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Everything I know about parenting I learned from DIY

When I started out in the building industry 30 years ago, I didn’t realise that my on-the-job experience was also preparing me for the greatest and most powerful role of my entire life: Parenting. Since my gorgeous twins Arabella and Bennet were born 15 months ago, I have discovered that being a dad and doing DIY home renovations really do teach you some similar life lessons. So if I have mastered one area, does that mean I can master the other? I’ll certainly give it a shot!

Here are six things I have learned so far…

1. When you think you know how to do something, you realise you have no idea.

While knocking together an entire new bathroom on the weekend may look like a breeze on the telly, it’s not. It can be overwhelming, and actually requires a lot of research and planning. It will always take more time than you anticipate, and require more manpower than you think. And sometimes you just need to bring in an expert for certain elements too.

My tip: Research, research, research! You can never do too much. When I’m starting a job, I sit down with the client and run through every tiny detail on what the family likes to do in their living space. This is my research and the only way to understand exactly what it is they need, and what will make them happy long term. So it’s important to thoroughly think all this stuff through.

Likewise, parenthood can be a bit daunting. When you first hold that little baby in your arms, it’s the most magical feeling in the world… and then it’s slightly terrifying. This child is relying on you for EVERYTHING. For LIFE! Where’s the manual? The thing I’ve learned is, almost everyone experiences these thoughts. Like DIY, research worked for me here too – Educating myself, talking to other parents, doctors, reading books, and there’s a wealth of information at your fingertips online.

However, in saying this about parenthood, it’s important to note that everyone is different and it definitely pays to go with your intuition and do it the way that feels right for you. (Besides, rules were meant to be broken, right?)

2. As much as you may try to slot them neatly into your existing life, you can’t. Hand over the reins, they now have control!

Goodbye to life as you know it! It can be tricky to balance DIY home renos with your existing work, personal and social commitments. The process can take over your life if not carefully managed. My suggestions are to be patient, to manage your expectations (it’s ALWAYS going to take longer than you anticipate and there WILL be delays), and to an extent, learn to go with the flow. It’s also very important to renovate your home to suit the structure – Work with it, don’t fight it.

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Before my beautiful babies came long, I used to say that having kids wouldn’t change my life at all; they would just join in with everything Leonie and I did. Ha! I should have known better. But although my life has changed dramatically, Arabella and Bennet’s happiness means the world to me and I would not change one iota of my ‘new’ life.

So from my experience, you will be handsomely rewarded in both parenthood and home renos if you learn to work with the change rather than resist. Try to renege control… just a little.

3. It doesn’t take much to send Daddy broke!

Kids grow out of clothes, and interior design goes out of style. But if you’re smart about your purchases, you can get some longevity out of both.

So, while buying that ridiculously cute size 000 faux fur vest seems like a great idea at the time, when the stitches are busting after two wears you realise that 50 bucks could have been better spent on a drawer full of slightly-oversized onesies to take you through to the second birthday.

I learned this in my career a long time ago: You need to make interior design decisions that are sustainable, and avoid passing trends. So unless you can afford to change it in six months’ time, walk on past that bucket of neon orange paint and find something a little more classic!

4. There’s nothing in this world that will make you prouder than seeing your hard work come into fruition.

Being literally responsible for your child’s existence: Nothing beats the way that feels. (Well, aside from planting an infectious smile on their little face, and then there’s that laughter…)

Parenthood is by far the most rewarding ‘job’ I have had in my entire life - my wife and I went through quite an experience to have our little ones, from IVF to surrogacy.

And although clearly not on the same level, I do get a sliver of the same feeling from a home renovations gig done well. This could be something that I’ve done myself, or taught others how to do. On The Living Room, we have a segment called ‘Take Home Baz’ which is an absolute cracker. We go into Bunnings and find someone who is buying the gear they think they need for something that they’re attempting to fix at home. We go home with them, then and there, and teach them how to correctly fix their problem.(Usually they then show me three other things around their house that they’re too scared to fix and we do those too.

I love working with these people – that brightness in their eyes when they realise that they THEMSELVES can solve problems and are in charge around their own home, whether it’s fixing a broken fly screen, installing a vertical Spring garden or building a stylish storage unit (usually to hide away all that Lego!)

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When you step into that room with its sparkly shine and fresh paint smell, you know your hard work has paid off.

5. Share your passion.

Interior design, home renos and DIY of any kind is what gets my heart pumping. And wanting to share this know-how with others is the natural next step for me. So naturally, I love nothing more than getting Bennet and Arabella into the workshop or out in the backyard with me fixing something.

BUT, there’s one little thing I recently learned about this that suddenly made spending time with my kids even more enjoyable.  It went against the way I usually operate and came as a bit of a shock to me;

Don’t set any goals, and don’t actually hope to achieve anything!

After a few frustrating attempts with Bennet “helping” as I restored an antique chair, I realised he just wanted to copy and hang out with me. So now we’ll get a spare piece of wood and just sit and sand it together or he’ll pass me a nail while I’m hammering into it, and he’ll be the first to try and help rake up the leaves in the garden.

So whatever you’re most passionate about, introduce it to your children. But by removing the expectation of actually doing a “real” job at the same time, you’ll keep it fun and exciting for both of you, which is what your passion should be.

6. The timing will never be absolutely perfect.

Here’s the truth for both DIY and parenthood: It will always be a little bit inconvenient, you may never have quite enough money, and it’s never going to be as easy as you think.

C’est la vie.

Parenthood and DIY home renovations are two of the most satisfying journeys a person could go through, so my advice is to just get out there and roll with the punches the best way you can. Without a doubt, they’ll both be worth it in the end.

Barry “Baz” Du Bois heads up the popular home renovations segment on Channel Ten’s Friday night staple, The Living Room, with Amanda Keller, Miguel Maestre and Dr Chris Brown. He is also father to 15 month old twins Arabella and Bennet.