Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Country Life - Family Dynamics

In my personal opinion, careful consideration of one's nuclear family dynamics is critical when making the decision to move to the country.  One needs to consider each family member's mental and physical health, work ethic, educational goals and interests.  Each family is unique and thus, each family has differing needs, interests and long-term goals.  It is not fair, or a healthy family dynamic, for only one person, usually the father or mother, to be the deciding force in determining that a family wants to, needs to, or should, move to rural America.  

Mrs.B's children, minus one.  L to R:  Farmer Boy, Songbird, The Middle Child, Miss N, Musician's Bride, & Musician

Why do I believe it is so important to consider family dynamics?  Living in the country is a lifestyle of isolation.  Our closest neighbor to the north is 3 miles, to the south - 1 mile, to the west - 4 1/2 miles, to the east - no one between us the 1st town across the state line.  Now, not everyone who moves to the country will be quite as isolated as we are ... some will be more isolated, while others will be within a few acres of their neighbors.  But, there isn't anyone "next door" with whom you wave hello to while mowing the yard on Saturday mornings.  Because of this isolation, the negatives within one's family tend to become exaggerated when "next door" doesn't exist.  There are also certain interests that may go un-fostered and long-term goals that may be very difficult for your children to achieve because of a rural lifestyle.

Whether we like to admit it, or not, ALL families operate within varying degrees of dysfunction.  Thus, when contemplating a move to the country, one needs to be very honest with themselves about mental health within their individual nuclear family dynamics.  Although, the urban lifestyle is not one I personally prefer, it does have some advantages and safety nets that are not available when living in a rural area.  Realistically, next door neighbors can be a deterrent to a spouse or child who may, occasionally, show symptoms of a possible abuser.  The fact that the neighbors may witness abuse can, sometimes, be a deterrent to someone who titters around the edges of an abusive personality.  The networking advantages through churches, schools, and extra curricular activities can make all the difference for families who struggle with a  member who has behavioral or mental health issues.   If someone within your nuclear family struggles with seasonal or clinical depression, the isolation of country living can significantly exaggerate those symptoms. 

Family counselors and mental health services are not readily accessible in rural areas.  When one does seek out such services, there is usually a very long drive and a very long waiting list.  Sadly, there are a minority number of families within our society whose dysfunction is severe.  In my opinion, if your family fits into the "severe" category, I'm begging you with all my heart, please do not, ever, consider a country lifestyle.  The isolation will put you or other family members at an even greater risk of serious injury or even death.

Is your nuclear family blessed with excellent health or is someone chronically ill?  Healthcare is not readily available in rural America.  The nearest emergency room is nearly 50 miles from our home and for very serious illnesses or injuries, that small local hospital only has the ability to stabilize the patient before transporting them to Billings, MT,  more than 240 miles one-way.  We are fortunate to have a small health clinic operated by 2 nurse practitioners that is open 4 days per week within 15 miles of our home. This is a cherished convince in our community when someone has the flu, a cold, needs regular blood pressure monitoring, etc.  Many people in rural communities have to drive more than 100 miles one-way for a regular doctor's appointment.  If anyone in our family contracted a serious illness, injury or disease, obtaining quality healthcare would be very burdensome. Fifteen years ago our middle child contracted a life-threatening illness that required DAILY specialized wound care that was not possible in a home setting (7 days per week for 2 months). If we had lived where we do now, we would have had to rent some sort of furnished apartment in the city because a 240 mile drive one-way, every day, is not realistic.  Not to mention that Mr.B often works out of town, so who would have been here every day to do all the daily farm chores?  Now days, we have financial savings put back just in case we find ourselves facing a serious healthcare crisis that would require Mr.B or myself to temporarily move into the city for a child's daily care that can not be obtained in our area.   If Mr.B or I were hospitalized in the city, we would be in the hospital alone, without a family member to act as our medical advocate, for days at a time.  Each family needs to strongly consider their healthcare needs and plan accordingly before moving to the country or even a small rural town.

