch/ garage. We have a cupboard filled with tools, camping gear, suitcases etc..but that cupboard also houses the tumble dryer/ironingboard/ vacuum cleaner.

We are looking at cupboards from Ikea, slim and fitted against the wall for coats and shoes - bloody shoes always all over the hallway.

But you have to accept a certain amount if chaos with children.

mirry2 Sun 21-Jul-13 12:12:57

Make the negatives into positives. a friend of my dd asked why we only had a small car with 2 doors so I told her it was because it was easier to park and I thought 2 doors safer than 4. Similarly you could say you live in a flat without a garden because you don't have time to work in the garden/you prefer going to the park/you'd never go out in it because the weather's so awful most of the time. All these could be true. What you mustn't do is say that you can't afford to live in a house, because then your children may well get labelled as 'different' by their friends. Like it or not, these things can be shameful to children.

Beautifulbabyboy Sun 21-Jul-13 12:32:41

OP - please don't worry. I am the person with the 4 bed house in the naice area, and I don't care where my friends live and what size their home is. When I come round, all I want is decent chat (and when not pregnant - a bottle of wine!!), all my DS wants is different toys he hasn't played with before. One of the best sleepovers I had as a child was when 4 of us squished into a tiny camper can in a garden. No space at all!!!

Beautifulbabyboy Sun 21-Jul-13 12:33:29

Sorry should read camper van!

HollaAtMeBaby Sun 21-Jul-13 12:38:53

Unless you're actually living in your car, I can't believe that your place is too small for your DCs to have friends over - especially at this time of year when you can take everyone out to the park and just come home to eat.

Reality Sun 21-Jul-13 12:38:53

My best mate lives in a great big, gorgeous, house. When we met I was a single parent living in a small flat with my 2dc.

The first time her DS (then aged about 5) came to tea, he went home and complained to his mum that it wasn't fair we got to live in a cool flat and they only had a boring old house....

TimeofChange Sun 21-Jul-13 12:41:21

OP: 20 years on two of my DDs friends have told me they loved coming to our modest house to play, because we were welcoming and didn't fuss.

Those girls lived in big, posh houses but their parents were just so bloody particular about cleaning and mess being made, not being allowed dens etc.

poopyisapig Sun 21-Jul-13 14:36:52

Don't worry about what you have or don't have, it's really not important.

3 years agoI owned a huge country pile which was the envy of everyone we knew. People used to always say how lovely it was, and kids always wanted to come and play as it was big and rambling.

Now I am renting a shoebox in a city (well, in London zone 3) in a very affluent area where all ds friends live in large houses. Ds gets picked on because of it.

Luckily, ds doesn't care. When we had it all, I was miserable and in a shite marriage. Now, we are happy. He is 11 and says himself that maybe the families in big houses aren't happy because we weren't.

It's been a very good lesson for him. Not so much for me, as I grew up poor and I know nothing lasts forever, so I wasn't a bitch. Unlike some of the mums I know now who (openly) look down on me.

3 years ago they would have been licking my arse to get an invite to coffee to be able to take a look inside my house. I am still the same person. It's taught me a lot about people.

Chatteringarses Sun 21-Jul-13 14:43:34

Don't know about you, OP, but I find play dates and having visitors in our flat tricky because unless you already know them well it can feel too intimate and exposing with them being in here. Half of our life is always spilling out of cupboards or is piled up in corners as we literally have nowhere to put it.

And as soon as there is the smallest amount of child mess in the flat it looks an absolute disaster- small spaces that can be kept spick and span would be a different matter I think. Of course it's fine for the kids to make a mess when they play, I just cringe at what their parents will think about us when they survey the wreckage at home time.

We have a tiny galley kitchen and living room in one, not-large room, so visiting adults and children have to share the space. This requires both groups to modify their behaviour and I worry that neither will get what they want out of the visit. (Or at least it will be this way until all of our DC are old enough to play unsupervised in DC bedroom. )

We also don't have a kitchen table or breakfast bar or a dining table- just a sofa to sit on with a coffee table to eat from. The high chair makes my DC tower above us when we are all eating which is kind of ridiculous though obvs the baby doesn't care yet. My NCT friends are all talking about weaning and trying to get their kids' table manners going and that stuff whereas obviously our kid has no opportunity to sit up at a proper table and learn by observing everyone eating together at home and so forth, so I fear the raising of mumfriends' eyebrows.

Not having a table/desk in the flat is a pain. At the moment when I do freelancing I do it with the laptop on my knees or in our bed while baby sleeps which is not ideal. I need to find some more substantial work soon and I'd like to be able to get a nanny share as it would be cheaper than the exorbitant nursery fees locally. But I can't imagine how any other family would want to let their kid be cared for half the time in our poky flat even if we could find a willing nanny to take us on when they could be up the road in a flash house and car to drive etc etc.

