We moved our family to the country three years ago.
When we announced our imminent move to north-east Victoria, a stack of people questioned whether this would be a good idea for the kids.
We were told we were closing off their options; that they wouldn't have access to as many activities or educational opportunities.
They were wrong.
Of course, this lack of opportunities and inability to access services could be a concern if we'd moved to a remote community – which is what people seem to think of when they hear of someone moving to the country. (It would also be an extra consideration for parents of kids with special needs.)
The truth is, moving to a regional area doesn't always mean living hundreds of kilometres from civilisation.
Kids can thrive in regional communities
The children's wellbeing is a big concern for many families considering a country move, and rightly so. It was certainly something we considered: were we making the right decision for our kids, as well as for ourselves? We strongly believed we were.
Very soon after our move, it was clear to us that our children – then six and two – were thriving.
This came down to a number of factors. They had more space to run around on our small (in country terms) acreage, their parents were happier with a stress-reduced lifestyle (and in every family, the happiness of some impacts on the happiness of the others), the community was welcoming and they made friends immediately.
We didn't feel like we'd moved; we felt like we'd arrived home.
After three years, with the kids now nine and five, we've had a taste for what's on offer.
- Early childhood services in our town (childcare, preschool and public primary school) have been top rate, with leaders and teachers who are passionate about the children and the community.
- Sports and extracurricular activities are plentiful. Our children have done netball, hockey, diving classes, swimming lessons and squads, mountain biking, musical instruments, bushwalking and classes in circus arts. Our friends' kids do football, cricket, soccer, sailing, dancing, tennis, martial arts, Little Aths, entrepreneurial workshops … and the list goes on.
- With the question of high school on our lips for our eldest, we're swarming with choices. There's the local public high school and, within a 30-kilometre radius, we have numerous private schools to consider, too; various friends have sent their kids to several of the public and private high schools around, and are having positive experiences.
Our children have a strong sense of their place in the community, too. They bump into their friends around town, take part in local festivals, and feel that they're part of something; this is a very big bonus for their sense of wellbeing.
The options abound just as much as they did when we were back in suburban Melbourne, so perhaps it's time to reconsider those outdated views of what country life looks like.
And, let me tell you, it's far from the middle of nowhere, limited scenario many still imagine.
The reality, in our experience, has been nothing but positive for us and our children.
Moving away from the city seems scary when you have kids, but for anyone considering it, I'd say give it a shot. The pros may well outweigh the cons.