How To Survive a Reno With Kids

According to the CMHC, approximately 40% of Canadian households were on track to begin a home renovation in 2010. And according to Statistics Canada, approximately 40% of first marriages were on track to end in divorce in 2010. Coincidence? Oh, sure, perhaps, but you’re probably only thinking that positively because you haven’t embarked on a major home renovation with your first husband.

We are currently sitting at what is hopefully the last few days of a nine-week basement renovation, and while my husband and I have actually been pretty okay to each other throughout the process, I can see how things could go off the rails. And we’re not even the ones doing the work. But we are the ones living upstairs, where a fine layer of drywall and saw dust have permeated every nook, cranny and surface of my house for two months, and where, among the warehoused contents of our now-empty basement, we must do our best to keep life as normal as possible for our two small girls. Even if normal sometimes means pretending that I don’t want to throttle their father for once again changing the location of where his home office will reside, or eating a take-out picnic on the floor because the power was shut off for most of the day and the table is littered with tile samples.

It’s tough, too, to have people in your space constantly, knowing that a) they can hear everything you are saying through the vents (Oh, and hey! Conversely, construction workers, keep in mind that I can hear everything that you say, whether you are belting out an out-of-tune version of Dr. Feelgood, or calling the colour of my grout Diarrhea!), b) they can come upstairs without any warning, and c) they will only come upstairs without any warning when you aren’t dressed yet and the bathroom desperately needs to be cleaned.

But I think that the most important thing is to do your research and know what you’re getting into. Understand explicitly how much money this will take, and then add 25%. If you don’t have the cash, don’t do it. Because nothing causes marital stress more than money stress, and even if it means that this year you won’t be one of the 40% of Canadians renovating, at least you have a better chance of not being one of the 40% that will divorce.

A few tips:

You have to adjust the way you are living while the renovation is happening. If you are still in the house or if you have moved out, your routine and standards will have to change whether you like it or not. It’s not entirely fair to enforce a clean, well-kempt room on your kids when it is jammed full of stuff from the now unusable part of the house, and I guarantee you will be eating more meals out than you expected.

That said, do try to keep things as familiar and ‘normal’ as possible. Try to eat dinner at the same time you would pre- or post-renovation. Try to maintain the same homework and bedtime routines. Kids adapt well, but life changes daily while you are renovating. Try to keep the important things the same.

Renovations are exhausting, even when you are not doing the work. Trying to stay one step ahead of the dust that will permeate every corner of your space No! Matter! What! is tiring. Sometimes just looking at all the boxes and stuff from the renovated rooms shoved into every free space you have left, can make you feel fatigued. Having people in and out of your space constantly means you probably don’t feel very relaxed. Go to bed a little earlier. You’ll thank me.

If the renovation is stressing you out, or causing some marital stress, keep it away from the kids. It wasn’t their choice to start the renovation, and their lives are being turned upside down as well. But everybody needs to keep in mind that it’s temporary.

Remember that this is not a hardship. Keep an open mind, a sense of humour, and don’t complain to anybody but your husband and closest friends. Nobody wants to hear about how tough you have it while you are spending a ton of money to have your house all gussied up.

Karen Green recently traded life in the biggest city in Canada for life in the biggest cornfield in Canada. Freed from her full-time job as a writer and editor, Karen now spends her time…writing and editing. And frolicking in the leaves with her two small girls. Karen is a speaker, the founder of Mom The Vote and the author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, where she has been writing about the humorous and poignant moments of family life since 2005. She is thrilled to be a part of 

4 responses to “How To Survive a Reno With Kids”

  1. Stephanie Potter says:

    You make an excellent point about isolating the kids when possible from the drama. While they are likely going to be the benefactors of the renos in one way or another, they really had no say and probably didn’t care what the basement looked like before. Glad you’re nearing the end!

  2. Karen says:

    The kids will love it and so will the parents. It’s way less stressful to have others doing the work, but either way, there will be arguments. Best not to make the kids victims of our indecision and/or indulgence.

  3. Oh man. We are launching into a massive reno that’s scheduled to start in the early Spring. On one hand I’m thrilled that it’s finally happening, on the other hand I am sick with dread for all the reasons you mentioned. Will I be able to hold it together? Will I fall apart? I wish I had a crystal ball.

  4. Oh, you will probably fall apart a couple of times, but I’m guessing that you have a plan (and a contingency plan) in place to keep things running smoothly. Unexpected things are bound to happen, whether an out-of-stock item pushes the timeline by a few days, or changes, fixes and upgrades push the budget by a few zeroes. Keep on top of things, but don’t micromanage the people working, and don’t be the ones to hold anything up! Also, a box of Tim Hortons donuts goes a long way on the site.