Updated: Nov 27, 2022
Yes, it’s technically true. My family of 4 lives in a HomeDepot shed in my mom’s backyard.
The wildest part of the entire story, and what a wild ride it is my friends, is that this is the happiest that I have ever been, the least amount of stress I have ever carried with me, my husband and I rarely and if ever fight or argue, and I have been calmer and more peaceful with my children.
I honestly chalk 100% of it up to the immense benefits of multi-generational living. You see, we are not meant to parent alone. And I don’t mean alone like single parenting. Alone as in all up in the house raising your children and fulfilling all the tasks that life includes with yourself and maybe a partner day in and day out. Alone. Two, if not Four, hands on deck doing all the things, all the days. That is incomprehensible in my opinion.
So how did we end here and so darn happy?
It started back in 2012 when my husband, our dog, and I moved into our first apartment together. It was gorgeous! New construction, two bedrooms and two baths, a community pool and in a very nice neighborhood in the Bay Area. I was thrilled it was on the 3rd floor because I have this perfectly rational fear that someone will break into my house one day, most likely to do murders obviously, so being on the 3rd floor was going to prevent this occurrence. We were very happy there and it was just the right fit for us.
Fast forward to 2018. Still in the apartment but now add two children and two dogs into the mix. Space was tight to say the least. I often said that we were bursting at the seams because every closet, drawer, under bed space, and shelf was being utilized. We were storing Christmas décor at my moms and baby gear at my in-laws. Our bikes were chained up at the bottom of the stairwell and the kid’s bikes/out door toys sat on our patio. The worst part of it all was bringing groceries up. You guys. I am not even kidding when I say I would strap my baby to me in her carrier, hold about 6 bags of groceries, heard my toddler up the three flights of stairs (God forbid he decided to stop or run off down another hallway), then repeat until the groceries were brought in. It sucked and was my biggest challenge. I did the delivery services a lot, I also shopped when hubby was home. But those stairs were honestly the biggest stressor for me with two little ones. Plus taking the dogs out a few times per day under the same conditions (baby carrier and loose wild toddler) made me dread the anticipation of leaving.
I also must share that both my husband and I are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist living and working in the Bay Area. Income for these jobs with the cost of living is outrageous. We literally could not afford anything else besides our apartment with the income coming in. It’s insane and frustrating and that rant will be left for another time and place. However, pertinent to point out for the story because we were frequently looking up new jobs and places to live in other areas. Stairs an immediate deal breaker.
After some searching, my husband came across a job in a different city that paid an incredible amount more. Like more than most people in the same position make within our industry! Can you believe it? Finally! It was time to move along and find a home for our family with more space and be able to relax and enjoy the stuff we should be enjoying. Dream come true, right?
We immediately started looking around at homes to buy and could not settle on one. The ones that we could afford were small, super run down, and just not in the best neighborhoods. I am down for updating and living with fixes for a while but these were not aligning with what we had envisioned for our family. Might I mention to my non-CA peeps who are reading this that what I’m referring to as “affordable” was fora 1300sq ft fixer upperer around the half a million mark.
I just couldn’t do it. I could not for the life of me put all of our savings for a down payment on any of these houses and call it a home. It just didn’t feel right.
My husband suggested renting a home in the same town instead of buying. Even though we would be paying rent, we could still get in and save more money the buy a home we actually liked. I was so hesitant because I have always been scared of the owners deciding that they want the house back and then we would have to move. But he assured me that he has always rented homes along with Joe Schmo and the slue of other people that he knew where that scenario never once happened. It seemed like a good means to our end and so we moved forward and rented a home in town.
It was magical my friends. The home was on a court, full of neighborhood friends to play with, block parties to attend, great parks within walking distance and a small town feel. I felt like it was home immediately and began working in the garden and got into planting succulents. I took pride in the yard and had many play dates for the kids and hosted people weekly.
My husband, though, not too happy. His job flat out sucked to put it bluntly. He was on call so much with an extremely high turn over rate and he was barely home or present. He would wake up at 4am to hop on his computer for a few hours, then head into work, then back on the computer once the kids went down to bed. Weekends included. I’ve never seen him so incredibly stressed. He was not sleeping, not moving his body enough, checked out, and irritable when he was around. Once, for about a week, he had severe memory loss. Anything he and I discussed or anything that went on, he completely forgot about it even after reminding him. He verbalized how unhappy he was and was missing out on enjoying time and life with his family. Oh and for Christmas, they mailed him a $25 Amazon gift card and a snack box as his year end bonus. I begged him to send it back to them. Low blow.
We are firm believers in making each day count and focusing on being a strong family. When one member is weak, we all are. The plan was not working and would not thrive the way things were going. After much back and forth about how to move forward, he started looking for another job and I launched my first online parenting course to bring in some extra income. He was looking within commuting distance from our rental so we could keep the house and I was busy getting our son signed up for Kindergarten. Moving right along seamlessly.
Related: View my parenting courses here including one for $5.55!