Kids aren't judgmental about things like this, don't let it worry you. Lounge sleepovers are what they will ask for when they get older by older, i mean over 6! and you will be banished to your bedroom, however large your house is! Once they get much older than that, sleepovers are a waste of time anyway. You can always take a group camping or something, most basic pitches are about a £10 a night.
As for playdates, they aren't going to worry about it, either let them loose in the living room, or take a few friends to the park and come back for a quick burger or something.

poopyisapig Sun 21-Jul-13 14:49:16

chatter your place sounds identical to mine. We don't have a table either, just a sofa and coffee table. We've had a few of ds friends comment on this rude little gits and one of the parents actually said to me about ds 'oh, poor thing, you are really missing out on family life not eating round a table'. Cow.

Notcontent Sun 21-Jul-13 14:56:20

I live in a nice part of North London which is very mixed - lots of social housing, as well as some big fabulous houses and anything in between. I have recently moved into a very small house, which feels like a big step up for me, but is small and shabby compared to some of the houses where dd's friends live.

What I think is hardest is, as some of you have said, when your children start to notice the difference and make comments about it. I have thought a lot about it and I think it's just an important lesson in life for children. I have decided to downplay the "well, we just don't have as much money" message and simply try to explain that everyone is different.

Chatteringarses Sun 21-Jul-13 15:18:24

Sorry Poopy that you have had people being twats about where you now live, how pathetic. And for kids to actually pick on your DS for that reason.. ! They must have vile snobs as their parents and I am really glad he manages not to take it to heart. Huge and vastly expensive chichi local florists' bunch of flowers to you, for getting you and your child out of a bad situation into a happy one. You sound like a fantastic mum.

The kind of snobbery you describe is what I am worrying about for the future with the level of privilege in this area, so I am going to try to become philosophical about comments that may be made. I will also will try to instil in my DC proper values without making them feel any anxiety about where they live which is perfectly fine for three people and has many positives to it.

DP and I were each brought up in tiny and rundown housing by a struggling (financially, emotionally) unhappy single parent with very very rare visits home for tea from other kids. By a certain age I didn't want most other kids to see my home or parent because they made it clear that it all seemed so wierd to them. So anyway we certainly don't assume that people should be judged by what they have or where they live which is a good life lesson to have. I am guessing that's why I am oversensitive to others' passing judgement on this part of mine and DC's life now.

Chatteringarses Sun 21-Jul-13 15:32:51

Poopy ooh I am glad to know that you are also in the coffee table club. I thought I was the only one! Thoughtless smug people who think that a dining table is required in order to have a 'family life' clearly have a very strange perception of what family life is. Ignore, Ignore.

(Although I am now also sending you a hypothetical large antique polished side table to put your obscenely large hypothetical MN flowers on because they would otherwise completely obscure your view of your dinner and DS. grin )

poopyisapig Sun 21-Jul-13 15:53:39

Chattering grin

I like my tiny flat though. I don't spend my life cleaning now!

marriedinwhiteagain Sun 21-Jul-13 16:02:10

When the DC are teenagers there will be a time when you won't want family meals at the table because of the provocative arguments.

We have a huge house in zone 2 but it's a rather shabby home. DS has loads of chums in zone 3 in pristine palaces three times the size and with pools indoor and out. His chums don't seems to spend most of their time here because it's perfect; it's because I let them chill, don't fuss about footprints in the hall and order them Dominos and let them get on with it. Even if I do make them put the empty boxes out the next morning and take the hoover to the crumbs.

DS has said once or twice it's like living in the house that time forgot and then has said but I've never been scared to come home and you've never come down and asked when people are going home even if you come and ask if their mums know where they are.

marriedinwhiteagain Sun 21-Jul-13 16:03:31

It's huge by zone two standards btw not national standards and it's nowhere near grand.

CrossWords Tue 23-Jul-13 02:15:55

Chatteringarses - thank you thank you for making me feel sane/not alone. So much of what youve written is what i've felt too ....

Monty27 Tue 23-Jul-13 02:35:10

If I belonged to an NCT group with big houses flats etc and I lived in a small flat, I would be inviting them back to my small flat, because I would want them to know who exactly I am and wouldn't be ashamed of it.

A loving home is better than anything smile

Kiwiinkits Tue 23-Jul-13 02:47:16

To answer your question, no, it's always location, location, location. If you're in a good area, don't move.

