On Zillow, Motherhood, and the Problem of Discontentment

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Hello, my name is Mallory, and I have a Zillow problem. Do you know Zillow, the extremely popular real estate website and app where you can see all of the homes for sale in your neighborhood (or any neighborhood anywhere)? We’re besties. I cannot overstate how much I love home décor, home improvement, home design stores, and all the things home. I love fixing up my home to make it feel, well, homey, and I especially love a challenge to take something ugly and make it beautiful on a budget.

Zillow, I love thee

Enter Zillow. I could literally spend hours combing through home listings. Apparently I am not the only one, as 160 million users log in to the site each month, and 50 percent of those are planning to buy or sell a home. That means 50 percent are just browsing like me! I like to look at the really pretty houses but would never want to buy one of those, even if money were no object. Because, obviously, it’s way more fun to take one of the scary ones and rip out walls and install flooring and paint and build a big beautiful kitchen island where my children will do homework and we will bond over our mutual love of our homey home.

Look at that island!

This all might make you think I hate my current house, but actually I don’t. In fact, it’s great for our family and is in a neighborhood we love. But my husband and I both work in a community not far away. He’s a public school teacher there, and we have a desire to pour forth our lives into one community and to really be invested there. As you can guess, I have used this as an excuse to harbor this Zillow obsession. Last year it got really bad, and I knew I was not using my time wisely. I uninstalled the app on my phone and was quite proud of myself for being so reflective and self-aware. But did you know that you can get out a regular computer and look up websites? Like without a smartphone app? I know. Old school. But I did it do it. Almost every day.

Discontentment

Finally, it hit me. I don’t have a Zillow problem, I have a contentment problem (not sure why that epiphany took me so long). There’s nothing inherently wrong with Zillow, or any similar site or tool. It’s probably quite handy for people who actually need to buy a house. But when some source breeds discontentment with my own circumstances, something has to change. Contentment, or satisfaction, doesn’t mean that we have to be absolutely happy with everything single thing in our lives. I have a really, really great life. I am incredibly fortunate in so many ways. But this isn’t a post about being #blessed (though I am) and how I should be thankful (though of course I should be). This post is about how a silly website illuminated some not-so-pretty discontentment in my heart.

I want more than I have. I want better behaved kids, more romance in my marriage, a dog who doesn’t bark at the mailman, and dishes that wash themselves. And of course the house, found on Zillow. For me, right now, the (primary) source of discontentment is Zillow and dreaming of a home that is somewhere else and has fresh problems for me to fix and walls to paint. Tomorrow it may be something else. For you, it may be something else (and it’s probably cooler than Zillow). From my conversations with friends and fellow moms, I don’t think I’m the only one struggling with discontentment. It seems to be a universal problem and one that motherhood often brings to the forefront of our lives.

My dream fixer upper with a big front porch

Discontentment and motherhood

Something good (like Zillow!) can sometimes reveal something not-so-good in our hearts. So let me draw the connection for you: motherhood (something good) also highlights my discontent heart. Obviously, motherhood has brought tremendous joy and blessings, but it has also served as a tool to highlight my own inadequacies and selfishness. Having a child (and now having three) showed me that I value my own sleep, my own comfort, my privacy, and my “me time” more highly than I thought. I thought of myself as a giving person, as willing to sacrifice for others. It took about three days of being a mother to realize I was none of those things and that I had a lot to learn about laying down my life for another (I’m still working on it).

I can uninstall the Zillow app on my phone, but I won’t be getting rid of my children. It’s my heart that needs to change. There is no magic formula (at least as far as I am aware) to suddenly become at peace with my circumstances and be completely content. It’s a moment-by-moment struggle to choose contentment. So in this moment, I’m grateful for my house that needs to be cleaned and for the handprint-smudged refrigerator that we just replaced because it went out at a very inconvenient (and expensive) time in our life. I choose to be grateful for the kids that I get to pour my life into, even when it feels like they are sucking me dry. When my kids cry because it’s school time and they just want to stay home and play, I will rejoice that they think their home is the best place to be, and maybe I’ll stay away from Zillow that day.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for this. It is so true. I struggle as well, but a bit different perspective. We are a Navy family. Which means I need to hurry and make my house a home. Dig in and go deep quickly, and then start releasing those roots a couple years later and hop back on Zillow to find the next place. That makes the year leading up to a move a time of discontentment as I am sad over what I am leaving and looking forward to what we can change, upgrade, etc.

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