Monday, October 4, 2010

The week the parents weighed in.

Okay, so while we loved our trip to see the salmon, the truth is that the post was a deflection of all the other crap that really happened over the last two weeks. Maybe it was the image of the money on a toilet paper roll that got our parents all in a tizzy or the fact that our budget had ballooned by almost 50 percent from our original projections. Whatever the impetus, soon after my post on September 23rd I had two phone messages and a long email from my parents desperate to 'discuss' our plans.

I've been living away from home now for well over ten years and it's almost been just as long that my parents have sat me down for one of their talks. Their roles as parents had pretty much wrapped up once I had secured the first symbol of adult success - a business card. The expectation on my part was that they wouldn't re-emerge with serious advice until the inevitable grand kids...or so I thought. Home ownership was the milestone that I had effectively forgotten and the Schatz's were quick to resume parenting roles upon reading our last entry.

Now before I discuss the details of their advice, I should provide a little context. My parents live in Ottawa, Ontario and even though their lives have been nothing like traditional (Dad lived in an ashram in India and Mom hitch hiked across Africa on her own in the 70s and had me in Ghana), when it comes to their kids, their style of parenting is to approach a decision through a cataclysmic lens - illustrating every possible configuration of disaster that can occur. When I recently went to them for advice on re-occurring vertigo symptoms I was experiencing my mother was quick to point out that I likely had Multiple Sclerosis and my father told me to call 911. When they read my last blog post, everything about our decision rang alarm bells. We were going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a home that we wouldn't legally own. Right away they questioned the logic of a young couple choosing this path and wondered about the financial viability of the project. Thankfully, they also brought up several ways that we could mitigate the risks, first by bringing down the cost of the building and secondly by building out a well thought out contract between ourselves and the Purdy's to 'create' and protect our asset.

The Schatz's weren't alone in their reservations. Though slower to share their concerns, Barbara and Roger too came to us with advice. Would this really be the best financial decision for us? Why not instead reconsider the project and explore home ownership options within Vancouver? This was especially alarming coming from the Purdy's who are (as we like call them) - the utopians. Their world view is that every cloud has a silver lining...a pot of gold and a lepricon too.

So we resisted our 15 year old tendencies to slam the bedroom door and ignore the advice of our parents and instead sat down like adults to look at our options. The thing about being in your 30s and living in North America is that there is enormous pressure to own (...get married and have babies). Not only is it a status symbol that tells the world you've made it, but embodied in ownership are a whole suite of other predictions: home owners are wealthier, healthier, more intelligent and take better care of their lawns than renters. To be a couple in our late 30s without a home would be an indicator that we had failed in some way - or in the words of my 22 year old sister, we'd be 'serious losers'.

Brendon and I would be moving to something somewhere in between home ownership and renting. Building a laneway home in your in-laws backyard is not a way to financial clarity or home ownership status. Yet, even with our eyes and ears open to our parents advice, we are choosing it again and with even more excitement. Maybe this is our way of designing our own version of adulthood. It's one that definitely does not have as much clarity as our friends that have bought outright, but it appeals to us in ways that a 500 square foot condo in downtown Vancouver just couldn't.

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