My wife and I have three Zen strategies to keep sane with our two children and tiny apartment.
When you have small children, you have little control — not over your time, not over your money and certainly not over the little people crawling over your once-immaculate couch with frozen blueberries in their hands. My wife and I felt this as much as anyone. We lived in less than 500 square feet with a 3-year-old and a 15-month-old. We've moved across the Atlantic twice since we got married. We've endured serious health issues and two kids who just refused to sleep. And yet we were (barely) sane. Here are three slightly counterintuitive reasons why.
1. Coffee. We live in Sweden, and Swedish coffee is amazing. My wife and I do not share a bed because we co-sleep. But we do drink our amazing Swedish coffee together. This is our sacred moment of the morning, the only thing that cuts through diaper changes, feedings, crying, singing and role playing.
Drinking coffee puts us way behind schedule on all that. It has the potential to increase our stress. Yet we still leap over toys and spilled Cheerios to sit on the couch. We allow ourselves to fully live in this moment, and we raise our voices to be heard over the din, and we sometimes swap a six-second hug or compulsively share, as in "I-had-this-insight-into-the-meaning-of-my-life-it-has-to-do-with-barefoot-shoes-and-hockey-and-hot-yoga."
2. Impermanence. Maybe due to all of the transitions of the past couple of years — we went from backpacking in Thailand for six weeks to this — we fully realize the impermanence of our state. We will not always live in what can feel like a large closet. The children will sleep.
The Swedish winter will end (even if it returns all too soon). We repeat these things over and over, a mantra that helps us relax about our lack of personal and couple space. It also helps us fully appreciate those unexpected — and blessed — moments we do get alone together.
3. Thinking different. We love brunch buffets so much that it scares us. There is just something about unlimited bacon, toast and blue cheese that fills our soul. But there is no way to justify the cost of regular brunches right now. Instead, we go to a nearby hotel at 7:30 a.m. and pay for their breakfast buffet (these are much nicer in Europe than the instant oatmeal and bad muffins you often get in the U.S.). Or take bed times.
For months, our daughter seemed to get tired at 5:30 p.m. But that passed, and then she didn't sleep until 7:30 or 8. Meanwhile, her little brother got up between 4 and 5 in the morning. This hurt. So we now try to work with that early drowsiness, even if it comes in the middle of dinner. Our daughter is now asleep by 6:15 most nights — and she sleeps in later, too. So my wife and I enjoy the evening together... before going to bed at 8:30 ourselves.