Veterans of <i>The Block's</i> first series, Amity Dry and her husband, Phil Rankine, return to the construction site for <i>The Block All Stars</i>, which premieres on Monday.

Veterans of The Block's first series, Amity Dry and her husband, Phil, have returned to the construction site for The Block All Stars.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: The Block All Stars was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, mentally, physically and emotionally. It pushed me to my limits, frustrated me, challenged me and exhausted me.

But it was still easier than motherhood.

That was the realisation I came to just three days after returning home from the epic renovation process, when I was thrust back into the small but relentless production that is day-to-day family life. As I fell back into the routine of grocery shopping, clothes washing, toddler tantrums, dinner, bath and bedtime, it dawned on me that there’s nothing more all-consuming and relentless as raising kids. Not even The Block. There’s nothing that tests your marriage or your sanity as much, nothing as completely wearying yet ultimately rewarding, as parenthood.

Here are just a few reasons why:

1. Painting is boring, yet quite relaxing
Almost every night on The Block was spent with a paintbrush in hand, a tedious and messy job we toiled through for hours on end. Yet compared to the nightly struggle of dinner, bath, homework and the never-ending battle to get my kids to sleep, it was actually quite relaxing. No one needed anything from me, no one whined at me (well, Phil did whine a bit) and no one interrupted what I was doing. I put the radio on, got into a rhythm, and in a strange way enjoyed the calm of it all.

2. No nighttime waking
Granted, there wasn’t a lot of sleep doing The Block All Stars. In fact, some nights before room reveal we would get less than an hour of sleep (probably a good reason why couples end up losing their minds at each other). But I may have been the only person there who found most nights easier than my normal life, for one simple reason: once I lay my weary body down and went to sleep, I STAYED THERE! There was no getting up to replace dummies, pat backs or get drinks of water. No little person finding their way into my bed in the middle of the night, and no toddler kicking me in the stomach (because they always sleep horizontally). No, once I was finally asleep I slept like I was in a coma. And it was AWESOME.

3. Focusing on only one thing
Yes, the project management of a house rebuild takes a huge amount of thought and effort, and I had to juggle a lot of issues. But I never had to interrupt that train of thought with any of the following: school pick-up, buying milk, changing a nappy, making someone lunch, getting someone to bed, and so on. I’d forgotten what it was like to focus on only one thing at a time for a whole day at a time, because until then I hadn’t done so for six years.

4. Time as a couple
Until we did The Block All Stars my husband and I had only enjoyed two nights alone together in six years. In a way, this was somewhat of a romantic holiday … well, without any romance whatsoever. But it was kind of nice to have time together again, to finish a sentence or have a conversation that doesn’t involve a negotiation (read: argument) about who’s going to pick the kids up, make dinner, do the dishes, get up in the night, be the designated driver, put the washing out, etc. Family life is full of endless tasks that on their own are small, but combined together are exhausting in their tedium. So even when we were shoveling bricks and sanding walls, just to escape the monotony of domestic chores felt like a holiday.

5. Recognition of effort
The best part of each week on The Block was the feeling we’d get when a room was done and the judges would give us feedback – particularly when it was good. This reward for effort is something that’s severely lacking in parenthood. It’s just one long effort, in which you’re trying your absolute hardest to do a good job, with the hope that when your kids are adults they’ll turn out okay and maybe even thank you one day. Basically we’re looking at 25 years between reveals. There’s no congratulations and pats on the back for a successful week, and certainly no cash bonus when you’ve done a particularly good job. I feel this should be rectified immediately and am considering which parenting experts to appoint on my judging panel.

So parents out there, remember this: we are truly doing the hardest job in the world, the one that has no reward but the smiles on our precious children’s faces, and the knowledge that their happiness is the greatest reward there is. But let’s admit, it’s bloody hard work. 

And to those of you who are raising a family while living through a house renovation at the same time - take a bow. You are the all stars!

Catch Amity on The Block All Stars, 7pm weeknights on Channel 9. 

Amity is touring her new musical comedy 'Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life' in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney this April/May. Book now at MotherWifeMusical.com.