Like most parents of a young child in London, we’re in the process of moving house for the primary purpose of school. You know, getting into the catchment area of an Ofsted-rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ school. Our agenda these weekends is house-hopping (ah, gone are the days of pub-hopping), viewing house after house back-to-back talking the talk with agents and vendors.
And one day, while in the thick of it all, I had a lightbulb moment (well, I like to think of it as one) and realised that buying a house is very much like raising a kid. Sounds weird, I know, and so disconnected, but hear me out.
When you decide you’re going to buy a house, you paint an imaginary picture in your head of how that dream-house is going to look. An open-plan kitchen, a conservatory, a separate utility room for those horrid piles of laundry, a playroom so that the abundance of toys aren’t scattered around the house…
Just like when you find out you’re pregnant. The next nine months get you thinking and visualising how motherhood will be – it’s all rosy and picture perfect. Read this post for more on that subject.
Fast forward to the actual process of finding that dream home. After the first 10 viewings, you will come to realise that you will NEVER get EVERYTHING you wanted. If there’s a conservatory, there won’t be an open-plan kitchen. If the bedrooms are of a good size, the garden will be miniscule. It’s hard to make a choice, you’re so confused.
Just like when the baby pops out and the initial euphoria of motherhood (courtesy the hormones and oxytocin) dies down. When you’ve experienced sleepless nights, when breastfeeding bloody hurts, when you’ve changed 10 nappies already and it’s only midday, you realise motherhood is hard. Bloody hard.
Then there are the gazillion factors you have to keep in mind when searching for that perfect house. Proximity to a good school, not too far away from the station (husband needs to commute into the city) or the High Street (I need to pop into the shops), close enough to a park for those days when you just need to get out of the house and your little ones need to expend that energy, a community or recreation centre for future swimming/ tennis / etc etc classes. It has to of course be in a lovely and safe area. There must be a bus-stop within walking distance of the house incase I need to travel by bus. And then there are the features of the house itself – the open-plan kitchen, large garden, playroom blah blah blah.
BUT you will NEVER be able to tick all the boxes. Somewhere down the line, you MUST compromise.
Back to raising kids… there are the trazillion ‘rules’ you have to make to ensure you bring up normalish human beings. More veggies, less sweets. More outdoor play, less TV. More listening to mummy, less tantruming and saying ‘no’. And however hard you try, you will never succeed in all departments. If you’ve got a good eater, chances are he will torment you during bedtime (the Bedtime Blues, as I call it). On the other hand, if your child is a blink-and-he’s-off-to-lalaland kind of sleeper, bet he’s the fussiest eater on the planet. You will never find the perfect child (though every child is perfect in every mum’s eyes…).
Then, when you finally like a house that meets most of your needs, you start the long-drawn process of negotiating. You make an offer; it gets rejected. You make a higher offer; rejected again. You up your stakes; only to find out you now have competition, another potential buyer is added to the mix. Offer rejected; you dejected.
Now every mum knows the power of negotiation with a toddler. Finish your dinner, then you can have some pudding. If you eat your chicken, you’ll get a piece of chocolate. Want to see one more episode of Paw Patrol? Brush your teeth first…
Finally getting the house that you want is as blissful as winning the negotiation against your headstrong toddler.
Now, doesn’t the seemingly weird comparison of house hunting and raising kids seem plausible?
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