Renting with rugrats

Ah, school holidays, here we are again.  A time of joyful chaos, where I concentrate on spending time with my kids, getting out and about, enjoying the lack of routine, and feeling no guilt about letting things slide a bit. Or not.

You see (and here I expect disapproving tongue clicks and murmurs about how you shouldn't have children unless you're financially stable), we live in a rented house. If life had gone as planned, we'd have lived the cliché of coupledom, careers, kids. But, whoops, six weeks after the wedding I was knocked up. Sometimes life does that to you, especially when your doctor then says, "Huh, at your weight you should have been on two pills a day."

Anyway.

We rent, via a property agent. This is the first time we've gone through an agent, and frankly it's been a nasty shock. We completely understand that their role is to protect the landlord's investment, but UGH.  We've been here for two years now, so we're on our eighth house inspection. Yes, every three months they come for a quick check that we're not punching holes in the wall or running a P lab in the basement.

At least, that was the impression we were given when we signed the lease (while sick with swine flu and pregnant with twins, good times!). The reality is quite different, and much pickier. They check that we've cleaned the oven, every 12 weeks. We've been warned that the lawn was too long, when it had been mowed 10 days before (do you mow your lawn every weekend?). The next time, we made sure to mow it the day before the inspection, and they then complained about a small pile of fresh grass clippings in the corner of the garden. The garden bin was full, due to us having mowed three times in a month. We've failed for not having mopped the floor; I'd vacuumed and spot-cleaned the night before, but then breakfast with two toddlers happened, on a school- and Playcentre-morning where I had to rush out the door. Egads!  Crumbs!

I freely admit I'm not the world's best housewife, but the inspections demand a level of synchronicity with tidiness and cleanliness and shiny ovens and freshly weeded gardens and mowed lawns that is hard to achieve with three young kids, school, Playcentre, band, BoT, blogging and two jobs. Everything does usually get done, eventually ... but getting it all done to their standard of perfection at the same point in time is stressful and exhausting.

Still, school mornings haven't been an issue for the last three inspections, because they keep scheduling it for the school holidays. Yeuch. Each time, we've asked them to please not do them in the holidays. We're out of routine; all the kids are home, all the time, and I spend the entire time trying to clean while trying to make sure that they're not making more mess in a day than I can catch up with in the evening, rather than enjoying being with them.

I know, I know; it's our own fault for spawning when we weren't financially established.

I see other drawbacks to renting when you have kids; we're so paranoid about the twins getting hold of a pen and drawing on the walls that all art supplies are kept in a high cupboard, much to my philosophical displeasure. We're not allowed pets, not even birds or fish. When we asked about getting gates at either side of the house, we got approval so long as we a) paid for them and did the work and b) miraculously achieved a child-proof gate without digging into the ground or attaching it to the house or fence (any ideas?).

There are some good things about renting, though. Our rent is less than a mortgage would be, and we can live in a better house than we could afford if we did try to buy.

Do you rent? What do you find hardest about renting when you have a family?

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