Making a tree change with my family was the best decision we could have made. My husband and I had suspected it would suit our kids, based on a number of instincts as well as observing them when we visited friends' farms. We could never have guessed, though, just how positive it would be for them.
(It's so good, in fact, that although I originally set out to write this article to share the pros and cons of raising kids in the country, I had to change the title as I couldn't come up with any cons.)
Australia is the one of the most urbanised countries in the world, with more than two-thirds of the population living in major cities and metropolitan areas. There's a big push towards changing this, with continuous campaigns encouraging more families to make tree and sea changes. My seven-year-old backs this up, recently declaring that everybody should live in the country. (Which of course, defeats the purpose, but it's a rave review of rural living, nonetheless.)
Most non-regional-dwellers are curious about how our experience has been for our children, so here's how it really is:
An outdoors lifestyle
Despite some initial reservations at changing our children's lives so dramatically, our fears disappeared within the first day. The kids hit the ground running – literally. They've thrived on spending whole days playing outside, and coming home from school to spend evenings running around in the freedom of acres of backyard. In winter, this has meant donning their gumboots and raincoats, and in summer it's all about kayaking on the dam. This isn't limited to my family either: studies have shown that country kids spend at least half an hour per day longer outside.
Paddock to plate produce
I believe it's really important for kids to know where food comes from, and living in the country we feel closer to that than ever before. Eating entire meals that have come straight from our land gives the kids a matter of fact view of where meat comes from, and helping grow vegetables means they're actually interested in eating their greens. (Which is a miracle in itself.)
A community feel
We've met some great people in our new neighbourhood, and many of these friends have arisen via the kids. There are lots of other new families where we are, and so we're meeting people who have parenting aims and lifestyle dreams that are similar to ours, which is proving to be a strong common ground.
More family time
While not everyone is in the situation we are in (my husband is a stay-at-home dad and I work from home), most people we meet are working fewer hours than they did in the city. This translates to more family time, which is a big driver for having made the move in the first place. There's a really nice feel to a place filled with people who are hanging out with their kids, enjoying less commitments and generally soaking up life.
The kids are growing up with a simpler lifestyle, and that's definitely a good thing. Collecting the eggs for breakfast, making more nature-based outings, watching expansive sunsets and climbing trees … I hope the idea that the best things in life are small stays with them forever.
The city has become fun again
Now that the big smoke has become a holiday destination, it's become fun rather than the big monster that swallowed my husband up for work for too many hours at a time. Our visits to the city are now filled with tram rides, food indulgences and touristy outings. My youngest daughter is even incredulous at the smallest of things, like escalators: "They take us upstairs without us having to do the work!" she marvels.