We live in a time when city house prices are unaffordable to many and space is at a premium. The norm, especially when babies are on the horizon now seems to be don a pair of Hunters, stick on a Barbour and escape to the country or the suburbs in search of space and a better bank balance. But if money’s no object, where’s best to bring up a child - the urban jungle or the hush of the countryside?
I grew up surrounded by very rural countryside. Miles of rolling corn fields circled our cottage and without the hardship of farm living, it sometimes felt like that’s exactly where we lived, on a farm. We had a menagerie of dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and even a couple of tortoises which supplemented the rustic setting, plus tractors and combine harvesters regularly parked at the bottom of our garden – all very Darling Buds. I’d disappear for hours with my parents knowing I was pretty safe – I’d either be kicking a ball around or in the woods playing army with my friends. It was a simple, innocent childhood, one I’m thankful for, but what we had in countless fields and pretty cottages, meant we were somewhat lacking in culture and well, simply, other humans.
On the other end of the spectrum is my wife Georgia. She is a born and bred Londoner, moments from the buzz and energy that other humans create – modern life. A quick tube or bus ride and she and her family could find themselves in the cultural heartbeat of Europe. Whilst I was climbing a tree, she was probably at the theatre. Whilst I was wadding through a country stream, she was probably feeding swans on the Serpentine.
George and I met in London and it suited us down to the ground as a young, carefree couple. There was never a dull moment with so much excitement on our doorstep but as soon as we knew we wanted to start a family, the idea of moving out of London quickly developed. We knew we wanted space (if you lived with a beauty journalist you’d know why) and affordability. Four years on from our relocation and we haven’t looked back. Sure, I know George craves London and its edge and there are days when I miss having a decent London boozer only two minutes away. I guess we also miss being able to dress however we like without the suburban snoots glancing at us weirdly, something we've noticed as an obvious difference to city mindset. But now, we have Edie who’s 3 and another baby moments away, we have the space we need and we’re not crippled financially every month.
As and when we can, we escape the peripheral limitations to countryside living and ensure Edie is served a healthy portion of city life with trips to the museums and the royal parks, not just so she can see dinosaur remains up close, but more so she appreciates life isn’t a picture postcard cornfield and there’s a whole world out there to be explored.
I don’t think there is a right place or wrong place to bring up a child. Countryside living suits us and keeps us happy but for many it might not be thrilling enough. I just think it’s important to allow children to see the other sides of life and find the right balance. My upbringing was incredible but perhaps the serenity didn’t set me up for my teens or young adult life that well – in my case, once I discovered life away from the village green and the mobile library, my teens and early 20s were a little reckless to say the least, what with my eyes opened to life in the bright lights.
If you’re in the city, spend a weekend now and again in the countryside sampling nature, fresh air and importantly space. If you’re out in the sticks, get the kids into a major city once in a while to experience the buzz of life rather than just the buzz of bees. Get the balance right and there shouldn’t really ever be a debate, no wrong, no right. Home, simply, is where the heart is.