There must be thousands (millions?) of people raising kids in apartments, but among my friends and acquaintances, we’re somewhat of an anomaly. I can think of exactly one other apartment-dwelling family-with-kids that we know in St. Louis. Other than that, it seems that by the time children enter the picture, there’s a house involved. While in many ways, I’m in no hurry to buy a house, raising a kid in a multi-family building presents some challenges, mainly involving noise.
We live in a two-family duplex/flat with wood floors. We intentionally chose a second-floor space, in part because it tends to be quieter on top, compared to living on lower levels with people walking around above you. That said, there is very little up-down sound insulation, and sounds carry both ways.
In the beginning, when Gabriel was younger, the challenge mainly came from noises below, and my concern that they would wake him. As he’s gotten older, the noise he makes being an energetic little person — walking, marching, running, jumping, dancing, knocking down blocks — has become an increasing issue. The sounds don’t bother me at all, and would be a complete non-issue in a house, but I totally get that, for our neighbor downstairs, they are loud, unpleasant, and annoying.
The question is what to do about it. We ARE actively looking to buy a house, but given our land and location requirements (and the fact that we’ve already been looking for years, since before G was born), it doesn’t seem that that will happen anytime soon.
We could look at rental houses, but I imagine that a rental house that is similar size and quality as our apartment would be out of our budget (and the cost and hassle of an extra move — oof!).
If the noise downstairs is really as bad as I imagine it to be, I’m somewhat surprised that our neighbor hasn’t moved, but that would not solve anything for us, because there would just be another tenant.
Measures to minimize noise
- Using area rugs might help somewhat, but they’re not going to cover everything, and I don’t want the hassle of keeping them clean (cleaning wood floors is soooo easy). So we probably won’t go this route.
- We’ve been trying to keep Gabriel out of the bedrooms (which are above our neighbor’s bedroom) in the morning, especially on weekends.
- Now that it’s cooler, we’re encouraging Gabriel to wear his slippers, which might offer some sound dampening.
Kids will be kids?
While we discourage blatantly loud, unnecessary activities, like repeatedly banging his wooden blocks on the floor or shouting inside the house, we’re not willing to suppress or discourage the normal sounds that come with being an exuberant, happy, active child.
Focusing overly on the noise, e.g., asking Gabriel to walk quietly, is stressful for us, and it often seems to produce the opposite behavior. We try to explain that we’re doing this “to be respectful of our neighbor,” but at three, he just doesn’t quite get it.
Overall, our neighbor has been patient and understanding (and we try to respond in kind to sounds that travel up to us). We’ve talked with her about the accommodations we’re trying to make. Still, the ongoing worry about the noise we’re generating makes me feel stressed and “yuck.” The fact that our neighbor is being bothered by sounds that we can’t totally eliminate also creates a dynamic where it’s very hard for us to bring up reverse concerns.
Having a little person means that we are not ideal neighbors. I wish I could magically create a sound barrier between the first and second floor units, but short of that, I guess I’ll just have to make my peace, as best as I can, with the situation.
I’d love to hear from others who have been in similar situations, whether you were the one with kids or the one living with sounds from other kids in the building.