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As The Pandemic Hit, We Lost Plenty — But We’re Grateful To Not Have To Go It Alone

Jan 5, 2022

Parenting can be humbling.

But so can looking for a house to buy in Toronto.

For me and my husband, navigating homeownership in a market as hot as the GTA seemed like a herculean feat. In fact, it was completely out of reach for us for a long time.

When we got married, we decided to rent for a short time while keeping our eyes peeled for a starter home once our contract ended.

"Short-term" quickly became long-term when we realized that we were still unable to fork out the hefty 20 per cent down payment required to pay for a house.

20 per cent, mind you, in a market that was steadily on its course to reach a whopping average price of $1 million. That average is now ... more than that. 

And so, in order to get some reprieve from the everlasting housing woes, we made another short-term decision to move in with my husband’s parents to save some money — a decision that a growing number of millennials in the same boat as us have adopted.


Brianna Bell and her family have lived through some very lean times. Here are her thoughts on why a family can barely survive on pasta and $20,000 a year alone.


Homecoming

Almost immediately after we moved back, we got pregnant.

And almost immediately after our daughter was born, the pandemic hit.

Then my husband lost his job.

And to add fuel to the fire, I had no job to return to after my maternity leave was up.

It was certainly a rough time for us, as it was for most people, and we completely threw out any timeline we had for ourselves when we got married. 

But the wisdom in appreciating that everything happens for a reason (or at least a reason that we can justify to make sense of life’s curveballs) came clearer to us in the months that followed.

Living with my husband’s parents, and being in close proximity to my own, ended up being a saviour during a particularly turbulent time as we entered an unchartered territory of parenthood in a pandemic. We were able to receive both financial and emotional support during this transition period — the support that we desperately needed to maintain our sanity as we worked our way to becoming more stable.

The Perks of Co-Living

Over the course of three years living with my in-laws, we were afforded the privilege of free babysitting with more-than-willing grandparents, the opportunity to step out of the house as a couple and go on dates (albeit with a curfew overseen by our baby’s regimented feeding and sleep schedule), regular playdates with our daughter’s multiple cousins and the ability to find our footing by securing new jobs.

It was invaluable.

During this time, I was able to assess what my priorities were, given all of the changes that had come our way. 

I was able to explore a new career path for myself, and go through the bumps and hurdles of slogging through jobs that were very wrong for me. I was given some grace to try things, even if they turned out to be not-so-right for me. All of the trials provided the opportunity to expand on my skills, and I began freelance writing as a side-gig — an idea I had flirted with for a very long time. 

Misery Loves Company

While these experiences were often wrought with uncertainty, frustration, doubt and helplessness, they also served to clarify to our family who we were. We were learning more about ourselves every day. 

And sharing these experiences and any progress we'd achieved with our family was a comfort. And they were right there, under the same roof. 

And there were other perks, too. With the regular presence of two sets of grandparents, we were able to speak multiple languages with our daughter, while also imparting cultural traditions in a way we might not be able to in their absence.

While my husband and I were learning and growing, so was our baby. And while she was growing into a toddler, our family's needs began to grow too. 

Had it not been for the success of our co-living situation, we would not have had the confidence to even consider stepping foot into the housing market. 

But that's certainly something we gained: confidence. 

And while I understand that not everyone will have this option, I will say that having it saved us from what could have been a fairly dark period for our family. 


A family of four in Newfoundland discusses how they live on $63,100. Armed with debt and a large family, where does the money go?


A New Chapter

We will be moving into our new home in February, and will now be quite a distance away from our social network and the life that we have been so accustomed to.

While our routines — and access to babysitting — will drastically change, the independence that we will gain will allow us to enter into a new chapter of parenthood.  A chapter in which we can forge new family dynamics together.

I have had the privilege of being surrounded by loved ones who have helped me during rough times. What I have learned in the process is that the timelines I created for myself and my family are sometimes motivating, but ultimately meaningless.

Anything can, and often will, happen.

But I've also learned that with any endeavour in life, there is a broader network of people around us — family, friends, well-wishers and sometimes even strangers with similar experiences who, when tapped into, can provide us with the support we need to thrive.

Whether we were seeking financial assistance or emotional support, and whether the goal was to build equity in a home or navigate through the ups and downs of life, there were people out there who cared enough about us to support us. And while it can be prideful, and feel easier, to go it alone, sometimes the hardest part of reaching out can be the most powerful thing you can do.

The intergenerational support that our parents offered us enriched our daughter’s experiences in the early, critical years of her life.

And it helped my husband and I grow. 

While it was never part of our timeline, I feel grateful that a dark period of our lives wasn't tread alone. 

Article Author Zehra Kamani
Zehra Kamani

Zehra Kamani is a Toronto-based freelance writer and first-time mother of a vivacious girl. She holds a Master's degree in psychology and works as a researcher at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Zehra is passionate about making small, but meaningful, contributions to her community and thereby impacting society at large. She also believes in the importance of sharing stories and learning from others' unique experiences. You can find more of her work on Today's ParentThe Muslim Link and Thrive Global.

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