60. House or Apartment?

Some families live in their own houses, and some have to rent living quarters. This is a simple, well-known fact of life, but it’s important to be aware of the effect of this dichotomy on children. Children who live in houses usually think of that as normal. Some can’t imagine why anyone would choose to live in an apartment. There’s not much privacy, you usually can’t have a pet, you don’t have your own yard, … I could say a lot about the drawbacks of apartment life.
In school, children often make friends. They invite their friends to their homes, and have good times there. If a child lives in an apartment in a town like Wellesley, it can be an immediate social disadvantage. Most people in Wellesley live in houses, and there is concern about what “kind” of people live in apartments. Children are quick to sense the dichotomy, but they usually make friends without regard to it.
Let me tell you what I know about the “kind” of people who live in apartments. They are mostly the kind who can’t afford to buy or rent houses. Few families with children choose to live in apartments. There are all kinds of reasons for being unable to afford houses. Seldom is the reason that the parents don’t want to work for a living. More often they’re working hard, dreaming of some day escaping apartment life and buying a house.
If you have children, you want to make your children’s lives as pleasant as possible, and to keep them safe. You may have heard or read about unfortunate things that have happened in apartment buildings that don’t seem to happen as much in houses. You don’t want to be unfair, or teach children prejudice, but you don’t want them to be part of the unfortunate things that happen.
I worked in Wellesley for twenty years, and lived there for two years. I know many families there, and I believe Wellesley is filled with people who want the world to be more fair. There is no easy way to eliminate the dichotomy between those who can afford houses and those who can’t. I ask parents to be aware of the implications of that dichotomy for children. Two children meet in school, become friends, and soon discover that “you can come to my house, but my parents won’t let me go to yours.” It hurts the parents who wish they could afford houses. And it hurts the child who lives in an apartment.

Comments are closed.