There are a few stages in life that are stressful enough on their own without the addition of other stressors thrown into the mix. One of these is renovating. Another is having a newborn.
Combine them together and, as I have learned, you have a recipe for a small mental breakdown, or at least lots of screaming fits for your neighbours to enjoy (one or the other, or both; choice is yours. I opted for both).
Renovating with a new baby definitely makes for one very crazy-eyed, sleep-deprived first-time mum. Yes, I know there are people out there who can renovate an entire house with a baby under one arm and come out the other side with a Pinterest-worthy home looking Bec Judd-calm without a hair out of place. (Meanwhile, with the combination of post-pregnancy hormones and post-traumatic stress, almost all my hair is out of place… on the floor. My hair is falling out by the handful and our ensuite looks like a yeti died in there. I appear to be balding, my friends. BALDING).
Remember me earlier in the year, five months pregnant and announcing that even though we had just started renovating our kitchen that we would DEFINITELY be finished by the time the baby arrived? Well, despite our best intentions this did not happen (although we did have a functional kitchen, with a sink and a benchtop and an oven, and I was honestly fine with that). We also got all the windows and doors replaced which took about five weekends. Then we moved out for a week to have the house painted. I am definitely not one of those happy, super-organised renovating mums who look they should be on the cover of a New Idea. But I definitely learned A LOT! So today I’m sharing my survival tips on renovating with a baby.
MAKE A NICE, PRIVATE, RENO-FREE PLACE TO FEED THE BABY
When I was a heavily pregnant whale, everyone kept asking me how the baby’s nursery was coming along. I would pull out my phone and proudly show them a picture of our dark, depressing cell-like spare bedroom with nothing in it but a chair and a cot. (“Look! It’s clean.”) I did not have the energy to care about making a nice, styled nursery. All I wanted was all my freelance work wrapped up before the baby was born so I didn’t have to worry about deadlines in hospital and a kitchen so I could stop being hangry all the time.
Teeny-tiny newborn babies can usually nurse (and sleep) anywhere, anytime, no matter what’s going on around them. (“Awesome!” I thought in the beginning, because we could finish that season of Orange is the New Black we were watching when I went into labour). But that quickly changed. Little Nerd became a very easily distracted boob-feeder very early on. I now know it would have been partly because he had a tongue-tie and upper lip-tie that made latching difficult, but he also liked to boob feed only when there was absolutely NOTHING interesting-looking or interesting-sounding around him, no tradies, visitors etc to distract him. He loved his bottle, because he could sit up and drink while watching interesting visitors. Nurses would say kindly, “He’s a very alert little baby, isn’t he?” which later I would understand REALLY meant, “Your ADHD son has the attention span of a gnat.”
So my creepy little nursery? A godsend. I’m not saying you need to make a cell of your own. But if you don’t have time to create a nice nursery in your house, just make sure you have a nice, private, quiet place where you can feed the baby, put him down for his nap and express if you need to.
KEEP POSITIVE AND DON’T MURDER YOUR HUSBAND
When you are sleep-deprived and snarly, this might seem like the most effective solution. But this is only a short-term fix. (Who are you going to take your rage out on when the contractor you waited for never shows up? Obviously not the contractor). Go into renovating with a baby knowing that there ARE going to be shitty moments (literally). But keep reminding yourself of the rewards: a lovelier home that’s easier to manage/keep tidy in the long run, and possibly a cruisy adaptable little baby.
LET IT GO
As a freelance journalist I have so many deadlines on a weekly basis that one of the biggest lessons I have learned is not to create any more unnecessarily. It only adds to your stress. When you are renovating with a baby, re-examine your own deadlines to figure out what is REALLY important. As I learned, it was not really important to have the kitchen splashback tiling done by the time the baby was here so that was one task we could delay. Letting go of self-imposed deadlines (“this must be done by Easter!” etc) is one way to cut stress.
TIME IS PRECIOUS - GET GROCERIES DELIVERED
Renovating with a newborn, you are going to have such a tiny amount of spare time (if any) that you are not going to want to spend it running to the store. Go online to organise staples like milk, toilet paper, nappies, bread, baby wipes, coffee, chocolate biscuits (for buttering up tradies) delivered once a week.
GET TAKEAWAY AND MENULOG
Even with groceries delivered there are definitely going to be many times when you just can’t be bothered cooking. The local fish ‘n’ chips shop, friends and family who brought home-cooked meals and Menulog save us on many an occasion. Menulog is awesome. It is my go-to for those nights when I am grumpy, tired and feel like minimal human interaction.
