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udy Eaton describes her house as a revolving door — and she wouldn’t have it any other way. On this sunny Friday afternoon, it’s naptime for most of the kids in her home daycare. They’re asleep in the living room, relaxing music lulling over the main floor of the house, while an energetic four-year-old bounces around the kitchen, playing hide and seek behind chairs. Judy’s three kids are in their rooms, enjoying a relaxing beginning to their summer vacation, while a friend of her son makes kraft dinner in the kitchen.

“I’m like the old Mother Hoover who lives in a shoe,” Judy said, laughing. She and her family have lived in their Acton home since 2010 —and they’re thankful for the journey they had to get there.

Judy has three children: Hayley, 18, Brandon, 17 and Ryan, 13. When her kids were young, Judy found herself on her own unexpectedly. She had to sell her house and turned to renting. “When I was renting, it was $1400 a month, or $1300, plus utilities so that was big for me. Now that the mortgage is based on my income, I’m able to do trips, I actually have a little bit of a savings,” she said.

"I was kind of in awe that they picked me."

“(I’m just) freer to really kind of expand my wings and give the kids more opportunities than if I was completely strapped every month which is what I was like. Trying to find money for milk at the end of the week — their needs were always met, they were in sports, bills were always paid, but it was just.”

While she was renting, Judy told a friend in real estate to keep his eye out for affordable housing options — “Anything to get me out of renting,” she recalled. Her friend suggested that they attend a Habitat for Humanity meeting. Though Judy was skeptical at first, her friend eventually convinced her to go to the meeting. There, she was encouraged to fill out an application. After that, “Everything just kind of fell into place,” Judy said. “I was kind of in awe that they picked me.”

Habitat homeowners are required to complete 500 hours of sweat equity before they move into their home. 200 of those hours can be volunteered by family and friends. By chance, Judy’s family was on the East Coast doing a Habitat build, so their hours counted towards her overall sweat equity. “Other than that, friends and family picked up the pieces here and I got mine quickly. We did it, I’m quite sure, over the summer. And then I got the house in November,” Judy explained.

"It's having that ownership and stability again."

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nlike most Habitat families, the Eatons’ house was already built when they found out they would be moving in. It still ended up being an ideal home setup, though, with space for Judy’s daycare, and three bedrooms. She eventually built another bedroom in the basement so that each of her kids could have their own room. She also built a family room in the basement since her living room is used for daycare.

Judy looks back on the process of getting her house with amazement. “Being a single parent and doing daycare, my days run into nights, nights into days. So for me to even think back to that, it’s just like, ‘Wow.’ It’s kind of like this is a blink of an eye, and we’re here.”

"They just feel like they can be themselves."

“Just to be able to have our own place and to be able to paint when we want to paint … It’s having that ownership and stability again,” she said. “All that being in my favour was a huge weight off my shoulders, and maybe it made me a nicer mom at the end of the day, knowing that I didn’t have those burdens or that stress.”

The journey from renting to owning has brought Judy to where she is today — sitting in the kitchen of a lively house, full of kids, daycare and her own. “It’s always been an open house to all the kids,” Judy explained, referencing the revolving door that seems to be her house. “I love it when all the kids come here. They just feel like they can be themselves.” And that might be the best definition of home that there is.