The urban next door neighbor can also be a helpful resource when you need someone to feed your dog while you are on vacation.  Good neighbors may also notice if you haven't been out and about for several days prompting them to stop by or telephone to see if you are ill or in need of anything.  Realistically, your isolated country lifestyle will keep you so busy, you most likely won't have time for a vacation. But if you somehow carve out some vacation time, you realize your neighbor is just as busy with his own place. This makes you feel like asking for help would be a terrible imposition.  As far as someone noticing the lack of your routine comings and goings ... the neighbors are generally too far away to observe your daily routine.  No one is going to come out or telephone to see if you and your family are in need.

Are you and your spouse driven self-starters?  Do you and/or your spouse need deadlines, a time clock or boss directing your daily routines?  Successful country folks are self starters and have a tendency to lean in the direction of being workaholics.  The country lifestyle is most certainly one that requires 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration.   Country folks have long project lists, and more chores than most urban dwellers could ever imagine.  In addition to projects and chores, at least one spouse generally works outside the home.  On the larger farms and ranches in our area where the husband runs the operation, the wives do not have just a job outside the home, they have CAREERS such as nurses, doctors, attorneys, engineers, teachers, etc.  Of all the full-time ranching/farming operations within our community, I only know of 3 where the wife does not work long hours away from the home. When these working wives return home at the end of a very long day, they still have some chores and  all the yard work, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child rearing duties to tend to.  These wives spend their annual vacation time from their employers working on the ranch or farm during, calving, haying, planting or harvest seasons.  Needless to say, if your spouse needs routine "prodding" to get things done, it won't be long before you are perceived as a "nagging" wife or a "controlling" husband.

Does your family home school, utilize public school systems, or prefer private education facilities for your children?  Rural families do not have access to private schools - they are simply located too far away.  In rural America, most children will only have access to the extra-curricular activities offered through their local public school.  In our area that is a sports program (6-man football, basketball, track and volleyball), band and choir.  Our local school does not have a symphony, a chess club, a debate team, etc.  There aren't any dance studios, gymnastics or soccer leagues  near us.  If you are a home educator and live in a state like Montana or Texas, your children will not have access to any school sponsored extra-curricular activities.  If you currently home school in an urban area, you probably enjoy the blessing of some sort of co-op that offers various extracurricular activities, like we did when we lived down home.  Our home school support group was so large it offered basket ball leagues, a band, a symphony, a choir, art lessons, etc.  Outside our home school group there were little league sporting teams, dance studios, gymnastic studios, chess clubs, debate clubs, youth book clubs, literally anything our children were interested in, an urban setting gave us access to it.  As rural home educators, when Farmer Boy played baseball, we drove 45 miles one-way several times per week for practices and games.  Our community is  one of the few that is fortunate to have a local piano teacher.  When Songbird wanted to learn to play guitar, a lady from our church generously provided her lessons.  If we had lived here when our oldest was a youngster, he most likely would have never grown up to be a professional violinist because youth symphonies and violin teachers are not available on the Montana prairie.  Our youngest children have excelled in the Montana 4-H program and enjoy the sport of rodeo.  These are the two extra-curriculars that are common in rural areas, but does not, and will not, interest all youngsters.  Evaluating each family member's interests and goals is a very important aspect when considering your family dynamics and a country lifestyle.

Today, I've covered only a few aspects of family dynamics that should be strongly considered when dreaming of, or thinking about, a life in the country.  While reading this you may have realized that your family's health care needs would not be adequately met in a rural setting.  Maybe you've had to admit to yourself that your spouse is not self motivated enough to "be his/her own boss".  Or you maybe you have a child or children who are passionate about the arts, science, or sports.  Once you've rendered some sober thought on this subject, I hope you will be able to form a realistic idea of whether a country lifestyle is one that could possibly suit your family.  Maybe through this first installment, you've realized that you are the only one in your family for whom a country lifestyle would be blissful.  If that is the case, it's O.K. You could  make a country life for yourself right where you currently are.    There are millions of urban "farmers" in America today.  They've turned their front yard flower beds in to edible landscapes and they've turned their backyards into a country oasis filled with vegetable and herb gardens, mini fruit orchards, laying hens, meat rabbits ... all sorts of other country life experiences.  Just because you don't have acres of land out in the middle of nowhere, doesn't mean you can't enjoy a tiny bite of country living right where you are.

