Why are we doing this?

We moved last week, the realization of 3 years of planning and strategic decision-making. In 2010, when I announced that I was expecting twins to a friend (and fellow twin mama) she exclaimed: “This is wonderful! This will really focus you on your family!” I remember being a little taken-aback. We had 6 children, why did she think we were not family-focused already? I should have known better than to question the wisdom of a mother of 10. Of course she was right. After welcoming the twins in 2011, the futility of our lifestyle really hit us like a ton of brick. My husband was working himself to an early grave for the sake of keeping us ensconced in our busy and abundant lifestyle. We decided to sell our house, pay-off our debts, offload a lot of our stuff and live a life that was more coherent with our beliefs and principles. We bought a piece of land in the country where we eventually built a house. A house designed with the needs and requirements of a large homeschooling family in mind, where square-footage is not a thing in and of itself.
Our little piece of Canadian shield sits about an hour’s drive away from the east end of Ottawa where our children were born and raised. It is a radical move from a suburban lifestyle to a rural lifestyle, from school to homeschool, and it leaves no one indifferent.

Decisions based on convictions rarely leave people indifferent. Returning to school full time to get a Master’s degree didn’t leave people indifferent. Selling our house to pay off our debts and move into a rental house didn’t leave people indifferent. Having another child didn’t leave people indifferent. Building a house in the country didn’t leave people indifferent. Homeschooling didn’t leave people indifferent. We always elicit a reaction. We are either living the dream or delusional.

Last week, we moved 9 children away from the community they have known since birth. Four of those 9 children are teenagers. Rightfully, people are asking: “What are the children thinking about this move?” Uprooting teenagers is a bold move, especially in the absence of a non-negotiable driver such as a job posting. But if anyone thinks that we’re delusional to move teenagers on purpose, let me assure you that this move, at this time, is intentional. We are under no illusion that the move will be seamless or even easy for our teenagers but we are doing it because we believe it’s the right thing to do for our family.

We are committed to make it work for our teenagers and we are often asking for their input on ways to facilitate the transition. Don’t get me wrong, the teenagers never held the power to stop the move. But there is a difference between asking for input and veto power. Our teenagers know that we have an ear for well thought-through plans. They do not like to plan much — neither do their friends – preferring to pick-up as they go. We believe — and this is how this decision was intentional — that the cream of friendships will rise to the top. This happens to most of us through the post-secondary years. Our move has only provoked a natural progression of high school dalliances and connections. We see this as a positive aspect of the move, not a negative one. Our society sees the teenage years as an end in itself, a last grab at the freedom of childhood. We see the teenage years as a transition into adulthood. Our vision for our family is to raise adults, not big children. It’s very difficult to cast this approach as essentially affirmative when the children grow-up in a cultural environment where this formation is seen as essentially restrictive. I love the analogy of arrows in the hand of the warrior: to launch arrows, you need tension. If you make everything easy for your teenagers to avoid tension, the arrow will fall flatly to the ground. Too much tension and the bow breaks, not enough tension and the arrow doesn’t launch. Moving teenagers is causing some tension, I will not lie. However, we see tension as an essential component of growth, maturation and individualization.

Our decision to move to the country was also a decision to slow right down. We wanted to move away from the tyranny of activities and the pressure of wanting to keep-up with everyone else. We were tired of fighting our environment to instill the values we wanted to instill in our children. Here, in the country the rhythms are different, the expectations are different. For instance, our new church’s children’s choir rehearsal takes place right after Mass while the families are still around. No need to book another evening off for choir practice. All the children are welcome, regardless of age, because everybody needs to make the most out of their country mileage. This is just an example of the many ways in which country folks are more practical. This is how we want our family to start thinking and living.

You may read this in complete agreement or recoil in horror, your reaction is rooted in your own values and priorities. I believe that the proof will be in the fruit. I will tend my garden and let the fruit ripen.


13 thoughts on “Why are we doing this?

  1. Who could disagree with paying off debts and leaving the family less stressed financially and in their paid work? Congratulations on your new move! I hope you get chickens one day, and if you do, please post photos! A move from the suburbs to the country?! Fantastic!

    1. Definitely chicken one day! My kids want a horse or two but i said “let’s see if we can keep a few chicken and goats alive first!” A horse is a big investment to learn animal husbandry on LOL

  2. Oh wow! I totally needed to hear this today! Thank you! We are “just” at 6 children, but I have been feeling soo different lately and this has put words to my thoughts! We are more family-focused, or learning to be. It just doesn’t work to follow the regular trend anymore!

    1. We really started hitting the wall at 6. We had kids in competitive sports and doing expensive activities like martial arts and horseback riding. We were really caught in the rat race, believing that our children needed to be exposed to different things and get proficient early to keep up with the rest of the world. And then twins! It was hard to keep up with 6 kids but with 8, it came crashing down!

  3. I love this. We almost moved to a quiet town before moving to our current suburb. Being closer to the city where my Husband works erratic hours makes much more sense for us, unfortunately. This way he can pop home between meetings and events. If we were in the country he wouldn’t make that drive and we would never see him. Sigh. I still think about that simpler life often and hope to make that out reality someday. I agree with your post – it was how I was raised in a large family. There are things I struggle with though, like giving opportunities to things I couldn’t do. I’m conflicted in this area. Would love to hear more about your kids interests and how you balance that now!

