Renovating: The many ways it is just like having a baby

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK 

I don't know what it's like for other people, but for me, first-time renovating was like giving birth. I've done both and the similarities are uncanny, especially when doing it on a tight budget.

Daunting, draining and nothing like I imagined. Halfway through, you wonder what on earth you were thinking, but you just have to push through. And, when it's all over, you wouldn't have it any other way.

The trouble is you really don't know what lies ahead. During that initial period of newborn chaos, I found myself constantly saying, "Why didn't anyone ever tell me that?" During our renovation, a few years later, I was saying the same thing.

Like having babies, people forget the bad bits. They're so relieved to be on the other side – and enjoying their new second storey – that the stress of the previous 10 months simply disappears.

But like starting a family, renovating seems like the next step to making your life complete. Or, rather making more necessary space. You excitedly plan ahead but, like having a baby, there's no book or class that can really prepare you.

I was quite shocked when my first baby didn't sleep during the day like the baby books said she would. And, even more shocked to discover that controlled crying didn't actually work. The feeling was similar when we started renovating, only to discover that all the electrics needed redoing, the entire roof needed retiling and the foundations of the house lay on some sort of riverbank. Why didn't anyone ever tell me that?

Then there's the unexpected blowout of the budget. Renovating costs more than you think, and it's easy to get carried away. Much like the baby wipe warmer that seemed so innovative and necessary, I had to have those hugely expensive Spanish hand-cut tiles for my kitchen splashback. Now, of course, the baby wipe warmer sits unused in the attic and the splashback blends uneventfully with the off-white walls.

The arrival of a baby also brings constant choices and decisions to make. And, family and friends, even absolute strangers, feel comfortable to share their opinions. Helpful comments like "My baby slept through the night at four months" or "You should probably get rid of the dummy" didn't offer much comfort. Similar advice on colour schemes, necessity of induction cooktops and how overhead cabinetry closes in your kitchen did not help in the slightest.

Certainly, both experiences were times of sleep-deprived and heightened emotions, challenging for even the strongest of relationships. Much like my tearful realisation that I was clearly "the worst mother in the world", my indecision over where to place the power points took on an intensity of its own – hard to navigate, even for my ever-patient husband.

I was always determined to be some sort of super mum, but quickly realised trying to "do it all" with a screaming baby, messy house and endless washing was impossible. I approached our renovation with a similar heroic determination only to find that time was not on my side. So, when I announced that we would paint all the internal walls ourselves, my husband quietly suggested that with two children, aged two and five years, professional painters might make life easier. Even I had to agree, it was the best money we ever spent.

It's been a few years since our renovation, and the memory is slightly fuzzy, which is probably why I feel ready to "go again". No doubt, like that moment of going into labour, it will all come back in a flash. But, like that second birth, I'll have to keep on going until I'm out the other side. And, with any luck, much like the sight of our second baby, our newly renovated house will make my heart sing.

- Stuff