Are you cooped up with your children in a city for the last few months? Has this driven you to depths beyond madness and to ponder that cruel Victorian phrase “children should be seen and not heard”, in a whole new insightful light? If this lockdown has made you question your way of living to the point that you are contemplating relocation to somewhere with space and greenery; if so, I have a few words for you – from someone who did it all the wrong way. We moved from London to the Irish countryside in 2016, after 16 years in London. And boy did we write the template for how not to do it. So, before you steam ahead with plans, pause a moment and take a wee glance at the below. It may help mould your plans slightly.
Firstly, and to state the bleedin’ obvious, make sure you have a job at the new location. For some hilariously odd reason, we decided that if we dawdled in London to line up a job in Ireland, it would take too long and the whole plan would lose momentum. If we lost that impulse, that we’d never make the move. It was a bit, ahem, massively spontaneous. The truth is that moving to a new residence without any form of income assured is stressful at best and mentally rabid lunatic at worst. Of course, in our case, I am still 100% convinced that we would probably never have upped ourselves and moved, if we hadn’t committed at that moment.
Secondly, have somewhere to live when you get there. I mean, need I say more? We moved in with my folks which was fab from a childcare perspective but pretty soon I degenerated into a teenager and my folks were posing incisive questions over our non-existent plans, which was fair enough really, but super annoying.
Thirdly, if you can at all do it, move before you have the kids, not after.
The above three points may be fairly obvious to most of you. The below ones may not.
- If you’re doing it, do it. Commit to it.
Initially we rented a tiny house that made me feel like I was living beneath a rock. For many different reasons, it wasn’t suitable to our personalities. For example, it was on an estate with other houses and myself and my husband felt we were being sucked into a middle-class, middle-aged Stepford hell. Even though we still had many questions about whether we would or could stay in the country long term, we decided that unless we gave it everything, it was doomed to fail. So, we bit the bullet and bought the nicer house in the countryside. Sure, it has faults yet every time I arrive back to this house, I breathe and sigh, and feel peace.
- Join a club
Everyone says you make friends when the kids go to school, but we haven’t found that to be true. Because we both work, we don’t hang around when we drop and collect the kids; so we know people to see and at whom to wave but we’re too busy dashing away to really make friends. If it wasn’t for joining local clubs, we would both be totally lost. We weren’t here five days when my husband walked down to the local tennis club. He now can’t stroll into the local village without being hailed with a “howaya” at least three or four times.
- Shop local
This sounds a bit off the wall, but using local resources greases the wheels of integration. For example, we used a local estate agent (who lives in the area), to buy our house. I buy my meat from Brendan the Butcher, and enjoy a little gossip about the comings and goings of life. A brave Aussie friend of mine who decided to project manage the renovation of her house, with a 6 month old and two other kids, only used local tradesmen. She now knows a good few people in the community.
- School systems are different everywhere
Figure out the school system early. We live in between two townlands. When we went to sign up our kids for primary school, we were told by both schools that we were not within their catchment areas; one of the principals actually told me that we lived in the Bermuda triangle of our area [this is the same man whilst discussing a binary situation, told me that you’re either pregnant or you’re not, you can’t be half pregnant;- which has to be one of the best expressions ever]. Eventually we got our kids into school, but if we hadn’t sorted this out early, we may have ended up in dire straits as the waiting lists were long.
- Move close to family
If at all possible, move close to family and relatives. We didn’t realise what a life saver this would be. Anytime a child minder has let us down, family has stepped in. Anytime we’re sick, family steps in. Now the politics will utterly wreck your head: I won’t deny that. For everybody’s sake, you need to establish guidelines first – my parents used to pop in every single day which drove my husband a bit crazy initially, but we have meandered our way around things now.
- It puts a massive strain on the relationship
2016 and parts of 2017 were the worst, most incredibly miserable, lonely, uncertain and stressful times. It probably didn’t alleviate things when we decided to have another baby within a few months of moving. And honestly, the two of us, we barely made it – we both went a bit loony in the middle. Now that we’re out of that patch, we are even better friends than before. And this is what I learned, it takes more than a relationship to survive that type of stupidity and stress, you also need to be friends with similar interests and hobbies, really really good friends, hell, best friends.
So in the end this is my conclusion – there are two types of people in life. The people who get their ducks in a row, and the people who scoff at ducks forced into lines. I fell into the latter category. To me, life was about floating along whilst smiling at opportunities as they present themselves, rather than scheming and engineering little innocent ducks. Now that I’ve been through this phase though, I’m not so sure anymore…