Your storage is an issue. You've probably got more storage space than you think you have. Think vertical - go upwards. Shelves above doorways, along walls. Also space under beds. Think about getting a storage consultant/designer in to give you some advice and a quote. IMO it is worth spending good money on solving your storage issue because it will really improve your quality of life, by the sounds of it. Cheaper by far than moving, too.

Kiwiinkits Tue 23-Jul-13 02:50:00

Figure out what it would cost you to move. The basic cost. Moving truck, real estate fee, etc. If you can spend less than that on sorting out your storage issue then you have actually SAVED YOURSELF MONEY!

musicposy Tue 23-Jul-13 03:57:05

One of DD's friends lives in a large, beautiful, very minimalist house with acres of land. We live in a small, very overcrowded, messy terraced house on a housing estate. We are so poles apart it's laughable.

A month or two ago, this friend suddenly said to me "I love coming to your house". I was utterly knocked back -our house is tatty and small and falling to bits! I said "but your house is beautiful."

She said "your house has a lovely feel. You're allowed to do anything here. It feels like a home".

This was from an 11 year old! I was so touched but it just goes to show that size isn't everything. smile

The main thing is to let your kids have friends around.

We had a garden but my Mum didn't let me have friends around ostensibly because of my brother's disabilities but really because she is quite extraordinarily antisocial. The happiest memories of my childhood are of going around to friends' tiny little houses and flats and having perfect freedom to run around and scream and make mess.

Kids really don't care about boring shit like house size.

I am now trying to find a small flat because I hate cleaning this bloody house so much! Will miss the garden, though.

RainyAfternoon Tue 23-Jul-13 12:20:17

CrossWords - when I was little we lived in a two room 4th floor flat for 5 years. (2 room, not 2 bedroom). We had a galley kitchen in one room, and my sister and I had z-beds we put down at night. The other room had an alcove which housed my parent's bed and a corner was taken up by a small bathroom. It was a bit different to your situation as we were overseas so my parent's had made that decision partly for adventure. I love my memories of our time in that flat. It was just home - and I think the happiest period in my childhood. What I do remember is not understanding why I couldn't bring any friends home for tea, so if you can, I think it's important to try and have the odd friend round. I also live now in a very small house in a very nice area and we are a bit stuck, so I do appreciate where you are coming from. It's tricky, but we are responsible for painting our children's childhood memories and I think it's still possible to create magical memories even if you aren't quite living in the house you want to be.

marriedinwhiteagain Tue 23-Jul-13 21:10:43

I mix with anyone and welcome anyone. I've had more snidey comments from those who are worse off than from those who are better off yet I wouldn't dream of being rude or making a nasty comment about anyone because they might have less than optimum or even adequate living standards. I think people are every bit as hurtful in reverse to the OPs situation. remembers when I went back to work and invited the young girl from NZ who was so lonely and tearful here that I brought her home for supper Will never forget the nasty, bitchy, carping little comments thereafter. Never tried to help a work colleague since. Sad.

Chatteringarses Wed 24-Jul-13 16:00:01

Thanks for this thread Crosswords. Sorry you have been affected by the same worries. Reading these posts has made me acknowledge to myself how greatly I've been allowing my anxieties about our living space to limit myself and DC socially. I've not discussed this issue with anyone in RL as obviously none of us are in the exact same domestic circs and I don't want to set up an awkward Thing between us, so I've been pointlessly stewing instead.

I can't ignore the problems created by being in this teeny place but I'm also going to try to feel the judgey fear and invite some nice NCT people over for playdates anyway.

From what the other posters are saying its more important that I shouldn't inflict my adult anxieties on my DC's social life so I'm going to try giving it a go at this early stage.

I've had a bit of a clear out blitz and will try to keep the worst of the visible clutter at bay and then launch project 'small but Perfectly formed' at some point in the near future.

Guess there is not much to lose from this rather sad state of affairs and I really don't want my kid to be feeling on the edge of social groups all the time. I fear that that will definitely be the case if I don't confront this. Good luck with it for you. Hopefully the other locals will be a lot more open minded than we think!

Chatteringarses Wed 24-Jul-13 16:02:10

married sorry you fell foul of what sounds like a workplace mean girl. Don't let it stop you being nice as that is obviously your inclination which is a lovely thing! smile

nkf Wed 24-Jul-13 16:05:49

I grew up with this sort of feeling and I have the same issue of being relatively poor in an affluent neighbourhood. I try not to mind and I will always have kids round. My children seem cool about it, but that maybe because I'm quite laid back about other things and it's easy to be in our house.

I also take my kids' friends out on trips. To the park, to wherever we are going really. I took a bunch to the beach the other day.

The alternative is to be relatively well off in a poorer neighbourhood and I don't fancy that at all.

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