"Our Home Renovation Is Wrecking Our Marriage"
"I hate to admit it, but there are days when I, too, regret buying an 80-year-old house," said John, 41. "I overlooked its lousy condition because I was so thrilled with the neighborhood. Colleen is probably right that we should sell before the real-estate market in this area cools. But I've grown emotionally attached to our house, and I'd feel a tremendous sense of loss if we left it as a work in progress instead of as the beautiful home it could be. And I'm not sure we could find another affordable place in this community.
"Still, I understand why Colleen and the kids are frustrated. We live in a construction zone, full of dust and disorganization. But I don't think it's anything to be so embarrassed about that they won't invite friends over. I'm working as fast as I can to finish the renovations, but that's not fast enough for Colleen. If I devote nights and weekends to the house, she gets mad that I'm not an attentive father. If I spend more time with her and the kids, she makes snide comments about the mess. I'm caught in a no-win situation where I'm disappointing everybody, including myself. The pressure is getting to me, and, yes, I've become preoccupied with the house, and yes, I'm distracted when I'm with our children. I feel guilty about yelling when they're underfoot, but I need quiet to work. I'm not sleeping well, either, because my mind races with a to-do list that grows longer by the day.
"I inherited both my handiness and strong work ethic from my father, a retired auto mechanic who juggled two jobs to support his wife and three kids. My favorite childhood memories are of the home repair projects we did together. Dad was quick to praise my mechanical skills and attention to detail because he valued those qualities in himself. He and Mom didn't know how to parent a high achiever, though -- they teased me for being a 'math nerd' instead of supporting me. Even so, I won a scholarship to a private high school, became an Eagle Scout, and earned a varsity letter in bowling. That led to a college scholarship, which I augmented with part-time jobs -- one of them at the grocery store where I met Colleen."