The stresses of moving house with kids

Moving home with kids in tow proved stressful and, to be frank, emotional. But not at all in the ways Jonathan deBurca Butler expected. Here he shares some of that journey.

Jonathan deBurca Butler, his wife Ciara and their children — Luke (2) and Fionn (5).
Jonathan deBurca Butler, his wife Ciara and their children — Luke (2) and Fionn (5).

I was surprised at how calm I was. There I was standing in a small orange-lit estate agent’s office being handed the keys to my first house by a guy named Aaron, and it was, as Bjork might say, ‘Oh so quiet’. No cameramen, no brass band, no ghosts of descendants patting me on the back.

It only hit me when I walked out the agent’s door and a little bell went ding-a-ling. We had a house.

Six months earlier, we had gone sale agreed. I had done all the things you are told not to do. I made an offer on the spot and went in over the asking price. The only thing I didn’t give him was time. They had 48 hours to accept it or reject it.

“Would you not give me ’til after the weekend?”

“No,” I said.

Two mornings later I got a call.

“I’ve been instructed to do a deal if you go five higher.”

“I’ll call you back in 20 minutes,” I said.

And sure enough, 20 minutes later the deal was done.

Now a full six months after that fateful day and after a whole series of edge-of-your-seat, heart-breaking administrative rubbish, I had the keys.

The move was on.

We had three weeks to get out of our rented accommodation in Terenure and into our three-bed semi in Walkinstown and there was bucket loads to be done.

The back kitchen, what was a left of it, was separated from a breakfast room by a wall that simply had to come down.

An RSJ was going in and a new kitchen, which I’d asked a talented friend of mine to design, also needed to be installed.

The builders, MOM Services Limited, were top notch. In three days, they took down a wall, mounted the aforementioned RSJ, plastered the same, and levelled a floor. It cost a bit but the speed and quality of the finish was top class.

The kitchen was tight but we got there in the end and, with two days left before the big move, a cavalcade of delivery vans with dishwashers, washing machines, and everything but the kitchen sink (we were keeping the original) descended on our soon-to-be-humble abode. At 11, a six-foot bed and mattress arrived.

“We won’t be able to get that up the stairs,” said the delivery man — nice fella who had seen it all in his time.

“What are the options?” I asked.

“We can bend the mattress and see if it fits...”

“Great, let’s give it a tr...”

“....but one of the springs might go and then you’re [in trouble].”

“What are the odds?” I asked.

“One in ten a spring snaps,” he replied.

“I’ll take those odds,” I said.

“Sign here,” he said, handing me the docket where I had to write that I took full responsibility for anything that happened the bed.

We bent the mattress and, with one final labour-like heave, we pushed it through. Its safe delivery was greeted like the birth of a child. (Here’s a tip for you; get a big bed. It will change your life.)

The pressure was intense and at the back of it all anxieties were churning away in my mind. Will Ciara like it? What will the new school run be like? Are the neighbours ok (turns out they’re legends)?

Back in Terenure, we were getting the kids ready for the move. This was our biggest concern. How would they take it?

Fionn (4) had done moves before, three of them in fact. He would be fine. But Luke had lived in Terenure for all of his two-and-a-half years. We weren’t so sure about him.

We didn’t know, but we were determined that if any of the rooms were going to be right it would be theirs.

Fionn’s new room got a lick of paint from Daddy and was kitted out with as much Avengers clobber as possible — curtains, bed clothes and even the lamp shade were covered with Hulks and Iron Mans.

Luke’s room was bigger than his old one and was kitted out nicely by Ciara who had spotted a floor rug with roads and streets and buildings through which Luke could drive his beloved cars and trucks.

As we approached the house we were nervous. The boys, and especially Fionn, were excited, that was a big help.

“Ah mum, I love this,” screamed Fionn when he saw his new room. “Thank you so much.”

I had never heard such a heartfelt thanks from him. He really did mean it. As I walked through the front door carrying a painting, I spotted Ciara in the kitchen. She spotted me. We smiled. Fionn would be fine.

Luke on the other hand was quieter. As he played with his cars on his new rug he looked confused.

Later that night he looked at his mummy with those beautiful blue eyes of his and said: “Can we go home now?”

That evening, I went back to the house in Terenure to pick up the last few things. It was empty and lifeless. I was drained, completely exhausted. I looked around the house and then I spotted them hanging on the wall — three paintings that myself and Fionn had done together shortly after we had moved into Terenure.

I looked at them, took a deep breath and started to bawl my eyes out.

Memories flooded back. Three Christmases, the near birth of our second son on the living-room floor, the cosy fires, the running around, the nice things that had been said, the horrible things that had been said and the looks of love that children give you all came flooding back and then in one fell swoosh flooding out.

I returned to the new home expecting that first night to be stressful. All sorts of things were running through my head — the kids would be nervous, I would be anxious in a new house, they wouldn’t want to sleep on their own in a new house. As usual, none of the above happened. The kids hit the bed at their usual time after their usual bath and their usual bit of colouring. Myself and Ciara cooked our steak on our new induction hob, cracked open a bottle of red and watched Graham Norton. As I had done in the old place, I fell asleep on the couch and woke up at about 2am to find that Ciara had gone to bed.

I turned off the TV, got up from the couch and poked my head out through the living room curtains.

I marched up the creaky stairs and climbed into the new bed for the for the first time.

“Oh so quiet,” I said to myself. It stayed that way until Luke woke up at 7.30 the next morning.

Five tips that’ll help you move house painlessly

Involve your kids

  • Let them know what’s happening and get them excited about it. Their happiness in the first few days will go a long way when it comes to your own attitude towards the house.

Hire the professionals

  • On the morning of the move, we hired two lads from vanman.ie to help us with the move. It cost €90 per hour with a two hour minimum. Worth every penny.

Don’t be shy

  • On the day I came to view the house I met one of the neighbours. She gave me a history of the street. It was because of that chat that I made the bid straight away. Two days after the move she left two teddies and a plant in our porch. You know who you are, ye legend.

Do it immediately

  • If you need a boiler moved, a floor levelled or new plugs put in, do it. Do as much as you can before you get in. Even if it brings you a little over budget.

Live life now

  • Always dreamed of that superking size bed? That washing machine? That Triton power shower? Get them. If they’re too expensive now OK. But they will probably be the same years down the line except you won’t be as young as you used to be. Indulge if you can. As my father would say: “You’ll be dead long enough.”



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