Where am I right now? At my desk, writing the three homes features I have outstanding? Meticulously leafing through my collection of interiors magazines to find ideas to use in the new space downstairs? Painting the acres of new plaster and old magnolia walls that need their first coat of white paint urgently? Manically shoving loads of washing into the old washing machine in case it gets disconnected tomorrow morning?
Or am I hiding in my bedroom? Under the duvet no less, too terrified of the state of my ground floor to brave a trip down the stairs?
Lots of people have been asking me how I’m managing with the building work going on. And the honest answer is that most of the time it really hasn’t felt that bad. Yes, there’s upheaval. Yes, I’m not sure where anything is. But it’s only a month. And at least I have upstairs to retreat to.
Of course there have been moments when I just want to hide and it all to go away (yes, tonight I am hiding under the duvet). But there’s this sense of excitement that keeps my spirits up. We have never, ever, had someone in to do a whole project for us before. Our last house was a hardcore renovation, but we tackled pretty much everything, including structural work ourselves. Now we have the twins we’ve had to be more realistic. A project of this scale would take us months on our own (years?). Just updating the ensuite is already running into its sixth month.
Handing over control to someone else might have been tough for Ben, but I’ve loved it. Our builders, Stan and Alan, have gone out of their way to make things as easy for us as possible. With young kids of their own, they have made sure to keep disruption to a minimum. They whisper (WHISPER!) when the twins are napping. They clear up after themselves. Every day. The twins love them.
Some tips for surviving building work with toddlers:
- Find builders who will make allowances for toddlers. If you need them to do some quieter work while the kids nap, ask them. Make it clear the space is going to be used by toddlers, so it needs to be left in a safe state at the end of the day. Communicate with the builders every day – let them know when you’re going to be in or out so that they can plan accordingly.
- Make it interesting for the toddler/s. We chat to the twins constantly about what’s happening. We let them go and see what’s going on. They “help” by passing (non-dangerous!) tools etc. They sense our excitement and it’s infectious.
- As far as possible, try to minimise upheaval. We have tried to keep to our usual routine as much as we can. Many toddlers aren’t great with change, so we’ve made a huge effort to keep some things constant for our twins. We eat meals at the same dining table (its position in the house varies), the naptime/bedtime routine has remained unaffected,
- Create a safe play space with favourite toys. We’ve dismantled the bed in our spare room and turned it into a makeshift playroom for the duration of the work.
- Make sure there is a functioning TV at all times! An episode of a toddler’s favourite programme can be a complete lifesaver when the builders need you to come and make an important decision. Try deciding which circuits you want five different sets of lights on when you have two two-year-olds clinging to your legs.
- Prepare batches of favourite foods in advance of the work starting and freeze them.
- Allow some cash in your budget for unexpected expenses – day trips out, lastminute takeaways, overnight B&B stay (an extreme measure!), extra sessions at nursery/childminder, launderette trips.