I’m continuing down the list of suggested topics my friends sent me on Facebook. One friend asked me to write about change and another one didn’t know we had moved (thank you Facebook algorithm for being weird, I’ve been yapping about nothing else for 6 months it seems… or maybe she just muted me… who knows?). If you are into podcasts, I shared our move story here. My friend said she didn’t have 53 minutes to listen to a podcast with all the children screaming and what-not. It reminded me of this Tweet from Dan Wilson:
All I’m saying is that a podcast and a pair of earphones is a great antidote to screaming children and what-not. But I digress.
Let’s try to make this short… Ok. In 2012 we bought land, in 2013 we started building a house on it and in 2014 we moved. The house we built was in a little community called Middleville, in the township of Lanark, about an hour west of Ottawa. The house was supposed to be our forever home, it was perfect for us as if we had designed it ourselves. Oh wait, we had!
Our move to the country was supposed to allow us to grow closer as a family, through homeschooling and a calmer, more family-centric life. I had reservations. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy living in the country right away but I thought I would grow into it. My reasoning was that I have a lot of drive once I set my mind to something. I go through phases of loving stuff, and when I love something I love it a lot. I thought it was a matter of will. I didn’t appreciate to what extent it was also a matter of personality and temperament. I also didn’t appreciate to what extent the success of this project was predicated on everything working well forever.
We didn’t have a plan B. Homeschooling had to work. Our health had to remain perfect. Paul’s employment situation had to stay on an upward swing. We could not need a second income. Our teenagers had to buy into the project. If even one of these things went south, the integrity of the whole thing was compromised. But we never thought of that.
First, my health went south. I suffered a traumatic miscarriage in 2015 which triggered an autoimmune condition and sent my ADHD into overdrive. It took two years to diagnose and manage properly, during which I gained 60 lbs, suffered from insomnia, had a paradoxical reaction to a treatment, started suffering from intractable back pain, depression, anxiety, basically a tornado of causes and effects that became nearly impossible to untangle.
Homeschooling was eating me alive. I lived in a state of perpetual exasperation, frustration and crippling anxiety over my inability to teach anything without a fight. In the middle of everything I was struggling with, I didn’t have the mental strength to always be the bad guy. We were also facing a steep learning curve, trying to homeschool two high school students, two elementary school students, two preschoolers, and a toddler. When you “homeschool from birth”, you grow with the curriculum. The first three years are a period of learning but I didn’t have three years: I had kids in grades 9 and 10! By the end of the second year of homeschooling, I was suffering from a classic burn-out and my husband started taking time off work to catch the children up in their schooling. So much for his earning potential remaining on the up and up. He enjoyed homeschooling and the children responded well to him but we couldn’t simply send me off to work so he could stay at home: we had a giant mortgage and maintenance costs that could not possibly be met by a writer’s salary.
We started talking about putting the children back in school in the Fall of 2016. In December 2016 I dressed my toddler up to play outside and promptly forgot him. He was found on the road by a school bus driver who called 911. The police came, followed his little boot steps back to our house and brought him back to me. I had no recollection of anything. I was completely dysfunctional. In January 2017, our children were back in school in Carleton Place, a lovely little town about 30 minutes from where we lived and I was looking into therapy and medication.
For a few months, the children made the hour-long bus ride to and from school every day but by the time September rolled around, we decided to drive them instead. My life became completely scheduled around driving the children to and from school, going to medical appointments and doing groceries. It made it impossible for me to work, which made it impossible for my husband to work less and be home more. We were completely stuck in these silos: him making as much money as possible so I could spend my days driving in circles between Middleville, Carleton Place, and Ottawa. The weeks flew-by in a flurry of driving, we spent the week-ends catching-up with housework, grounds maintenance, and logistics. We no longer had time to host on weekends, we lived too far to see people on weekdays, it was a very regimented and isolated life. We had a beautiful property that we didn’t have any time to enjoy, a beautiful house that was starting to feel like a prison, our older children were almost never home, nothing felt like it was supposed to.
Sometimes in life, we are called to persevere and sometimes we are called to quit. One teaches us fortitude and the other teaches us humility. Depending on your journey, you may be called to grow in fortitude or grow in humility. Throughout our married life, Paul and I have been able to make bold decisions because we give ourselves permission to persevere or quit. We made a decision to homeschool and move to the country based on a set of circumstances. When those circumstances changed, we allowed ourselves to change course rather than persevere down a dead-end. Some people admire that but honestly, it’s a costly way to live your life. Given Paul’s professional success, we’d long have a house paid-off by now had we stayed in one place instead of trying different things: sending me back to school, starting a company, closing a company, buying a house, deciding to live debt-free, rent a house, buy land, etc. So while people admire our ability to change course — and we certainly flexed that muscle numerous times in the last 20 years — I often feel like we are constantly reacting to things rather than planning them.
When we decided to move, we set our sights on a suburban community in the West end of Ottawa called Stittsville. The three schools our children would be attending were on the same stretch of road, meaning that we could find a house within walking distance of all three schools. We couldn’t find anything suitable right away and had to wait almost a year before a rental house came on the market. The real estate market was red hot and we didn’t want to saddle ourselves with another McMortgage, especially as our older children were starting the leave the house. When a suitable rental came on the market, we had all but given up on the idea. Paul and I took a day off to visit the house, go for coffee and re-hash why we wanted to change course. By the end of the day, we had made a decision and grabbed the rental. Within four weeks, from late March to May 1st, we had moved out of Middleville, put our house up for sale and started settling in Stittsville. In late June we got an offer on our house and it closed in August, wrapping-up this episode of our life with a bow.
We are now suburbanites with no mortgage (my favorite way to live). We live on a busy street corner with a bus stop in our backyard. There’s red carpet everywhere and really ornate window covering. The kitchen is that dark oak that was popular in the 90’s… Everything looked wrong for a family who was hoping to homeshool and homestead in their perfectly designed house. But on the day we moved, our 9 children were sitting around the table for supper. Not because it was a special occasion but because they could. They didn’t have to stay in town to work or find accomodations for their Summer job. They could just live here. Everything looked wrong but everything was right again.