In 2016, after 16 years in London, we moved to the country in Ireland. We did it the exact way you are not supposed to do these things. Firstly, we didn’t have a job between us, not even a sniff of one. Secondly, we had a seven-month-old baby in tow. Thirdly, we had nowhere to live initially. I mean, lads, seriously… what the hell were we thinking???
Why did we do it? This is how it went:
One clear blue-sky day, my husband turned to me and said those movie rom-com words “I love you. You love me. Why don’t we spend the rest of our lives together?” I was thrilled, “Yayh!”
Right after we got married, while we were lounging in our honeymoon mist, he posed this question, “Will we have kids?” To this, I replied, “it doesn’t really matter. We’re probably too old anyway. Loads of my friends are struggling to have kids. Lets not worry about it and see what happens”.
Twenty minutes later – “Christ, I’m pregnant.”
Nine months later – “Bloody hell, this baby malarkey is beyond difficult. Why is our support system (parents) so far away?” (It didn’t help that both baby and I were ill).
Six months after that, my husband’s contract came to an end. We debated options and decided to “trial” a move back home, for a couple of years. My response was to develop a detailed, panicked, moving plan which transported us home within thirty days of that decision.
I may write about those initial few months another time when the PTSD has subsided somewhat (joke). However, the upshot is that we moved because we had a baby, I really don’t think we would have seriously considered moving home if No 1 hadn’t rocked up. Up until that point I had been so content living the City life; particularly after we moved to Greenwich which shrunk the commute to 30 minutes, although it also shrunk our apartment size by about 30% too.
London life rocks in your 20s and your early 30s. I can’t say beyond that because suddenly I wasn’t living a London life, I was living a mommy/baby life and really wasn’t enjoying London the way you are supposed to. And on top of that, we kept comparing a childhood in a teeny apartment in London with the ones we had enjoyed in the spacious suburbs of Irish towns. So here are the differences as we saw them –
When I heard friends discussing the price of private London primary schools, I balked. Then I balked again and fell over when I realised that the local state school wasn’t much of an option. What? So basically, you have to take out a giant mortgage-sized loan to send your kids to a decent school? WTF? In Ireland, most kids go to the local national school and only consider private for secondary. However, in London unless you are lucky enough to live in the catchment area of an excellent state school, you actually have to ponder school fees of £12k to £18k a year… for primary school. Sweet Jesus, that wasn’t an option for us.
- Safety & Space
Most countrified places on earth are probably safer to raise your kid than a densely populated metropolis. You can’t let your kids run wild on the streets of London. Well you can, but you then have to expect the influence of gangs and bad things in your life. Our aim is to let our two rascals run wild with abandon through fields instead of streets. Yes, there are problems with farmers and bulls and stuff and I’m not advocating the intelligence of this choice, it’s just a personal one.
- Commute versus House
This was a massive one, the point that really swung it for us. If you want to live in a nice house, [not an extravagant one] and you don’t want to be shackled to debt for 30 years, then most of us have to relocate outside London. In doing so, you are willingly and mindfully agreeing to a 90 minute to two hour commute each way, every day. Holy crap. But at least your kids have a decent sized garden, although you personally don’t get to see them that often as you are so busy travelling and working [hey, maybe this will change after this pandemic – wouldn’t that be brilliant for parents?]. Or else you stay in London in a small house/flat, and you have less of a commute, although you literally cannot swing a cat or a mouse in the space you have; and pretty soon you can’t actually find the babies because of all the clutter. I guess it all depends on which you want, and neither is perfect.
- The Accent
This was a side point for us. We weren’t sure how we’d cope if our kids developed a cockney accent. I quite like it, but thought I’d really struggle to hear my own offspring greeting me with an “innit?” every morning.
Between the commute and the space, we opted to give the country life a lash. There are massive advantages, which may not need spelling out and there is one whopping disadvantage – our income was slashed by about two thirds, actually four fifths now that I’m not working. This means we fundamentally changed, altered, amended, slashed and transmogrified everything about the way we lived. When I meet (or Zoom) old friends and they chat about their holidays, their new clothes, new car, going to a show etc.. I have to remind myself, while staring at our sad lonely vegetable patch, why the hell we chose this life – we did it for the kids. And now I finally realise what my father meant all those years ago when a teenage me had to give up food for 24 hours for a sponsored fast; he said, “you never really understand sacrifice until you have children”. Too true, man.