Once upon a time there was a town where the young people had two options available when they wanted a place of their own to start a family . They could either live in the town, in existing apartment blocks, or build their own home on the edge of the town. Some preferred the apartments because they were already built using a tried and tested construction by large companies or they had grown up in the area and would be close to friends and family who had also had the same experience and had similar views to their own.The apartments provided adequate accommodation but those who preferred to build their own home liked the fact that it was healthier to live away from the pollution of the town and they could have a garden.
Those who built their own houses found it was hard work at first as they learned the techniques of construction. Those who had known and watched other people building houses tended to find it easier than those who had not been given the opportunity to see or learn how a house was built.
Some people found professional builders who could advise them on tricky issues such as what a solid foundation looked like or guidance with more minor aspects of design. Some local builders even offered free services. Unfortunately, there was also a few rogue builders, who always charged a much higher price than the others yet gave poor advice.
General advice was offered by big construction companies who built apartments in towns throughout the land, including this town. Their information was always complimentary about self build construction but somehow always implied that young people would find it “much easier and more convenient” if they moved into an apartment.
Some young people found enough encouragement to continue with their project by knowing that other self builders were also finding it hard. Some benefited from the learning process that others had experienced and willingly shared with them during the early stages of the house building.
However, other young people were unaware there was any help available and struggled on without support. Some eventually completed their houses. Others lost confidence and decided to move into an apartment after all, especially if the building work seemed to be taking over their lives or friends and family members doubted their ability to finish. Some consoled themselves with focussing on the convenience of being close to those they knew well so could share the tasks. Others believed that the idea of building one’s own house was oversold and felt annoyed with those who had originally suggested it to them. Some felt guilty that, even though they had tried so hard to build their own house, their children would live in the more polluted town air.
Those who completed building their houses felt proud of their achievement, especially if they had overcome major difficulties at the beginning. They still had ups and downs with repairs and maintenance, but they were happy in knowing, as a result of their personal endeavours, that their children would have a healthy future. The shared feelings among the house builders helped to form a new supportive community for other house builders. However, they hesitated to mention their homes if they met someone from an apartment in case that family had suffered an unhappy experience trying to build their own house.
Although they were all citizens of the same town, mischiefmakers spread rumours that there was ill-feeling between the two groups. But then an enlightened town council was elected that realised the need for better information about all the options available for the young people. Education in building skills for those who wanted to construct their own house, with professional help available if needed, was made readily available. The council invested in these services and also improved the byelaws and monitoring, to protect the citizens by preventing the big commercial companies from disseminating misleading information and also to catch any rogue builders.
When Christmas came, all the young people of the town held a party, showing the other citizens that they had much more in common than the differences between how their homes were constructed.
Patricia Wise is an NCT breastfeeding counsellor and a member of the WBTi Steering Group.