I have been thinking the last few weeks about what I was doing this time last year. In the middle of October, on the same day, I found out I was pregnant and the offer on our house was accepted. The pregnancy didn’t work out, but the house did. This time last year was a blur of packing, stress, moving, stress, arranging mortgages, stress and stress.
I’ve finally decided: buying a house is more stressful than having a baby. I’ve done both. I know.
I think the main reason that buying a house is more stressful is because the pressure is on to do it right. For example, you should go house hunting at the right time (which, well, at least we didn’t pick the worst time?). You should find the very best house that you can afford for all your needs. You should choose the correct community. You should check the commute and the location. You should divine what sort of maintenance the house will need. (Note: we offered on the house the same day we saw it. How was this all supposed to happen?) Find a real estate agent. Find a lawyer. Find a house inspector. Find contractors to bid on the work that needs to be done. You will need to liquidate a bunch of your savings — pray you have the luck and foresight to do so on a day the market is up. Get the best possible mortgage. Be sure you read the fine print. Run a budget to make sure you can afford it. Set up a savings account for the inevitable maintenance. Check your homeowner’s insurance. Are you on a flood plane? You better get the flood insurance. Hire movers. Pack boxes.
All of that stuff is completely overwhelming, at least to me. The thing that made it so bad was that it was possible for me to choose wrong or right. It was all about my choice and my agency, and the outcome was entirely my fault. But there was too much to do in a one month period (while working full time, of course) to do it all with the rigor each decision deserved. You sort of tossed your dice and trusted to luck. It worked out for us, I think, but I can see a million ways that it could’ve gone wrong.
Let’s compare that to a baby. First, have sex. Several weeks later, discover you are pregnant. Wait 9 months, slowly and gradually planning. Have a really rough few hours there giving birth. Stay out of work for a month or two or three, granted while you don’t get much sleep. It’s entirely possible that the child you have will have flaws (unlike mine), or disabilities or problems. But unless your child has fetal alcohol syndrome, chances are good that it was just the way luck turned. Nothing you decided would’ve made it different — you just take what you are given and work with it. That can be tons of work and it can be really hard, but you’re not RESPONSIBLE for the decision of what kind of baby to have. That’s rigorous but, to me, less stressful.
Even at the nadir of my parenting (Alone! For a week! With two kids! And one of them not even 6 weeks old!) I’d much rather do this than buy another house. I’ve always been completely gobsmacked by the people who casually mention, “Oh, we bought a house recently.” To me that’s like saying, “Oh, yes. I climbed Everest last week.”
I’m thinking I’m done with both. As far as children go, I have had as many as I plan to have. (At least now — I know this is the sort of statement that comes back to haunt you later.) As far as homes go, I have purchased the house I would like to inhabit until my children are through college. We probably will buy another house at some point, but heaven help me, that point better be far enough in the distant future to be misty.
Heck, kids are even cheaper than the house at this point!