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!