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Starting over: Transforming an Auckland bach into a family home (Stuff Nation)

Jane Callaghan started over in Auckland at 52 after the Christchurch quakes and the end of her marriage.

Struggling with the earthquakes in Christchurch with an 8-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son who is autistic was difficult. 

Dealing with a husband who refused to move back to Auckland after 13 years in Christchurch because of property prices was impossible. 

So I moved back to Auckland. My husband was meant to sell the house and move. Instead, the house was sold and he stayed in Christchurch.

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The family co-purchased this bach and painted it inside and out.


The children and I had to start afresh. I rented an old salmon-pink bach from a friend in Orewa that my son refused to live in as he would not live in a pink house. 

I got some paint from a neighbour who was a painter and once we had painted it - and the movers arrived with his toys - I had one happy son.

Apart from new beds, I bought most of the furniture off Trade Me and renovated it, and soon we had home sweet home. It's amazing how a little imagination, Kmart, Farmers, Trade Me and paint can really transform a house.

The kids started at a wonderful school and I got a job as a teacher's aide at the same school. 


Money was tight - my half of the settlement wouldn't buy me much of anything in Auckland, so I was out of the property market. I was so fortunate my sister and brother-in-law had several rentals in West Auckland.

They sold one and together we purchased an adorable two-bedroom bach a mere 100 metres from the beach in Stanmore Bay - a beach I grew up on, as my parents had a bach there for 50 years. It held many happy memories for me, and I wanted the children to make similar memories.

They put the pain of the past behind them and worked hard to create a monochromatic space that they love.

Starting again at 52 was not my idea of fun, but the kids and I managed to do the old bach up nicely. We extended another bedroom and made the lounge bigger and settled into a new life. 

Unfortunately, my son had trouble adjusting away from his dad and was acting out at school and having frequent meltdowns.

I was also struggling financially, as teacher's aides get paid a pittance and 12 weeks of the year were school holidays, which meant no income. For those reasons, I decided to leave a job I loved and go on to a carer's benefit. 

The bach is just up the road from Stanmore Bay where Jane spent many happy days as child.

It was something I never thought I would do and my pride took a hammering, but my son's needs were greater than my own.

I regret nothing, as now, four years later, the children are settled, we have a new life and time has healed our wounds.

The bank balance is still unwell and life is a struggle, but we live a lot simpler than we did. 

I have written a book called Embracing autism - A Mother And Son Journey; it will be published on May 25. 

Their Stanmore Bay home has a lush, tropical garden.

Sady, I'm no JK Rowling, and it won't make me millions, but it is something I would never have done had my life not been turned upside down. 

I feel we have all achieved something in spite of the obstacles and have grown tremendously in so many ways.

I look at our life now and feel we have weathered the storm, and there is sun on the horizon.

Stuff Nation



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