The city vs. the farm

Every summer we leave London the day school gets out and head to the US to spend time with family. Our long summer stints in the US are what make living so far away from our family that tiny bit more bearable. Plus, my little ‘city mice’ get a chance to experience life on the farm and a glimpse of my own childhood.

I have always felt that this gives my kids the best of both worlds: city life for the majority of the year and country life every summer. But this year, for some reason, I’m starting to question the ‘city’ part. I wonder whether life on a farm might not be the happier one (it certainly feels easier!). Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones… but there is a large part of me that feels like a slower-paced, more ‘simple’ life might be nice for a change.

I know it’s summertime, and things are always happier when the sun is shining (and school is a distant memory!), but I do find my kids to be more relaxed, to be more adventurous and imaginative, to play together for really long stretches without a single moan or groan, and to have grown up so much in the past few weeks. The independence they have here on the farm, the freedom to make their own decisions and decide their own activities, the wide open spaces waiting to be discovered… these are all things I just can’t give them in London. No matter where we go in London or how far we venture off the beaten path, my kids are always under my constant supervision, there are always boundaries to how far they can run, how far they can throw their frisbee, ride their bike, etc. The difference between my 7-year-old in London and my 7-year-old on the farm is like night and day. The freedom he has to make his own decisions (within limit, of course), and the pride he has after making the right ones… has boosted his confidence and created a happier, calmer boy. This boy is in his element when he is outside. He is a born frog catcher, dirt digger, worm finder, fish catcher, animal loving, imaginative little boy… and his siblings are no different.

Of course on the flip side, there are so many things we would miss about London if we left: the interesting people and perspectives, the diversity and different cultures, the museums, galleries, exhibits, the food!, the parks, the constant interaction with strangers, the travel around Europe, the 2-hour train ride to Paris, the inspiration around every corner, the access to everything, the friends we’ve made, the life we’ve created, etc. etc. etc.

I know it is something so many parents consider and debate, and I know our little ”let’s move to the country and grow our own vegetables” discussions are not unique… so I would love to hear your thoughts. Where do you live? And what do you love about it? Have you found a life that mixes it both? (This would be the most ideal, wouldn’t it?!) Do you perhaps live on a farm, but very near to a city with access to city life and all its greatness? Please do share!

x Courtney

p.s. I read this article in the NYTimes the other day and found it very interesting — about how children thrive best in an ‘environment that is reliable, available, consistent and noninterfering‘. I suppose, no matter where you live, these are important parenting tips to keep in mind.


Comments (19)

August 21, 2012

Super photos! I like that NY Times article. I am a fan of free range parenting. We are also from London and the fact is that your children in London can roam more freely than you probably feel comfortable with. The media has led us to believe that it is unsafe to do so, but there is no real evidence to support that the world is more unsafe than it was when we were growing up.

This is an interesting study that shows how several generations of one family saw it’s field of roaming decrease as the years passed:

I wonder if some of our discomfort has come from the fact that we interact less and engage less with our local community.

Our children also spend a month in the US every year in a bucolic setting with acres of beach and woods in which to roam and discover. I do think we have the best of both worlds.

August 21, 2012

Hello you farm summer girl:-) I relate so much to what you write here, especially the need to remove boundaries for our children as they grow up, so they can express themselves fully and gain self-confidence which is such an important asset in life. However, as I read you, I do feel you have the best of both worlds in your current set up as you are both raising them as city kids and farm kids in respectively two wonderful places in the world. Even though the farm time is less than life in London, its impact is still huge and something they look forward to every summer…so…don’t leave London! because it will be fun to push the strollers together in the rose garden next spring:-) And that way they”ll get to experience a perfectly manicured English garden and then a wild American field… xx

Courtney in London
August 21, 2012

Vanessa, it’s a date! You, me the babies and the rose garden next spring! xxx

August 21, 2012

We are just coming back from Paris, and my head is full of inspirations, that only a big city can provide. But i would NEVER leave our green countryside! Happiness is hidden in the smallest, simpliest things… That’s why we all love our quiet (and sometimes boring!!) life here!
Sorry, my english is not perfect …

Courtney in London
August 21, 2012

Where are you from? Do you mind telling me which part of the world you live this lovely, quiet life? I’m curious!
And the photos on your blog are SO stunning! What a gorgeous family you have. xx

August 22, 2012

Agreed! Beautiful! xx

August 22, 2012

dear Courtney, thank you for your sweet words! we’re living in a small village of Switzerland.

Courtney in London
August 22, 2012

Well I want to come live in Switzerland then! You make it look so dreamy. xx

August 21, 2012

Hi Courtney,
I can relate to what you wrote too. I live in London too away from where I grew up. I go back every summer and winter to Switzerland where my son enjoys himself so much that every time I come back I have doubts to where I should live. But I think no matter where you live, when our kids are on holidays it always feels like they are learning so much more and that they are progressing so much quicker than back home.
I think London is a great city for our children to grow up in. Even though you have to be much more aware of danger I feel, they also learn so much from living in such a cultural and creative city.

