It’s been a month since we moved into our new home, almost a year after we purchased it. It feels like a completely different place from the one we saw in early 2018, the work has been long, hard and expensive, however it’s been worth every bit of the discomfort and hardship just to have a place to call our own: a place to call home.
For the first time ever since getting married I’m sitting in my own living room, listening to the radio and working on my laptop. I’m not with the kids, I don’t have to think about inconveniencing the other people in the house and I don’t have to think about what I’m listening to or where and how I sit! These are the little things that you take for granted when you have your own place.
I knew before getting married that I wanted / needed my own place. It was almost a deal breaking moment between us when Jay told me that he wanted me to live with his family. I didn’t know his family so it wasn’t anything personal, I just knew I needed my own space and instinctively I knew we’d need our space as a couple. Whilst we both come from a South Asian background our upbringings have been very different. My family is very religious but not especially cultural, so while I was bought up to be a good Muslim, other gender roles and expectations didn’t really apply. My parents were both strict but also very adapting to situations, which as immigrant parents of 3 girls and 2 boys was no easy task. They wanted us to be the best that we could but mostly they wanted us to be happy. My mum died before I met Jay, but she was always insistent that girls should have their own homes. I remember her conversations with my older sister, who also moved into an extended family living situation, urging her to think twice as she was able to foresee some of the difficulties, having experienced it herself before moving to the UK. When I got married my sister echoed her sentiments to me. Regardless, I decided for the sake of my husband and to make the transition easier for him, I’d stay with his family for a year and then we’d move out. He was worried about his parents, they’d always expected him to stay with them and as he was marrying a Pakistani girl (he’s Bangladeshi) he didn’t want to cause them too many upsets in a short space. They had always wanted him to marry a Bangladeshi and were understandably upset that their only son wasn’t going to. Having my own place was still really important to me so I added it to our marriage contract: I’d move in with them under the proviso that within a year we’d move out together.
What we won’t expecting was to get pregnant straight away. For some that would have been even more of a motivator but for us it was a little more complicated. Jay was the main bill payer in his parents house and I was on maternity leave thus making it difficult for us to save. We did consider renting but it didn’t seem like a sensible option. And of course nine months after Aasiya I fell pregnant again with Idris. This time I did insist that we start looking for a place to live. It was a struggle for the three of us to share a bedroom and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like when the new baby came along. Idris was born in October and we had put in our offer for this house in January the following year. Obviously there was drama, it fell through once but Allhumdulillah, in April we did our exchange. Since then Jay has been working as hard as anyone can expect to make this place habitable. We initially and naively assumed we’d be in by that summer but with work, Ramadan and building work in the house that was quickly pushed back to September and then November and December. In January I stamped my feet hard and said that was it.
As anticipated, the first month has been expensive. We’ve had to buy everything, from stocking up the kitchen cupboards, utensils, towels, bedding … Everything, and we still have lots to buy as the renovation isn’t even close to completion. We’ve decided to not decorate per se, but to live in the space for 6 months to a year and decide on decor after really using the space as a family. It’s hard as I hate seeing white walls and blank spaces, but I also appreciate that if I commited to a wallpaper now I’d probably have second thoughts about it in a few months. Also, with small children you have to be realistic about what you can have in a space as it’s also theirs and they should feel free to run around and enjoy it without fearing the wrath of a parent for knocking into an inappropriately placed vase. My main ambition for the house is to make it comfortable and enjoyable for the whole family, not necessarily making it insta-worthy.
The next big job will be getting the kids room sorted and getting them out of my bedroom (hallelujah 🙌🏽) I’ve been umm-ing and ahh-ing over getting them a bunk bed to conserve space but have decided that they are too young for that so they’ll both be squashed into the box room in their own tiny beds. Since their both so young I don’t imagine they’ll be spending time up there alone so the room doesn’t have to be big or especially entertaining for them, I just want it to be comfortable, the living room is where they do most of their play and where their toys are. I’m really looking forward to getting it started but also it’s a lot of work so delaying it too! So far nothing has gone according to the vision so I imagine this will be much the same, but as long as they are both out of my bed I’ll be happy! I adore them but I really do need my own bed after almost three years of having to share it with one or more child!
If your looking to buy a house or moving and have any questions about the process do let me know and if possible I’ll do my best to answer them. It’s such a massive milestone and incredibly daunting but ultimately very exciting. There’s so much to consider, not least finances as this will probably be the biggest purchase that most people ever make, but if I did have three top tips they would be:
• Make a list of your wants verses needs. Jay wanted a driveway or garage, we wanted to be close to local amenities and public transport and ideally we wanted to have a bathroom upstairs. Our needs were: 3 bedrooms, location (Jay needed to stay close to his parents) and a garden as we have small children. Unfortunately we had a tiny budget so our options were very limited but thankfully we found a house that met all of our needs and most of our wants within budget as we bought a fixer-upper. That’s obviously not ideal for everyone, but it suited us and we managed to get a bigger house than we would have been able to afford otherwise.
• Stick to your budget. It is really hard but be realistic about your finances. Save, save save, and even then you’ll find that money just slips through your fingers during the process. There are solicitor fees, taxes, surveys, it seems like an endless demand for your hard earned cash. And then when you do finally move in you’ll find there are other expenses that you didn’t even think about (council tax rising!!) . So as tempting as it is to go for something £10k more expensive, be patient, your perfect house within your budget is out there, you just have to play the waiting game and do your research.
•Build a good relationship with your estate agent(s). We were really lucky to get this house as our estate agent knew about our needs and requirements, so even before the house came on the market, she called us up and urged us to have a look. She’d shown us similar properties in the area, but they were either too expensive or didn’t have a suitable outside space (or both!). She knew exactly what we were looking for so didn’t waste our time showing us properties that were clearly unsuitable, which a few of the other estate agents did! Unfortunately it’s not about how many houses you see, as after a while it really starts to play with your head and get confusing. Be savvy in your hunt, get an understanding of dimensions as pictures can be very misleading and always have a looks at the floorplans. Use all the resources available to you including apps and websites and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Moving into our own place has been one of the highlights of our married life, it finally feels like we’re a “proper” married couple and it’s really lovely to see the kids enjoying and using the space freely without my anxiety of them damaging anything or getting in anyone’s way. I love having my friends and family over and for the first time since having children I have evenings to myself as my husband puts them to bed. I can have long baths, leave my unwashed dishes laying around (yep, I’m a slob) and lay on the floor of my living room, in front of the fire and read into the night not worrying about anything (except waking the babies) and it’s truly the most happiest and content I’ve been in a long time.