People often ask us how on earth we do it all whilst looking after the children and to be honest with you, there is no magic answer. There is no wand that turns a dingy and dated hallway into a new fresh, practical and modern entrance unless you’re willing to put in the hard work (or hard-earned cash). Whilst we don’t have much of the latter, we have attempted (and completed) many DIY jobs around the house so here’s a few tips that we’ve learnt along the way.
- Tag Team Parenting is the way forward. Whilst you may think a job will take an hour, add toddlers into the mix and time is quadrupled. Imagine putting up a shelf bracket, measuring, levelling, your drill finally in the correct position, and then, ‘Oh Darcey, put the hammer down please, no, stop hitting the wall, please don’t give it to Betty either… just give it to Mummy, RIGHT, GIVE it to Mummy!’ Meanwhile, all the wild gesturing means the bracket is now resembling myself after half a glass of champers and you have to start again. It’s more efficient to have one parent entertaining the children (preferably out of the house because as soon as they see a drill they are like bees to a honey pot) and then one of you ticking jobs off the list. The tasks which require two people are perfect for smashing during nap times or in the evenings.
- Plan ahead so you can make the most of those precious child free hours. There is nothing more frustrating spending those three hours a week you get whilst your little one is at pre-school driving to your local DIY store to buy some more sandpaper and paint. If you do get a bit of child free time, be it due to naps, childcare or wonderful babysitters, make sure you’ve done the research on the tools you need and are ready to go as soon as they walk out the door.
- Include them as much as you can. If it is possible to include your children, then DO! Yes, the job will take longer, but allow that into your timetable and just rationalise the painstakingly slow progress by accepting that you’ve still achieved more than if you were playing hide and seek or dancing around your kitchen to the Lion King (save that for later!) Some of the jobs our toddler has LOVED doing with us are painting sample colours onto the garden fence, building flat pack furniture (she is great at holding all the screws and putting them into the correct holes), pushing the lawn mower when cutting the grass, watering the plants, digging holes for new flowers, washing the grout off tiles or taking them on a trip to IKEA.
- If you can, put up child gates to define ‘project’ areas and child-safe areas. Not only does this provide a safer environment for your children, it helps save you time as well. If you can cordon off the room your working on and label that a ‘grown ups only’ area then you can be slightly more relaxed about leaving tools in situ ready for the next time you happen to have a spare 30 minutes or so. Obviously this also depends on your child’s ability to climb over a child gate?!
- Be realistic when setting a time frame. However well you plan ahead, their will be interruptions to your workflow that mean you ‘get behind’. A teething baby that won’t settle? A child with nits that has to stay at home from pre-school? A string of sleepless nights that leaves the numbers on your tape measure merging into one, before you have to give in and head to the sofa for a well earned rest? So, make sure you include some contingency when planning and it will help you to stay more relaxed when days don’t go to schedule. Try and be gracious and kind towards yourself too, and if that means putting rest breaks into your itinerary, then go for it!
- Embrace the chaos and turn it into an adventure. No dining table? Have a picnic! No working bathroom for a couple of days? Get the old baby bath down from the loft or take them swimming! Paint fumes in the bedrooms? Have a film night and sleepover downstairs! Need to go to the DIY store again? See if theirs a pet store on the industrial estate (ie Pets At Home) and take a detour to see the fishes and bunnies! Boxes and packaging everywhere from the new kitchen? Get them creating a cardboard rocket!
- Granted, the novelty does wear thin pretty quickly. That’s when you send them to the Grandparents folks.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for favours. I get it, I hate asking people to do jobs for me too, but on the rare occasions we have asked friends, we have been blown away by their willingness to lend a hand. And what can you offer in return? For instance, when we tiled our fireplace in the bedroom, we knew we needed a wooden trim around the edge. We bought the trim, measured up and had a go with the only saw we had. What a mess! We had totally the wrong tools and no idea what we were doing so we contacted a good friend of ours who is a lawyer and does wood work in his spare time. The next day, him and his wife came round in the evening (they don’t have children), we cooked them a lovely meal and they used their far superior tools and expertise to complete the job properly. What skills do your friends have that can help you along the way? And what thing do you have in abundance that you can then offer in return?
The most important tip to remember is to not be intimated by the task ahead, go for it, be patient, and it’ll be worth it in the end. The achievement of completing even a small task like painting a new door, or putting up wall lights, is multiplied tenfold when you know the toddler created adversity you’ve faced whilst trying to get the job done!
We have many more jobs we need to do, so if you have some tips we haven’t tried yet, please write them in the comments, I’d love to hear them!
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