April 22, 2018
Our house, an older, four-bedroom colonial, felt spacious when we bought it right after we were married. But then seemed to shrink. What had first made the house quaint and charming – small, cozy rooms all separated by labyrinthine walls – made it a bit tight when you were chasing three little kids around.
In some houses, dining rooms, living rooms, and guest rooms can end up being wasted space. Not for us. We had a small kitchen, no room for a table or island, so the dining room got plenty of use as our everyday eating spot. We had a living room, but our front door opened into it as our primary entrance. No matter how organized and “zoned” I tried to make it, the room was always littered with jackets, shoes, school bags, all the detritus of a family of five. Upstairs, we had no room set aside for guests. All our bedrooms were filled, intentionally. Not complaining! I was satisfied that even though we sometimes felt like we were bumping into each other (or were, literally, bumping into each other), we used every square foot.
But sometimes I craved it, an unused space. As a mom on the introvert side with three kids, two cats, a dog (and a husband), the flip side of using all our spaces to the fullest was that no space remained neat, clean, quiet, and empty – ever.
Eleven years in, though, the house had of course become our home. We had friendly neighbors, we were very close to the greatest elementary school and our local park. We didn’t want to move. So, we bit the bullet and signed up for some major renovations. We didn’t go crazy. We weren’t going to be extravagant. We just wanted to open things up to create easier flow. And maybe gain just a few little inches or feet, just a bump out?
The initial idea included adding onto the back of our kitchen. Maybe we could create some space for an island, and then the dining room could be a separate, serene space? Turned out that couldn’t happen because behind the kitchen was the septic tank. And we weren’t putting in a new one!
The next idea included space next to or behind the garage to function as an office/guest room/whatever room, the malleable and removed quiet space we didn’t currently have. However, strict township building codes around adding impervious surface to our existing footprint made this idea impossible within the footprint of our budget.
So, we changed course again. Knocking down the existing garage and rebuilding a two-car garage (with a door into the house, yay!) became the most practical course. It would allow us to build a large room above to be used as a fill-in-the-blank room. In the process, I would gain a cool back staircase, adding some “old house with character” vibe to my 1972 colonial. In the end, after plotting out all the possibilities, the plan changed one more time, and the new room above the garage became our master bedroom and bath, and our old master bedroom became the guest room/extra space.For awhile I lamented that the extra footage, both in our kind-of-too-large master bedroom and the guest room that doesn’t see many guests, was wasted. Since it wasn’t on the main floor as originally envisioned, it wasn’t as accessible as I’d hoped our new space would be. Even though logically I knew
we’d used our time and money to the best advantage, it took some time to not still wish for a larger kitchen, or a downstairs office, or a real dining room.
But I’ve realized that I gained something better than what I’d thought I wanted.
The Guest Room: I’ve kept it streamlined, uncluttered. Even though the closet is used for out of season clothing, sheets for all the other bedrooms, camp cots, loved stuffed animals who’ve been put out to pasture, etc., the room itself is spare. Because it sits between the busyness of our original upstairs hallway and the kids’ rooms, and our new room and back stairs, it’s sort of like an airlock. To go from my room to the kids’ rooms, or vice versa, I pass through the guest room, and most times I pause. It’s quiet in there, there’s no mess, no dirty clothes on the floor, no pet evidence because I’m militant about keeping doors closed and animals out.
And no one knows I’m in there. Sometimes I just stand there for a beat. Sometimes I lie down for a few minutes on the fresh, neatly made bed. Sometimes I just stare out the window down into our driveway and street and the softness of the night. Often, I listen to my kids as they go about their mostly independent lives – finishing homework, singing in the shower, facetiming friends, puttering around getting ready for bed.
This ended up being the best reconfiguration after all. Tucked away in a downstairs office or sitting in a removed dining room, I wouldn’t really be able to immerse myself in the embrace of my home and the precious presence of my kids, yet also be removed, the way I can in this in-between room that we never really planned for.
About our Blogger:
Elizabeth Dougherty is a freelance writer in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her blog, Plan Q, chronicles real, everyday experiences and viewpoints — funny, stressful, tearful, mundane — and how they all tie together to define our lives. She aims to make her readers laugh, cry, feel, think, and wonder. That’s what writing and reading do for her, and if she can pass on any of that, then all the twists and turns that whip her right past Plans A through P and land her at Plan Q are more than worth it! Visit Plan Q at www.elizabethdoughertyfreelanc ewriting.wordpress.com or connect with her on Facebook.
January 31, 2023
January 24, 2023
The team at NAPS helps you tackle the issue of early wakeups. *BONUS* NAPS is hosting a webinar on February 24th. Register here and use the extra-special code MAGICMERLIN and you can join the webinar FREE of charge!
The sound of cheery calls of “MAAAAMAAAAA” from the next room may be lovely at 7am. At 4am, or 5 am, not so much. Your baby may be up and ready to start the day, but you probably aren’t.
Answering the questions below may help you get there.
This might seem like an obvious question, but your baby’s sleep needs will change fast in the first few years of their lives. A quick look at the average nap number and duration might give you an idea:
Part of the reason you might be seeing earlier wakeups is that your baby has graduated from one nap cycle to the next.
We call this an “awake window,” and it can make a big difference. It might seem strange that your baby went to bed fine the night before, and you’re seeing a response to nap scheduling in the pre-dawn hours, but if your kiddo’s sleep is disrupted at night, it will impact the morning.
Black 0ut curtains can make a big difference here. Remember that our brains signal wakeup when the light changes. So if dawn is at 430am, and even a little bit of light comes into your baby’s room, their little brains will PING with wake up juice.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but a late bedtime can actually backfire on you. Overtired kids don’t sleep as well. If you made their bedtime later and it didn’t fix the problem, try an earlier bedtime and see if that helps. You might be surprised.
Try to make one change at a time; just one. Stick with that change for 3-5 days to see if it impacts things. (One night is usually not enough to see substantial change.) Be as consistent as you can with the change you made. For instance, if you decide to increase the space between bedtime and final nap wakeup, make sure to stick to the wakeup time you planned.
If your baby is waking up and chirping happily to themselves, feel free to leave them there for a little while. Let them get used to being alone in the crib. If you can, try to delay the start of the day by 5-10 minutes each day. This can make a big impact.
Everything else aside, remember that this is a short time in your kid’s life; as they get older, their sleep will become more regular, and so will yours. Don’t let yourself get too discouraged. Things are hard now, and you’re doing a great job.
January 10, 2023
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