My family of city slickers packed up our entire lives 7 months ago and moved to the country – final destination rural Vermont!
Before moving to the green countryside of Vermont, we lived in our nation’s third largest city; in fact, our home was smack dab in the middle of Chicago. My children were born there, learned to walk on the bumpy sidewalks downtown, and rode their bicycles in the alley behind our house. Every day they navigated streets crowded with urban professionals, college students, and young families. They spent their weekends jetting between play dates on opposite ends of the city, and they loved it! They were true city kids. But for all the Windy City had to offer, my children knew they weren’t allowed to go outside alone. Why? Because the big city just isn’t a safe place for little ones to be on their own. And while my husband, Brian, and I loved raising our boys around all the action the city had to offer, we desperately wanted to give our kids the kind of experiences we had growing up in the rural Midwest.
Growing up in 1970s small-town America, we played freely outside without a worried parent watching over us; we bounced between friends’ houses all day long, and we biked around town ‘til after dark. The summer mantra was, “Go outside and don’t come home until dinner!”
So, 3 years ago we decided to ditch our 2.7 million friends in the Windy City for idyllic, rural Vermont, population 5,000.
Firstly, however, we had to give it a test drive. What the what?! That’s right, people. Before we officially moved, we tested out small town country living two summers in a row to see if our family of 5 liked this completely different way of life. We needed to know whether our three children (aged 7, 11 and 15) would survive this dramatic lifestyle change and not only adjust, but also flourish.
Our goal was to pump the brakes on our hectic, fast-paced city lives by slowing way down… in order to hike, bike the endless trails, throw rocks in creeks, and breathe the crisp, clean air. Oh, and to actually see stars at night!
After the very first trial week living in our potential small town, all five of us knew we were going to high tail it out of Chicago as fast as humanly possible! Even so, we knew that our forever move would come with serious adjustments. You can take this family out of the city, but you can’t completely take the city out of us. I was worried about who would do my hair, nails, and spray tans. Our three boys, on the other hand, were worried about missing their friends and lives in Chicago. To complicate things, my husband and I decided to alternate taking care of our kiddos so that we could travel for work. Life would be different for the two of us as we were tag-teaming with the kids. We knew we would definitely need a little extra love and encouragement now and then. We also knew that we needed to discover our new village of parenting support. Friendships and support systems take time to nurture. This is especially difficult when we are still spending our weekdays flying back and forth to Chicago for work. We moved our family to Vermont. Our paychecks, however, continue to live in Chicago.
So what, you may ask, do we love about our new home and new life in rural Vermont? EVERYTHING. Read it and believe it, folks. We love slowing down, becoming intentional about our lives, and the pace of life in Vermont and will never ever go back to our old rushed and stressed city ways.
Firstly, there’s the traffic. Or lack of it. Our new town does not have a single stoplight, as there is no traffic. You know what else we don’t have? Drivers honking and flipping the bird at one another because they’re in a rush and running late. In fact, Vermonters are so mellow and courteous they get angry when they stop their car in the middle of the street to allow you to merge and you don’t take them up on their offer.
Everyone knows each other so nobody can act like a jerk. We all casually police each other’s behavior because there are only 3 main roads, 3 grocery stores and 2 schools. It’s sort of a hobby, I think. I’ve learned to be on my best behavior because I will eventually come face to face with the person I’d normally flip off in Chicago, but, don’t dare to do here.
Secondly, nature is everywhere. Dogs are revered as the most important family members. They get walked without leashes. Forget doggy day camp- many dogs hang outside their homes alone and as you enter their driveway you’re welcomed by them along with their siblings, the chickens.
Then there are the deer, coyote, cows, and turkeys. I could go on! I smile when I see tourists parked on the side of the road taking pictures of the bucolic scene. My family gets to live here!
Most importantly, I love the affect country living is having on my kids. Our oldest son got his first job at 14 because Vermont kids work. It’s socially acceptable and accessible to work in our tiny town. We are over the moon that our son is serving food in a fast-paced restaurant learning social and professional skills. Our town raises confident kids! From day one, I’ve marveled how all three of our boys’ friends, completely different age groups, waltz into our house with smiles, direct eye contact, polite greetings, positive energy, and just plain joie de vivre. Yes, even the teenagers!
There is a ton to do in our small hamlet for young and old that instills independence, confidence, and fitness, and most of the activities can be done without parental supervision. Gone are the days of driving or strolling to a park and hoping nobody steals my purse.
Country living has enhanced my physical and mental well-being too. I need less Botox for a start. You can’t argue with science, people. I’ve been a regular injector for 7 years now, but after living in the country with clean, clear, pollution-free air, I need much less. Who knew that fresh air is all you need to feel great?! Another health boost is the silence. We don’t lie in bed awake at night listening to cars honking at one another. We also spend less money because there is less to buy. Less spending means less financial stress. Our money is now spent buying peace and quiet!
Of course, my tiny state, which only has one area code, is far from a hip culinary scene. However, we do excel at having whole foods that literally walk from the farm to the table. It’s simplicity at its finest. We don’t have a lot of choices for shopping and the only food chains we have locally are Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts. It turns out one does not need too many choices to live life to the fullest.
The best part about our new life in rural Vermont is anytime I hear the words, “I’m bored!” I can respond with, “Go outside!” I can rejoice because I won’t have to go with them. Now, pass me my wine and the remote control. I need my MomME time.
Guest Blogger: Eirene Heidelberger
Eirene Heidelberger is a nationally-renowned parenting expert and founder of GIT Mom (Get It Together, Mom!). Through GIT Mom’s 7-step method, Eirene empowers mothers and mothers-to-be by teaching a “mom-first” parenting approach.
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