We had talked about it for years, usually in no more than wistful longings during only the most peaceful moments. We should just move out here. Being here is always so relaxing. Life here is just simpler.
Move to the country – or more accurately, to the small rural town in Southwestern Ontario that my husband grew up in. Our visits back to his hometown were always enjoyable, but how could they not be? We returned time and again to the generosity of my inlaws’ hospitality, to the enthusiasm of old friends that we didn’t see often enough, and to a place where, if only for a weekend, we could leave much of real life in Toronto, behind. We romanticized our rural sojourns, but at some point along the three-hour drive home on the 401 eastbound, the fantasy would dissolve into doubts, which we called, Just Being Realistic. Besides, how could I ever possibly leave the city I loved and grew up in, and my family within it? By Monday morning, in the rush of trying to get four different people out the door and to four different places, our relaxing weekend in the country could hardly be recalled.
And then, in spring of 2011, something about our conversations changed.
Life in Toronto had become so stressful that my marriage, my career and my happiness seemed to be hanging in the balance. Changes in my long-held place of business were leaving me feel defeated and cheated by the end of the long day. Our dual six-figure income seemed to barely keep us afloat despite a modest home and expenses, and I felt like my two girls, now aged three and six, were dancing through childhood without me. My unhappiness left me feeling desperate to make a change. Our conversations about moving to the country returned, but now, instead of ending with, We can’t do it, we would end those talks with, Why? Why can’t we do it?
So we did it.
In June, while tagging along on a house-hunting mission with my husband’s brother and his wife, we walked into a mid-century rancher on a 1/4 acre lot, with a stone fireplace and glowing sunroom. It was a good thing that my brother-in-law didn’t think it was right for them. Telling nobody, we put in an offer two weeks later.
I gave my notice, my husband negotiated a new expectation with his employer (he is a television producer who mainly works from home anyway), and we started the laborious task of getting our house ready to put on the market.
Our summer was a whirlwind of packing and preparing and saying goodbye to both my city and the people I love who remained in it. Fiscally, we came out way on top, having the advantage of selling a house in Toronto for over 60% more than the price we had paid for it 7 years earlier, while purchasing a house for less than half of what we got for ours. We completely eliminated our debt, as well as the need for me to work full-time. I am currently choosing only the writing jobs I am compelled enough to take, and finally – finally – working on the personal writing I have waited years to begin.
And I get to be with my kids.
For the first time since I was on maternity leave, I see their faces in the hours between 7am and 5pm. I get to pick my daughter up from school. I get to volunteer for field trips without mentally calculating how many vacation days I will have left. I get to sign them up for gymnastics that take place at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon.
I can grocery shop on a Wednesday morning.
Yes, I have a much larger house and yard than I could ever afford in Toronto, but that was never the goal. It’s a nice perk. There are other nice perks to living in this small town too, like never spending more than 10 minutes travelling anywhere, and never having to look (or pay) for parking, and eating the cheapest, most delicious local produce I have ever had. I haven’t had time to be bored.
Boredom will, of course, come. But I’ve been bored in the city, or more likely, too busy working and too tired after work to take advantage of all the amazing things the city has to offer.
And I will miss the city, but so far, the hardest part is missing simply being a part of the city; being one of the Toronto social media moms, going to events, or feeling the fierce pride I always felt in saying I was from Toronto. We didn’t leave because we no longer loved our city; we left because we no longer loved our life in the city.
And I worry about living here in our small town. I love the bubble of home and family and these very early, very innocent years with my children here, but truth be told, there is lots I worry about in regards to raising children here. My children are from a mixed-ethnic household, and I worry about the lack of cultural diversity here. It’s not a completely homogenous place, but any movie lineup in Toronto is more diverse than the schoolyards here. I have already been face-to-face with abject racism which, while completely uncondoned by the people I surround myself with, disturbs. I worry that a lack of cultural events will hamper the dynamic life I want my children to live.
But then I realize that I have faced racism in Toronto as well. And that, there are plenty of things to do here with kids; they are just different things. We are trading an afternoon in Chinatown for an afternoon at the stables. We are trading walks on The Danforth for walks in the Carolinian forest. My kids will probably know how to ride a tractor before they know how to ride a subway. It’s different. We traded Canada’s biggest city for Canada’s biggest cornfield. But it’s ok.
And then, in the midst of a pang of doubt or a worry that we may have made a mistake, I find my myself at home at the noon-hour, preparing grilled cheese sandwiches for me and my three-year-old. And while I butter bread and heat pans, she sits on a stool near me, and sings. Her song is epic, unpredictable, a universe-spanning tale of a cow and the alien who loves her. And I look over at my happy plump child, and she smiles, but her song doesn’t end. And I think,
It’s worth it.