In my next installment of "Country Life", we will think upon your own personality traits and personal habits.  Looking forward to next time!


  1. You've covered a lot of ground here with wonderful information. I wonder if folks consider these points when making this decision?
    Btw- when will you be coming to NC? Will you be near Raleigh?

    1. Good Morning, Lee Ann,

      We've observed so many people give up and return to an urban area within two years, because they did not consider these points. Sadly, these folks often seem to return angry, broken, bitter, and in financial ruin. I hope my series, "Country Life", will shed some light on the realities of a rural lifestyle, so that those who genuinely are not suited for this way of life save themselves from a devastating trial.
      Regarding my trip to NC ... I will be near Charlotte. Since I will be seeing my new grandbaby, I'm not sure how much "sight seeing" I will get in, but I hope to squeeze in a day or two - especially since this will be my first trip to NC. I am very excited!

  2. Hello Mrs. B :) I am so glad that you are challenging people to be totally honest with themselves and to consider all the needs of the individuals in their own family. I know that two of our children would have thrived living out in the country but the other one would have been miserable. Living where we do in "farming country", I have seen some of the older farmers here sell off their land because financially they just cannot keep up with the costs associated with farming and don't want to burden their kids with having to hold onto the farm if there is not that "drive" to make a go of it.

    I am very excited for you about your upcoming trip to see your new grandbaby! You are going to have a wonderful time I am sure! Be blessed my friend!

    1. Good Morning, Mrs. Debbie,

      IF we had moved to the country when our all children were small, I know they all would have done well. However, God had other plans for our older boys. In hindsight, I can see why God placed us near an urban area for that season of our lives. The environment of the urban area, combined with mine and Mr.B's "country ways", produced some very unique, resourceful and adaptable people, whom I believe will bring glory to God. The "country life" has turned out to be a perfect fit for our younger two and as they mature, I see how this is part of God's plan for their lives. God knows exactly what He is doing. He has placed desires within our hearts and brought about those desires, for His greater plan and glory.


  3. This is an EXCELLENT post Mrs. B. These are aspects that I think get lost in the "wanta move to the country and be a homesteader" dreaming and planning stages.

    We find that living outside of town about three miles is a good place for us. Not isolated, but not looking at someone's house out the window works for me!

    God bless!
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

    1. Good Afternoon, Mrs. Laura,

      I often refer to the area in which we lived down home as "semi-rural". We were outside of town in the county where deed restrictions, HOA's and public water systems did not exist(everyone had private water wells & private septic systems). Although our neighbors were 1/2 to 5 acres away, a horse stable was nearly across the road from us, and a blueberry farm was within 3 miles of us, we were still located within 5 miles of grocers & pharmacies, public schools (k-12), gas stations, and a few restaurants.

      This location provided our big boys the opportunities of an urban environment coupled with the values of a country setting. They were right beside me learning to garden & care for and harvest our chickens, fresh eggs and rabbits. They were also able to go fishing in neighboring ponds and travel less than 25 miles for hog and deer hunting. Once the big boys were grown and we had an opportunity to move across the nation and out to the country, our younger two had experienced enough "country living" that they didn't experience a dramatic culture shock.

      God's timing for our move was perfect. The bigs have had enough country living exposure that they really enjoy their visits out here. The littles were still young enough and had had enough exposure to a country lifestyle that they've adjusted well and love their current formative years in a very rural setting.

      As far as your location ... sound like a perfect fit for you.

      Mrs. B


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