I know what you are thinking. You’ve read my profile and you’re thinking ‘here we go, yet another smug ex city-dweller who has found a better work/life balance by moving to an idyllic part of the country.’
Life must be perfect for me, right? Well, no actually.
Yes, my wife and I decided about three and a half years ago to leave our life (and paid employment) in London and move with our young daughter and new baby boy to be near the beautiful Cornish coast and all the attractive lifestyle changes it has to offer. But for all the good things about being down here – not having a daily commute, not being tied to a nine to five routine, getting to see more of the kids – I think ultimately my feelings were summed up by a columnist in the local paper who, talking about such ex-city dwellers like myself, concluded: ‘The stress isn’t less’.
Sure, it’s fine if you have a spare couple of million in the bank, but if you are one of the many people living in the countryside who have to make ends meet, month in month out, often the advantages can be blighted by feelings of anxiety and worry that are almost impossible to shake off. As anyone working for themselves will know, it’s not just a case of getting the work in the first place, it’s a case of making sure you get paid for it. So when you see your monthly salary has gone into your bank account as per usual, be grateful that you are not like me and praying for an overdue cheque to arrive before the mortgage has to come out. Now that is stress.
And when you are running out of options to use credit cards or plead with your bank manager for an overdraft until the cheques come in, you almost start longing for that daily commute and a home in the city just so you can have the comfort and security of a regular wage. Now I know the office-bound readers among you will be struggling to drum up any sympathy for me here, but really that isn’t the reason for writing about this. If you’re one of those people who feel tied down by a full- or part-time job and that it is forcing you to spend precious time away from your children, I want you to take my situation and use it to make you actually feel better about yours. For though you may only see your children for a little bit in the morning and little bit in the evening, you can enjoy this time with them without having money worries weighing that heavily on you. And the weekends are for you to enjoy time as a family and spend a little of the fruits of your labour by going for a day trip somewhere or buying some nice food from the supermarket to enjoy at home. You can hand over your debit card without thinking ‘am I going to have enough in a couple of weeks if I buy this…?’
OK, you might have other work stresses and really feel bogged down by commuting, but for two days every week you can give yourself over to your children and enjoy your time to the full with them while they are so young without having to think when the next pay cheque is going to come through. I am not saying this feeling turns me into a grumpy dad all the time, leaving me unable to appreciate my two, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my moments. And though the weekend draws to a close, you know there is going to be another one in five days time. I guess what I am trying to say is don’t feel guilty. Your children might not see you while you’re at work, but they’ll appreciate all the time you give over to them, without distraction, while you are at home. And without basic worries such as money, the easier this is to do. See, now who’s smug?