I didn’t even know that one of my favourite takeaway places (Lumbini Nepalese Restaurant. Hands down best Nepalese food in Perth) offered home delivery until I got Menulog. Now we always use Menulog to order from them - and from Brandi Pizza (lovely pasta). With Menulog you can get discounts and special offers that you wouldn’t get otherwise, and you can use the app or order through the website.
With a little baby, I mostly like that you can order through your phone (I do it while I’m feeding Little Nerd before bed), pay with PayPal and (because I am a baby sleep Nazi) I also like that you get a text with the estimated delivery time, which is great when you’re timing when to put the baby down without him getting woken up. (It made me laugh to get a text message saying my Lumbini order would arrive at 7.24pm, but I am not kidding when they actually knocked on the door at 7.24pm!)
I like Menulog so much I have teamed up with them to offer a giveaway at the end of this post. FREE FOOD people.
You are never going to feel as popular as you do right after you have a baby – or as tired. I found that any more than one lot of visitors in a day (especially when we had tradies over) and I felt overwhelmed and stressed out. It didn’t help that on top of feeding Little Nerd, I also had to express five to six times a day in the beginning. Each time took around 30 to 40 minutes and if I didn’t do it I was in the worst pain so sometimes I would sit there fidgeting, willing guests or tradies to leave! Except in the case of my closest family and friends, I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by asking that they leave. If you feel embarrassed or rude asking lingering visitors to leave, pre-empt it with a text message before they arrive. Say, “I would love to see you. But just warning you, I have to express every three hours. So if you’re coming at 1 could you leave by 3pm?” Spell it out, be clear. Or say, “I’d love you to come over! But I’m just warning you I will have to take a little nap in the arvo, I feel like a zombie.” I also made sure I kept some visitor-and-tradie-free days to just unwind on our own. They were wonderful days!
GET A CLEANER
I grew up thinking cleaners were only for really rich people – that is wrong. Hiring a cleaner will save your sanity, your energy and seriously be some of the best money you ever spent. I would recommend you do this post-newborn even if you are not renovating. Cook & Clean WA is an awesome service that offers cleaning options with a healthy, fresh home cooked meal and the girls are lovely.
I used to be a big DIY advocate… until I had a baby. Now I think hiring the pros whenever you can is totally worth it – saving time, mess and my sanity.
NEVER TURN DOWN FREE FOOD
In the first few weeks after having Little Nerd, our fridge was so full of food from friends and family we actually had to say no to offers of homecooked goodness. MISTAKE. We should have bought a second freezer off Gumtree just to hoard all those meals. Because the offers of free food are going to expire long before your renovation nears its completion.
MAKE HOME COOKING EASIER
Renovating your kitchen like we did? Dust off your slow cooker and pull out your barbecue. Did you know you can salt and pepper corn, smother it in butter and aluminium foil and cook it on the barbecue? Did you know I am 30 years old and I only just recently learned you can barbecue corn?
HIRE A BATHROOM
Renovating your bathroom doesn’t have to mean cleaning yourself with wet wipes for a month or constantly going to your parents’ house to shower. There are services that offer not just portaloo hire but fully portable bathrooms, such as Ensuites to Go W.A.
KEEP UP WITH YOUR DIARY!
In the days (ok, weeks) following Little Nerd’s birth I could barely string together a coherent text message. But I learned the hard way that you need to keep up with your diary. Jot everything down, because baby brain will get you and you will forget that you asked your aunty over to see the baby on Sunday or that the painter is giving a quote on Tuesday morning. I double-booked myself numerous times.
DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
It’s the title of one of my favourite books (if you’re a stresspot like me, you need this book!) but it’s also a very good daily reminder. Every so often, ignore the mess, the things that aren’t finished. Go out for breakfast or a coffee, or spend a night on the couch with a good movie what is most important – your partner and your gorgeous little baby. All that tiresome, unfinished renovation stuff will seem far less important and much less stressful. Maya x
WIN WITH MENULOG!
Thanks to the lovely people at Menulog, we have two $50 Menulog vouchers to give away to our Australian readers!
To enter, all you have to do is leave your full name with your email address (not published) and a comment telling me your favourite kind of takeaway, and your favourite restaurant to get takeaway from.
I just know my sister is going to shout, “MCDONALD’S” but please, let’s use this as a nice opportunity to get some decent recommendations. Entries close midnight, December 10th, 2015.