August 21, 2012

Well, tonight (I’m in Australia) i spent 3 hours FB chatting with 2 friends in the UK. I was drilling them about cost of living and lifestyle details. Just a few days ago my UK expat hubby and I decided to move to the UK.

We have 2 children: 8, Rita and 2, Sonny.

We are tossing up these very issues but ours vary somewhat; all the same matters but different variables. Here are some of our living specs to throw some context and at the end I’ll … try to roll my sentiments into a small ball of understanding … (try).

We live in Tasmania. The town I live in has a population of 8oK and the next largest city has a population of 150k (guessing) and it is a 2.5 hour drive away. The NEXT largest city is one hour plane or 9 hour boat ride over rough seas. For us to travel as a family to Europe (a place where we all hold passports to, btw) the costs is, just in tickets alone 7.5 thousand pounds. Our issue is remoteness and what that does to children’s growth.

Where we live is so beautiful, and fresh with broad skys and quaint homes. We have more space than you can poke a stick at. Recently I took my daughter to the big city over the water and quite literally she could not walk in a straight line on the pavement in the city because it’s not how she gets about here. She was exhausted within half an hour. She is no city mouse and for that I’m grateful.

Yet … yet: now she’s 8. Recently I noticed a pimple on her chin. Her eyebrows are getting thicker and she has hair on her legs. I’m guessing that she might be very very pre-adolescent. My point being that she is changing.

Two weeks ago I was in NYC alone, for the first time since I had babies. Everywhere I went I thought how much I would love to show ‘this’ and ‘that’ to her: how I wept while standing in front of a cubist painting, how I danced like a madwoman in a danceclass, how I shopped like an even madder woman in fantastic shops, how I oooo-ed and ahhhh-ed at plates full of delectable food … HOW I, HER MUM HER MEGGA ROLE MODEL BASKED IN LIFE’S RICH VARIETY, without her.

My babies need, first, for me to be a soul-satisfied human. They need free range and as little interference as I can emotionally muster; I agree that it is calming to their nervous systems as is lots of physical activity … great stuff. But … they need to be in the world too.

If you can give them both … and the balance suits you … you’re all good and right!

We need to give our babies both, but we will move to country Kent (that’s today’s plan anyway) and pop about in London and Europe as stuff comes up (we work from home and can take the businesses with us).

Should you move to the country? Dunno but try to avoid isolation and stay close enough to some kind of centre that you dig the ass out of … or put it down to pregnancy hormones and change not a thing!

Isn’t life a pip!

August 21, 2012

Such a wrench but for me it is always country. We live in a still quite urban area being just four miles from our nearest city and an hour out of Waterloo on the train. Village community is fantastic and our dreams of having more space as we grow will hopefully come to fruition one day! That said, I do think family life is very important and if the space and countryside means there is a commute and missed family time then I’m not convinced it is worth it.

Courtney in London
August 21, 2012

I had no idea you lived in a little village. For some reason, I’ve always pictured you living in London! It sounds so idyllic where you are. x

August 26, 2012

That is funny – lived in London after I left home but not for a long time now. I’ll post some village pictures and show you around.

August 21, 2012

We have just bought a farm, but already live in a suburb of a small town (25.000 inhabitants, 10.00 in the city of it). I really do want to give my children everything they cab get growing up like this, small school, animals, the woods just behind the house and all this space, but I’m from Gothenburg and I do miss the museums, she spontanity etc, We have a 2 hour trainride there and I have all my family there, so I think the ultimate solution would be a samll town, at the countryside, just outside a bigger town 😉

Meta in Utah
August 21, 2012

I love these beautiful photos! It makes me want to move to a farm tomorrow. I think as long as we try not to over schedule our children and give them opportunities to explore and discover we can raise them anywhere and be happy. What wonderful memories you’re making with your children.

August 21, 2012

I think you sound like you have the best of both worlds. You have lovely london as your main base with all its culture and things to do and a simpler pace of life during the summer. I think also as your children get older especially teenagers London will offer them so much freedom they can go where they want without much hassle and vist many different vibrant areas of london by bus or tube. My favourite thing about London is the different cultures and that children really learn to appreciate different people and cultures. I also think that soon enough (you said your son is 7) perhaps when he is 10 you could start letting him have more freedom by letting him go to a local park with friend or popping up to the shops. Cities aren’t dangerous and children are able to have far more freedom that we give them. You are so lucky you get to spend time in the country as well as it gives your kids such a balance of life and different ways. I also agree with the point about “holidays” being different from day to day life.

Courtney in London
August 21, 2012

I agree that as the kids get older, they will definitely appreciate London more and more. (I almost fear that if we don’t move them out of London before they’re teenagers, they will never want to leave!!) 🙂 xx

August 22, 2012

Have you decided you definitely want to leave then? Because its true they will definitely never want to leave however they will probably still appreciate summers in America with family however they probably will still be panning to return home to their friends – not to mention as they get older that may holiday with friends and go to festivals.

Maria in Oviedo, Spain
September 5, 2012

Cortney!! i really like your thoughts about it and get to me in the right moment when I am in the same point as you… I want to move near the sea, … and same as you, I think it could be the sun and the holidays…
thanks for sharing!

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