So at my daughter’s fifth birthday I had a small group of family and friends over to my house, which is a two-bedroom townhouse in (sigh) Sullivan County. One party guest questioned my husband (while I was out of the room) about when we were going to buy a “real” (cough, back pedal) um “bigger” house. It’s been stuck in my head for awhile now. This is a person that has never been to my house before and although I can appreciate that some people’s filters are a little looser than others, it still stings.

It’s been my goal for some time now to practice the principal of wanting what I have. It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of wanting more, more, more, bigger, and better until you either get spun off the hamster wheel or end up so dizzy you don’t know which direction you’re facing. It is comments like these that sting the most because they focus on the very epicenter of the wheel – “the American Dream,” a.k.a homeownership.

My husband and I bought our townhouse at the ages of 25 and 24 with absolutely no help from anyone. At the time, it was a choice between finding another rental or buying. When all the rentals we looked at fell short of what we wanted, we decided to buy. We bought what we could afford at the time. We had a five-year plan. We would sell after five years and begin our quest again for the elusive “bigger, better” house. Fast forward eight years and we’re crushed in a pitiful economy, and most of the houses for sale in our neighborhood are not moving, so we’ve recommitted to wanting what we have, and remembering all the things we loved when we bought this house- an open concept floor-plan, a small, but manageable backyard, a spacious fully finished basement.

Sure, I get jealous sometimes when I see things in other people’s houses that I wish my house had and it seems that there is no end to the photos on Facebook of friends’ large houses with huge lawns and stainless steel appliances. But I beg you, my friends, to remember that sometimes the “rest of us, you know those of us who rent apartments, own trailers, or townhouses or duplexes,” we who seem to find ourselves “locked out” of the “American dream,” are getting smothered here. There are many sizes and shapes that a “home” comes in, yet we all forget that it’s the family inside that home that makes it one, not the house itself. A house is just an empty vessel without the people who bring it to life.

There are far too many people who are struggling to “survive” the “American dream” these days. They are facing foreclosure on their homes. In some cases it’s because they felt they “deserved” that “American dream” house with the hefty price tag to boot.

Five months ago, the small business I started failed to thrive and I had to pull the plug. I’m now able to stay at home with my kids who are still little (5 and 2 1/2) in large part because we bought our townhouse when we were young and our incomes were smaller. I am able to live the life I want thanks to my smaller and yes, less “ideal” home. But when I hear comments like the one at my daughter’s party, it’s not hard to start to feel smothered all over again. While I want the “ideal” house one day, what I want is the ideal home life. So all I’m asking for friends, is please be kind with your words. We don’t all have to want the same things in this world. We just have to want we need and what we have. The rest is just gravy.