  4. Thanks Veronique. I live in a small village with my family of 13, and do lots with them. Lots of sports and activities, but it seems cheaper and more doable here than friends have shared of the city. Cheaper, and more time friendly as you pointed out. I love it here, but it is not without its struggles too…but that is Satan’s strategy to blur God’s plan for our lives. When we realize it, sooner or later, is when we can re-prioritize and, with prayer and conversation, make the changes that are necessary for our family. Small decisions and big decisions, such as the ones you’ve had the courage to make. Can’t wait to hear your new Country Mouse adventures!

    1. Thank you Melina! I completely agree with the “distraction” aspect, the blurring of God’s plan. My husband and I talked a lot about not trying to re-create a suburban lifestyle in the country. And still, when people tell me that I will spend my life driving the children to activities and I say “There’s not going to be so many activities”, I get The Look. And I start doubting. I need to sit down and walk myself through what our life was when we spent it in the car. Yesterday (a Saturday morning), my husband spent 3h outside with the kids skiing and playing in the snow. He would never have been able to do that before.

  5. Fantastic!!! My twins were # 5 & 6. We had one more! Ages: 24, 22, 20,
    18, 14, 14, 11 (grandsons are 7 & 6 mos). I grew up in 7 different cities ( biggest being Toronto) before ending up in a beautiful town of 7500.
    Holy culture shock! Yet I yearned for the country. I knew living in the country was the only way I could possibly be truly happy. I knew this back to my earliest memories. I LOVED being on my uncle’s dairy farm. I made
    It clear to my boyfriends that I had to live in the country! My husband grew up in the small town, but helped his dad on their farm property & thought that living in the country would be nice. We purchased a 900 sq foot “winterized”
    cottage & did major renovations as we had the finances to do so. I had 3 little girls & after our son was born at home, we decided our home was too small.
    I also homeschooled & did day-care for 3 other children. By then my dh was working in 2 different cities & not home many nights. I was tired & lonely. We decided to move closer to his work, but still country. We lived in a 27 ft, 1967 Airstream trailer on our heavily treed lot, while WE built our new 1900 sq ft, old farm house style house (513 hand-painted pine boards). The kids have so many good memories! We did horse-back riding lessons, Pony Club,
    4-H, Jr. Fair Board & all were at the most, 7 mins away! Later curling, badminton, drama, music, art & dance in the local town, only 20 mins away. My kids also chose/choose to compete in some of these activities & went on to compete in school activities. Not because they wanted to win,
    But for the challenge, their choice! They were gracious winners! Amanda choose to go to school for Grade 9 & also took some courses at an Alt. School. Last
    May she graduated with Honours with her Nursing Degee & because she fast tracked she wrote, passed her RN exam & was “pinned” at her Graduation. In the meantime she was also raising her son (bio dad out of the picture ) in a home she owned driving a car she owned. She also did professional photography & baking. Her second son was born just before her grad. She started work in Jan 2014 working 50+ hours a week for Red Cross so she could get maternity benefits, which she is now on. She always wanted to be a Dr! But chose a
    Nurse as it was more condusvie to having a family!
    Emma started school in Gr. 9. Not her cup if tea. Our HS neighbors’ son felt the same so they spent a lot of time together over the next few years. They were a couple of weeks apart in age & we spent so much time with the family that they were raised more like siblings! Emma worked away at Pony Club & trained our horses ( we had 3-5, currently 5) She was hired in the spot at a local horse racing barn to clean out stalls. She now takes care of & trains several horses that are her responsibility. She has traveled & stayed at the summer training barn as well! From the time she was little she wanted to work with horses! Maddison started school in Grade 8, graduated high-school &’this past September started ECE at a local college. Jonah started Gr 8 & graduated high-school last year. He is working at Tim Horton’s
    while rounding out his credits & is applying to college/university in the spring. He did over 1180 hours of community volunteer work in his 4 years at the school. Saige & Claire started school in Grade 7. My two very she little ones are not any more! My youngest started school in Grade 4.
    His facourite friends were in school & he missed his siblings. Oh we also fostered 16+special needs children for ten years. We usually had 4. Including 2 sets of severely delayed twins. We had 2 sibling sets long-term. One five years, the twin boys, almost 4 years. We were asked to home-school ( a first in out CAS) 3 of the children & I did! When we stopped fostering (after the infant I had for a year & his sister were moving on) Teagan was lonely, I had started working full-time + at a local performing arts school. He was “content”‘for the first year, but fellow thespians wanted him to join them at school. So he did! He & another sibling have dyslexia,
    Dysgraphia, auditory processing disorder, etc. I am still in contact with many of my foster children. I am so proud of them! One is with a wonderful man & is the mom of an almost 6 yr old girl, her sister is in college this year.
    Another moved out west with her boy friend & she is also in college. These kids went back home to a bad situation.
    Some went back into care others left home ASAP! They were & always will be a part of our family. The 3 youngest are Competitive dancers (that is why I work 🙂 ).

    1. Wow Keri! That’s such an amazing journey! Your home must be such a busy place, with lots of people around. I hope that my girls will meet some horse people. They love horses and used to do horseback riding but it was too expensive to keep it up when it became more competitive. There are several horse farms around. I can’t wait to start meeting more people here.

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