Then it happened. My worst fear about renting came true. I remember sitting in my mom’s backyard with the kids when the email came in with Notice of Termination in the subject line. I f-ing knew it. The owners decided to sell the house and we had 60 days until our lease ended to move. I lost it guys. I went into my mom’s room and hysterically cried. My mom came in and all I could say was “where are we going to go!”. I was devastated and terrified.
After three days of crying and ripping out all of my beautiful succulents from their yard, I had an epiphany. Why were we constantly making lateral moves? Same moves forward with minimal impact for increasing our happiness? We were in a position that we never would have put ourselves in, BUT ALSO, one that was given to us. We had an opportunity to completely pivot and do what ever the heck we wanted to.
I sent my mom a text that read “what if we lived in a Tuff Shed in your back yard?”
Fucking crazy but hear me out….
My husband could quit his crappy job TODAY and we could live at mom’s until we figured it out. No pressure. No lateral moves that would keep us locked into the trajectory that we thought we wanted. Just an overall abundance of options with no time crunch.
She wrote back “Yes I already thought of that. Let’s get together and talk”.
This is the part of the story where I add that my mom’s home has two bedrooms; one for her and one for my uncle who is also living there. There wasn’t anywhere for us to quietly squeezed into, so building something out was the only thing that popped into my head. This allowed the space for us to save and reevaluate everything.
Now the tricky part, getting hubby on board with this wild idea. I mean, I could barely tell him when we were seated face to face later that day. Like it took me a few minutes in silence and laughing before the words could come out. I personally was flabbergasted that this was even an option in my head, and speaking the idea felt like too much. But alas, I’m brave and strong and confident and just had to spit it out. And honestly? He took it well. Apprehensive but agreed to the whole entire plan.
With this new plan under our belt, and holding onto some kind of naïve confidence, we turned in our 30 day notice cutting their notice short.
Ha! Suck it losers! (I'm working through my bitterness still. Be patient please).
The next opportunity that fell into our lap? My husband heard through the grapevine that a higher up position at his old company became available and applied for it. This agency is remarkable, warm, family oriented, and gives well earned bonuses. We love them and it’s the same agency where he and I first met as interns. Such the love story. He was hired within a few weeks and turned in his notice to his current job. SAHweet!
The tricky part was that in comparison to his current job, he was about to take a $40,000/year loss in salary. Going from a for profit to a non profit is no joke. But happiness is priceless and we needed our Rob back. We’ve never been ones to solely focus on money since we view life as a short span where happiness comes from within, so the financial loss did not sting. It honestly felt alleviating knowing we were stepping back into a space that valued him and actually cared. Makes a big difference for your soul.
With the job and home sitch lining up just right, we began packing everything up and making trips to the storage unit every day until our 30 days was up. We needed things stored because we could only bring a few items to my moms (seasonal clothing, a few toys for the kids, and personal items). We packed the storage unit up in a way in which we could switch out the clothes based on the changing seasons and my husband could access his music records. He’s big on music and this was a necessity. He often jokes he’s going “record shopping” when he makes the 45 minute trek from my moms house to the unit to switch them out.
Moving day was bitter sweet. Driving away from what I thought would be where we settled down and heading towards what I envisioned as freedom and breathing room. I never imagined that we would be in this situation, however, I felt light on that drive. As if we had been given a sign that the life we were grasping onto so desperately was just not for us. Or not one the universe knew we should settle for. I’m not one for signs but I kept seeing hummingbirds and monarch butterflies during this transition and it brought me peace and comfort knowing we were making the right decision.
During the transition at my moms, we had to live in my in laws camper while we built out the shed. The kids loved it and often pretended it was an ice cream truck or veterinary office.
We stayed in there for a month while we built, insulated, ran electrical, ac/heat, and wood floor into our “bungalow” aka shed.
You didn’t think we just left it as 4 walls and barn doors did ya?
From that moment on, life was smooth. Not in the typical sense of nothing goes wrong or everyone's happy all the time. Life still happened each and every day with the highs and lows. But everything felt lighter and the load was distributed. My husband was working from home 3 days per week and more present, my mom is a phenomenal chef and cook’s dinner almost every night (I know. I know guys), we take turns doing Costco runs and laundry, there’s always someone around to talk to or help out with the children, and I just feel like I can breathe for once.
Is it perfect? Do we all live the same way and get along swell? No. But here’s the deal with this type of living, those little things don’t matter compared to the pay off. The little nuances of how you like your home organized or how you like things ran get pushed aside because the more important tasks and “things” are alleviated.
So we now have all hands on deck in a odd situation that somehow works. My mom gets time with her only grand kids and the opportunity to watch them grow daily, my husband is able to enjoy his job without the financial pressure weighing on him constantly, and I don’t have to be supermom or have monthly panic attacks anymore. Wait, was I really happy in the old house??
I know that our time will one day come to an end here because we would like a larger home. I look forward to that chapter but also remind myself to be present and enjoy in the here and now. We really don’t know how a situation will resonate with us until we are submerged into it. So I abundantly and whole heartedly open my arms to where we are now because now, we are happy.