I used to love shopping for new houses. I get more emails from Zillow than I do from my mother. I know, I've counted. Nothing used to bring me greater joy than pouring a glass of wine in the evening and turning on House Hunters, Love It or List It, or if I was feeling particularly saucy, House Hunters International. My wish list and deal breakers were whittled down to a science, and if I closed my eyes I could see my dream home waiting for me in all its midcentury modern glory. Floor-to-ceiling windows and dangerously steep spiral staircases and all. Then I had kids and everything I thought I knew about my dream house went out the window with my waistline.
Here are just 10 of the ways your house hunting priorities change once you have children:
Location, Location, Location
Before I had kids I wanted to live by the loudest bars, the hottest restaurants, and the trendiest coffee shops. I thought big box stores were hideous eyesores that should be stamped out like the plague. Then I had kids, and suddenly the idea of a 24-hour superstore that sells diapers, popsicles, Tylenol, toys, and booze all in one place became very appealing.
I always wanted a house with a hot tub, pool table, and an abundance of outlets to hook up my surround sound speakers and entertainment center. Then I had kids, and suddenly my hot tub was a drowning hazard, the pool table became a laundry table, and my well-equipped media room meant cramming in dozens of those little plastic outlet covers that you can never get back out again. It's not like I have time to watch movies anyway.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real concern for a lot of people, especially during the dark Winter months. The first things I notice when looking at a house is whether there are big enough windows, whether the house faces north or south, and whether there are any skylights. Then I had kids, and I discovered another disorder that is much more dangerous than SAD: My-Kid's-Room-Is-Too-Bright-and-They-Were-Up-With-the-Sun Disorder. Unfortunately, if you are afflicted with this terrible disease, the only effective cures are expensive blackout curtains, taping your kids' eyelids shut, or spending half the year in Sweden and the other half in Antarctica.
I always loved the houses with adorable hidden appliances that looked like cabinets or popped out of the floor or something. Then I had kids and I realized that the tiny fridge that appears as if by magic from behind the false wall is less roomy than a Volkswagen. What parents really need is a fridge the size of a dump truck and a dishwasher to match. They might be ugly, but at least you won't have to play Fridge Tetris every time you go grocery shopping.
I love great rooms. I think they're just . . . great. Then I had kids, and I learned the value of doors that close, and lock.
There is nothing quite like taking off your shoes after a long day and sinking your toes into fresh, new, plush carpet. Who even needs furniture when you have a cozy rug to lounge on while you watch television in the evenings? I never minded vacuuming either. Then I had kids, and I realized that carpet might be warmer and softer, but hardwood floors don't absorb juice, wine, Play-Doh, milk, vomit, pee, or poop. All of which will be on your floor at some point.
Back when I had a social life, I loved the idea of living close to friends and neighbors. I wanted to throw annual Christmas shindigs, neighborhood BBQs, and block parties. Then I had kids, and I realized the farthest in advance I managed to plan was to close my windows before yelling at my kids so the neighbors wouldn't hear me. Suddenly isolation doesn't feel so lonely.
I never understood the need to waste precious square footage on mudrooms, laundry rooms, and pantries. Surely that space could be better used for a walk-in closet or a sauna, right? Then I had kids and I realized how much mud a tiny person can track through the house. In less than three seconds my kitchen can go from sparkling clean to looking like a Jackson Pollack painting.
I always thought three-car garages were for rich people and mechanics. Then I had kids, and I realized that even if you only own one car you will need the extra space to store seven different strollers, six bikes, five trikes, four wagons, three skateboards, two scooters, and a partridge in a pear tree.
I used to picture myself with a garden full of luscious flowers and delicious fruits and vegetables. Then I had kids and I realized that dirt and grass are about the only things that can survive the toddler years. Those scoundrels are going to dig holes in the yard, flood it, pick it bald, and yes, probably pee on it too.
I still love to watch HGTV, but now it's more an act of seedy voyeurism than actual research, because let's face it, once you have kids your priorities change. You'll find yourself wanting things you never thought possible, and eschewing others that used to sit at the top of your wish list. And at the end of the day, you won't care where you live as long as your kids are quiet and you get to shower once a week.
Don't believe me? Just wait.