I grew up in what was considered at the time to be a town. Over the years that town with its friendly and welcoming mentality turned into a city. It was a neighbourhood that turned into a suburban metropolis. I love where I grew up but since becoming a mother I knew I didn’t want to live there anymore or raise our daughter there. Moving to the countryside was the best decision for us.
I have great memories of the town and the people I grew up around. There were open parks and fields and an estuary with a quiet and solitude landscape. Preschool was in a neighbours house, primary school was around the corner and we were involved in our community with our neighbours. Two streets were all there was for shopping with wide roads and local craft shops. The local supermarket had three aisles and a freezer full to the brim with ice pops. Dad would buy his newspaper there after mass every Sunday, the owner, a neighbour, knew everyone by name and probably saw that we looked under the magazine rack for loose coins so we could buy ten penny sweets.
But time moved on and buildings grew up and up and up. The scenary changed. Fields disappeared into endless rows of houses and roads and locals became faces without names. The concrete city took over. My home town has gone from a population of 10,000 in 1980 to almost 50,000 today.
The park I had strolled through with my Mum, my little hand in hers as we picked up pine cones and dried leaves which crunched under our feet, is now gone, replaced by a large and imposing (although an architecturally award winning, isn’t that important!) council office block. The estuary, with its wild swans and beautiful walks, is polluted with the sound of cars and trucks from the motorway which now intersects it.
When A was born I had envisaged that her childhood would be similar to mine. I admire the childhood my parents gave me, the freedom, the creativity, the experiences which were intertwined with where we lived. But that was the 80s and this is not. There were very few cars on the road, stranger danger while there, did not seem as excessively apparent as it is now, and everyone knew and seemed to respect each other. I know my parents had to have suffered difficulties with neighbours while we were young but they hid it well and we never knew of any stress they suffered – parents are great at hiding reality from their children. I’ve learnt this in my short two and a half years as Mom! – so perhaps I was ignorant to assume I could provide A with a similar childhood as mine and not feel any of the stresses of daily town and “estate living”.
We brought A home to our 3 bed semi and knew this was not where we wanted to raise our family. I mentioned before in Wonder Woman how we were desperately unhappy in our house before A was born but as soon as she came along that need and desire to move heightened … rapidly!
Our town still has great facilities for children and families with fantastic schools, children’s clubs, friendly neighbourhoods, a fantastic shopping centre, playing fields and a lot more. It simply wasn’t for us. Living so close to so many people, not knowing who they were or who could cross A’s path. It became too built up, too many people and our perspective on life changed with A. We wanted freedom and quiet.
She was one and a half when we eventually moved but that year and a half was difficult as every parent who tries to raise and care for babies, toddlers and children in a large housing estate knows (by large I mean 500 plus houses tightly built together with small gardens). But what annoyed and irritated us possibly won’t bother others. This is simply our experience and the type of people we are. This may sound privileged but I like to come home from work, close the door and forget the world, focus on my family. I expect to be able to sit quietly in my own home and not feel invaded from the outside world. We were not Robert Neville. This was not the Omega Man. But we felt the claustrophic struggle. We simply did not suit “estate living”. From unacceptable noise to irritating, inconsiderate and loud neighbours, my list feels endless but for us the annoyances increased and grated on us excessively due to tiredness, worry and stress which comes with being a new first time parent. We simply couldn’t handle being a part of this cohort of neighbours. We didn’t want A to eventually play near the busy roads with kids that lost or never had any manners or respect for others. We craved quiet and solitude. Away from loud lawnmowers at 9pm when babies should be asleep, from sheds (two sheds in fact) of pigeons, from rotating strings of renters who didn’t care about property or neighbours, from ridiculously loud music blaring from house parties which went on until 5am, on a weekday no less.
Yes, mild irritants, but on a routine basis, and I do mean routine, they scratch away under the skin in your chest, slowly melting the patience and restraint you’ve held neatly in the pit of your shoes for years already.
So we moved – whoop!
We started the long drawn out process in January last year with bank managers, lawyers, and estate agents. We repainted and staged the house. Oh the house, we loved our house if only we could have picked it up and plopped it in the middle of a field. We had lived there eight years, bought at the height of the boom and sold at the tail end of the recession so it was no easy feat to complete. In fact, we sold our house and moved in with my parents for two weeks. Those two weeks turned into four months before we got the new house keys… and we all still love eachother! (Have I mentioned how incredible my parents are? Well that’s an article for another day!)
We now live in the countryside, with rambling fields, trees and nature all around us. We can actually watch the sun set below the fields in our back garden and have stunning colorful skies in the evening.
And it’s quiet. It’s beautifully, blissfully quiet.
We have a handful of neighbours who greeted us and welcomed us to the neighbourhood. They leave us alone, only chatting for a quick catch up every now and again. They are hard working, family people with a respect for each other as much as the surrounding countryside. Thankfully, we only moved a 25 minute drive away from my home town so we still have access to all the great things the town …mini city, has to offer. I have beautiful memories of the place from when I was growing up. When it came to finally moving, it was emotional and tough but the prospects of our new home soothed any fears we had.
Ah the countryside. It isn’t for everyone and I’ll admit there has been a bit of getting used to for us townies who are accustomed to everything being at our doorstep and fast fast fast.
The internet is awful! – I’ll suffer a slow connection since I don’t use a lot of bandwidth but B is an avid gamer and obviously online gaming, downloading and streaming is currently the bane of our lives (first world problems). Everything else has to be turned off (including fairy lights and the baby monitor – who knew these affected internet speeds!) if there’s a major update on the PlayStation or if a 16GB game has to be downloaded (current download time we estimate at near enough 18 hours – yikes!).
It’s dark! It’s very dark! – Now that its Summer we’ve forgotten about this one, but with the Summer Solstice on its way, the dark nights will creep back in again. We moved in last October, which in hindsight was bad timing because the darkness enveloped us in our new house and I’ll admit it felt quite claustrophobic the first few weeks. Without street lights, we’re dependent on motion sensor and outdoor house lights. I hate on a cold November morning trying to explain to our two year old why we’re going out to the car in the pitch black darkness.
We Have to Drive Everywhere – The local garage is a 15 minute walk down the road which is fine but that’s it. We have to drive everywhere. We balance this with the thought that we tend to drive everywhere anyway and only went to the local shop for milk… so we now have a milkman!
Country Gossip – Everyone knows everyone here. In fact the locals knew all about us before we had met them and properly moved in. Everyone talks and knows the others’ business. So privacy is a bit of a grey area.
Rodents and Bats – We had moved in only one week and heard the scratching and scuffling. Yes we had mice in our old apartment and the old house but we’ve been told to get used to it! This one sucks! The nauseating torture such a small creature brings is not fun.
In all though, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love it here. Yes, our commute to work is a smidge longer, we have a time consuming half acre of grass to cut every couple of weeks in summer and the logistics of getting A to school will have to be tackled in a couple of years, but as I said before in 5 Tips on Returning to Work After Maternity Leave we’ll manage. We have the home we’ve longed for, the perfect area to raise our little girl. Everything else will fall into place.
Are you raising your children in the city, a town or the country? How do you make either way of life work for you?what I’d love to hear from you. And how do we survive the midges?