As noted in the first post in this series, having children was akin to declaring war on the environment in my house. And adding a second child threw my somewhat simple life out of balance even more than the birth of the first. My hairdresser quipped while I was in her care one time that the second child can’t be as big a deal as the first. After all, you only lose your freedom once. But oh, how I beg to differ with her now. My second child has freed me to become an environmental disaster. And here’s why.
Up until my daughter was born, I lived in a 962 square foot house with my husband and then later, our son. It was a rambler with three bedrooms upstairs and another tucked away in the finished basement. The kitchen in that old house was what our realtor once termed a “one-butt kitchen”, for it was nearly impossible for more than one person to be in it at a time. Heck, we couldn’t even open the refrigerator and dishwasher at the same time, and it was impossible to get to our basement when the oven door was open. Problems abounded, but we made it work. It wasn’t that hard when there were only two adults in the house, and adding one child didn’t upset the balance that much.
And then came my daughter, and with her, the decision to get an au pair. Now all three bedrooms upstairs had a resident—my husband and I in one, my son in one, and my daughter in the third (because the thought of my daughter potentially waking my son—who has not always been the best of sleepers—at night was more than I could bear), the downstairs bedroom went to the au pair, and eventually, as we sat surrounded in baby and now toddler items, we decided to move. Now we live in a house that an energy auditor recently calculated has 3400 square foot of space. Our au pair has a great mini-apartment in our home, I rarely trip over toys because everything has a designated space, I can work from home whenever I want (that 5th bedroom is my office / guest room), the kids can actually join me in the kitchen cooking on their wooden stove while I prep dinner on my stove, and a sixth bedroom serves as a craft room (which I realize is not essential, but it does mean that I NEVER see craft detritus scattered throughout the house or worry about paint getting on someone’s bedroom walls…I love it).
Along the way, my son started attending pre-school five mornings each week, which prompted the purchase of a second car that my au pair uses to ferry my daughter about town and to pick-up my son from pre-school on days she’s with the kids. My husband takes the other car into work most days as he drops our son off on his way.
It’s a convenient life, for sure, designed to pack in as much time to just hang out together rather than being stressed out over misplaced items or extending anyone's individual commute. For possibly the first time in my life, everything around me feels organized, and it really puts me in a good frame of mind. But dear Mother Earth, forgive me my carbon footprint.
I love my house. I could get by with a smaller one, but it would mean I’d give up some of the spaces that have ultimately alleviated stress. I do, however, dream of being so efficient some day that I can live like Gary Chang! But don’t think I’ve totally thrown in the towel on this one even now. I know there’s lots more I can do. Next up: Declaring War on the Earth: Part 3, Should We Sweat the Small Stuff? And let’s talk about how we can minimize our footprint! (And no, solutions do not include getting rid of my daughter, because for as much carbon as I have used in her name, she brings more joy to this Earth than anyone who hasn't met her could possibly imagine.)
When Elaine is not pondering how she can reduce her carbon footprint, she records her children's lives at Connor and Helen!