The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. – Maya Angelou
This week in Australia, the Federal treasurer pulled the mother of all Marie Antionette-isms by declaring that, in an economy and culture of escalating housing prices, to own your own home you should just get a better job that pays more money…(and cake, right? Let’s not forget to let them eat cake).
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m personally not a fan of this government to say the least. Still, this ridiculous statement almost floored me.
The Treasurer’s words incited anger amongst many because in this so called lucky country, our idealism is built on jobs for all and the great Aussie dream of home ownership. Somewhere to lay your roots (and I don’t mean a one night stand, people!). Somewhere you raise a family or have pets without fear of a landlord reprisal. A land of picket fences and BBQ snags on your backyard grill.
This particularly struck deep into my heart, as 4 years ago I lost my family home. It was traumatic. It wasn’t just a house for me. Not just bricks and mortar. It was a home where I was raising my three kids. It was filled with memories. I marked my children’s heights in the door frame of the pantry. There was plenty of room for kids, their entourage of friends, cats and a dog, as well as family gatherings. Our neighbours became close friends. My kids danced and played sport with other kids in our community.
Growing up with a lot of dysfunctionality, I yearned for stability in my life. I was determined to have stability for my children. The Producer’s parents have lived in the same house for 50 odd years, as did my ex’s parents. I think that’s beautiful. I really wanted that with all of my heart for my children. It wasn’t to be.
When my ex left me, I was shattered emotionally, and, as I was to find out, destroyed financially. I was to learn that were drowning in debt and his leaving coincided with realisation of the monumentality of that. With the space of two years, we lost both our fathers, the marriage ended, and I found out we were facing insurmountable debt.
I refused to go into bankruptcy. So I sold my business and paid back creditors. Something I’m still relieved about. We sold the family home which broke my heart, and shattered my children. I literally walked away without a cent. Years of hard work amounted to little more than a house of cards.
I genuinely believed my ex would come back so I took no cash (he took it all to pay debt…but it gave him cash in the bank while he negotiated repayments I’m sure) and I didn’t even touch his super. I was entitled to half. Behold the domestic abuse which doesn’t get much air play. Financial abuse. It’s no wonder I have issues around secrecy. It’s amazing to me sometimes I didn’t lose my mind in the chaos, or worse.
I found a job and moved into a rented house with the kids, paying my rent and bond on a credit card. I had been a working mother the entire time I’ve had children. I’ve always had a strong work ethic and here I was in my 40’s with no money and no assets. It was mind numbing and terrifying. It still is! Still, I’m proud and grateful for my survival instincts and that they kicked in.
In my life time I’ve own several houses. Well, to be fair, I’ve had several mortgages! I’ve never owned a house out right, though I imagine that would be an incredible feeling to own your home in entirety. For me, paying off my own place was wonderful. I was grateful every day for that beautiful space that represented a sense of security.
I built my first house at the tender age of 18 years. The Leo and I were two crazy kids who just didn’t know any better. So we saved our arses off and we built a house in the western suburbs. I was so damn proud of that house which I decorated in shades of pale grey and peach tones, complete with a monochrome bathroom. Ah, the 80’s! My own 11 square private Idaho. We threw great (boozy) parties and BBQ’s with our barely adult friends, I played house and he mowed lawns. Bliss. Until we grew up.
When my son was two I put him on my hip and moved to Melbourne’s bayside suburb, Port Melbourne. As a single mum I rented a lovely single fronted terrace. I was 24 years old. My son went to day care and I started to forge a career as a communications analyst.
When the Taurus and I got together it seemed a logical step to both of us to buy a house. We bought a run down period house in an emerging suburb and proceeded to refurbish and renovate. The original ceilings were caving in and the weather boards were rotting when we bought but all we could see was 1930’s charm…and a home. My daughter was born while we lived there.
We sold the little house several years later for profit and built a crazy big house in the suburbs (then it felt like a country town, now it’s urban sprawl). That house represented family and friends, laughter and tears and the birth of my third child. My children’s rooms were lovingly decorated for each personality. The house put her arms around me and for years I felt safe and warm, and home.
Losing my home is something I’ve not fully recovered from. I’m incredibly lucky in so many other ways and I have much to be grateful for, but it’s always been tough to not have a place to call my own. I can’t paint walls if I choose to, or even hang up pictures without permission. I can’t completely relax. When I get upset, I tend to clean house. Make beds, dust etc. As a kid I learnt early on that in the midst of chaos I could only create order in my own space. My home is my space. It’s all I can control.
In our current house, which is lovely and so close to the city, we can have our dog (though we had to pay a “pet bond” on top of bond and rent! ). It makes me angry that rental prices are comparable to actual mortgages. Welcome to life in Australian cities. How can you pay rent and save for a house? I’m grateful I have a job that pays enough for me to at least take care of the kids, pay rent and bills, pay off school fees and make payments on debts. I know many people are not so lucky.
Sometimes though I fear I will never own my own home again. My mangled credit rating will of course recover in time, but saving for a deposit on my income, as a sole parent with teenagers seems like an insurmountable feat, even for a crazy optimist like me!
What Mr. Hockey, the clueless treasurer doesn’t understand is that I have a good job, and I have a very strong work ethic. I get paid a decent wage by industry standards. I gave up a career in management and a tidy wage years ago so that my ex could build his career. At the time we felt we could juggle three kids and two demanding careers. He earnt more money so he got to keep his. Of course hindsight is 20/20 vision. Had I known then what I know now, I never would have chosen certain paths. I would have kept my career and I absolutely would have asserted equal control over finances. Ironically he is now an executive earning more than double what I earn a year. My brain hurts thinking about that.
I’m 45 years old. Where, I ask the treasurer, would he suggest I now get this elusive even “better” job so I can earn “more money”? Without a deposit and limited left over cash to save for one, it’s unlikely I’m a good candidate for a home loan.
I have other friends who live from pay to pay with limited savings, but thankfully they have their own homes. It gives them equity to borrow against if they ever need or want to. It gives them leverage because a home is an asset. It also gives them some security as they look towards retirement. Retirement scares the hell out of me. I have very little super and no home to sell if I need to.
I also have friends who have homes and holiday homes, or investment properties. This is where I thought I would be in my 40s too.
I generally try not to dwell on these things for too long for fear I will have a brain hemourage! I lost my home but not all of the beautiful memories. I have wonderful friends and amazing children and now, I’m sharing a gorgeous little house with my hot fiancé. Life’s not all bad!
To ease my children’s trauma of leaving the family home I reassured them that as a family, wherever we are – as long as we are together – that’s our home. That home really is where your heart is. I know deep down it’s all true. Part of me still grieves, not for the house and the money lost, but for the security those things brought to my family. As a parent I feel that burden even more so.
My heart has always been with my children, my dog and my man. We’re here together. Tonight the Producer and I shared dinner with Mr 14, and chatted at the table about our days. (Miss 17 is on year 11 camp). We laughed and chatted, eating slow cooked Italian chicken on a chilly winter night.
My heart was present and in the moment right here. I still yearn for security. It’s burns like a flickering ember in my gut. I visualise my dream home (which is not grand, nor elaborate). I work at remaining optimistic because I know only too well that life can turn on a dime, in both negative and positive ways. You can never say never. Stranger things have happened.
I’ve always been a home body at heart. I’m definitely a home maker. I take as much pride in my rented home as I did my own place. It’s about integrity and pride. Losing so much couldn’t take that from me.
I love where we are living now. I’m feeling a lot more inner city chick and loving our little village and community. It may not be mine, but for as long as I’m here, this at least feels like home.