Thoughts on Home: Laurie Whelden

Author | Laurie Whelden

Hello there! My name is Laurie, and I’ll be a guest contributor to this blog. I live in Harrisonburg - my hometown is just 90 minutes away in Haymarket, Virginia. My entire childhood was spent in the same house until I left for college. Since then I’ve made my home in one dorm room, three apartments, and six houses. Whew!

My husband, Tim, and I are currently looking to buy our first home. While touring some not-so-nice options, I’ve found myself comforted by the fact that as long as Tim and our son, Peter, are with me, any house will feel like home. Cheesy, I know. But it’s wonderful to know that our happiness is not dependent on affordability or number of bathrooms or school districts. It’s all about a place where we can grow and laugh and rest together.

When my parents divorced when I was eight years old, my dad moved about thirty minutes away. My three older siblings and I would visit him every Saturday night to watch movies and Saturday Night Live (if I could manage to stay awake). I continued to live with my mom full-time in our family house, which my parents built together on two acres of land before I was born. For me, the divorce was not particularly difficult - until a few years later.

Unbeknownst to me, my parents had made an arrangement. The summer before I started high school, my mom would move out of our house and my dad would move back in and become my primary caregiver. While I loved my dad, I was not nearly as close with him as I was with my mom, and I struggled with the idea of my mom being out of our house. Luckily, she moved just ten minutes away and I was able to stay with her was much as I wanted. Still, the bubble of my home felt broken. With my mom out of my house, it just didn’t quite feel like “home” anymore.

Of course, during the four years of high school, my dad and I grew closer. While I struggled at first, I think our relationship is stronger now than it would have been because we had that time together. When he finally drove away after moving me into my college dorm - that’s the first time I literally felt like my heart was breaking. My home was scattered.

My husband and I fell in love as next door neighbors. We were 23 at the time, and spent evenings in each other’s living rooms and kitchens. When we first moved in together as grad students in a tiny Baltimore rowhouse apartment, it was like paradise. We didn’t care that the bedroom was right off the kitchen - and didn’t have a door. Just the fact that we were together made our shabby little place feel like home.

When I got pregnant, we decided to move from Baltimore, where we had been working since graduating with our master’s degrees, back to Harrisonburg. At the time, our families were spread all over the place, and we knew we’d want support. Back in Harrisonburg we had a strong and helpful group of friends we were still very close with - including Morgan, my roommate of five years and the woman behind Humble Home. Coming back to Harrisonburg felt like coming home.

Now I see home when I see my son. And it’s comforting to know that he feels safe and loved whenever he is with me or his dad - no matter where we are.

I know Sartre famously once wrote, “Hell is other people.” While I might have loved this idea as an angsty teenager, obviously now I disagree. Of course, I love a few hours to myself (especially since becoming a mom!) - but for me the opposite is true. Home is other people. I want to create a space where my family can flourish, but our home is our family itself.

Laurie Whelden currently works as a full-time parent in her home. She has a master’s degree in Social Work and previously worked as a hospice and geriatric social worker. She enjoys hiking, reading, movie nights, thrifting, and being with her friends. Her blogging interests include relationships, budgeting, non-toxic options for the home, zero-waste practices, social justice, and all things pregnancy and parenthood. She lives in Harrisonburg, VA with her husband, Tim, and her one year old son, Peter. Her pronouns are she/her/hers.