Many, many years ago when I worked in the office of my Dad's building business I would often find myself rolling my eyes at many of the requests clients would have when creating their dream-home. Of course I'd never glaringly do this in front of them, instead nodding politely and agreeing that a stained-glass skylight in the foyer, a niche in the toilet, or a fourth bathroom would be a wonderful enhancement to their home and bring them much happiness forever more.
One of the most frequent requests, that at the time, grated on my nerves was the inclusion of a 'parents' retreat' in these newly constructed dream-homes. Many of these clients were young couples, yet to start a family, some had one or two children already, all seemed to have a need to 'retreat' from their offspring.
I, at the time, was mother to two baby girls, who I quite simply couldn't get enough of. I couldn't begin to comprehend why a parent would feel the need to lock herself at one end of the house, her children in their designated 'play area', and never the twain shall meet.
Now I'm beginning to understand.
Our home is a rather modest affair, first built in our small local town as a 'railway' house, housing railway employees transferred to this area. The previous owners of "Rock Wallaby" purchased the house and moved it to its current location some twenty years ago, adding a clothesline out the back, verandah out the front ...and an old rocking chair!
Rather small by modern standards, children share bedrooms, Matthew and I share an office and we take turns sitting on the loungechairs in the loungeroom. Located centrally with a doorway in every wall, it's nigh on impossible to fit a decent sized lounge-suite in there! Besides, I believe children are more than happy on the floor. Built before the popular introduction of open-plan living, the kitchen is a small room tucked off the back of the house, the place I spend a fair amount of my time. With inadequate bench-space, a detestable electric cooktop and a small non-fan-forced oven which often omits a slightly burnt odour from bubbling over lasagne, it still manages to perform its function quite well.
Most evenings, when Matthew is home, he joins me in the kitchen as I prepare dinner. Seated on the sink, he makes me a drink as I continue to stir, grill, fry, saute, call children in and out of the bath, the sandpit, the chookpen, provide direction as to where to find clean pyjamas, cast an eye over sentences, and share the day's events.
Of late, the pesky children have started to invade this parents' retreat. Like labrador dogs, they seem to need to be close. So more times than not, by the time dinner is ready to be served, there's one Dad seated on the sink, one boy child perched on the bench and three girls sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor. And no matter how much design process has gone into working that kitchen triangle workspace theory, there's not a lot of room left to move in my kitchen. In my parents' retreat.