When I shared a one-bedroom San Francisco apartment with my husband and two children, I had a recurring dream in which I discovered a hidden room. First, I would notice a door in our living room that I had never seen before. Then I would open it, and a feeling of excitement and tranquility would pass over me as I entered the new, uncluttered space. Now our family would be able to spread out a little and feel a little less constricted.
I later learned that this is a common dream for city dwellers. These days, our family home is thankfully a bit bigger, but it’s still a New York City apartment, and space is tight. The real estate listing called it a three-bedroom, but that description is generous. The apartment is a long rectangle with two diminutive bedrooms at either end, one small and one quite small. And then there’s the master bedroom, which is large and bright and airy, but it is positioned smack in the middle of the floor plan, with a corridor railroading through it and wide French doors opening it up to the living room. Sleeping late is impossible and privacy nonexistent as the design invites my children to run through every inch of my personal space all day long.
For the past two years, my two kids have occupied the small rooms as single bedrooms. But this month, we threw out our ancient crib, kicked the youngest out of his nursery and made the one big space-saving move we had been holding in reserve: We moved the kids into bunk beds. Now that they’re sharing a room, we have an extra room in our home and I feel like my dream is coming true.
So when I’ve got a few minutes to myself, my newest hobby is fantasizing about what to do with my new room. I’ve nicknamed it the “lady’s lounge” because as the only female-identified person in my home, I feel like I’m entitled to a room of my own. In Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay “A Room of One’s Own,” she envisioned a woman’s room as a space for her to do creative work and fulfill her ambition. My room will, I’m sure, be the birthplace of some decent writing, but the most powerful fantasy I have for it is to be able to go inside it, shut the door, and take an uninterrupted nap. For two years, I haven’t had the ability to close a door in my home and be by myself, and that more than anything is what I crave. As parents, we give so much of our time to our children, but we also give our space. It’s not just the toys that fill every corner of our houses; it’s the little bodies that are always climbing us, wiping their noses on us or just draped across us. I love the physical closeness with my kids, but I need a break from it, too. I need a room of my own.
My sons were thrilled to share a room, but they’re still adjusting to the change. There have been nights when they’ve kept each other up late, with some anxiety about adjusting to a new routine. Kids, as a rule, don’t like change, and my oldest is particularly sensitive to it. He’s needed some extra comfort and reassurance, and he has insisted that I, not his father, put him to bed at night as he adjusts to the new setup. He just needs some extra mom love right now, and I’m happy to give it to him. But I’m hopeful that he’ll push through the challenge, and the extra closeness with his brother, whom he adores, will compensate for the disruption to his space.
In the meantime, I’m accepting decorating suggestions for the lady’s lounge. Tell me your ideas; I’ll add them to my Pinterest board.