For nearly 7 years, my husband and I lived a pretty stereotypical, full on East London life. We worked hard during the day, went out for dinner on weekends (best. vegan. noodles. ever), spent far too many Saturdays in Victoria Park (head to the back left for the quiet part), caffeinated in Hackney coffee shops and mooched around markets.
We didn’t have tons of money but we made ends meet to pay rent. Plus, the capital was never going to be our permanent home (the house prices made sure of that) but we were happy – really happy – and settled in our little London bubble.
That is, until we found out we were having a baby. Cue hugs and tears and alllll the emotions followed sharply by the realisation that we’d have to move home – staying long term in London and growing a family just wasn’t an option financially. But where to? Where was to be our new base for the next belly expanding part of our adventure? The next couple of months were spent talking everything over – we looked at different cities, even different countries (the dream) before realising that the most sensible next step was to move back home to where we’d both grown up in the Midlands – and by home, I mean home home.
Whilst my parents were excited (like, so excited) at the prospect of having us back (as well as my brother who also ended up moving back home around the same time), I was silently dreading it. Yes, spending more time with our families seemed a happy prospect but where we come from is one of those small-everyone-knows-everything-about-everyone-small-towns – moving back there was never the plan. The idea of being confined to a bedroom, not having much alone time as a couple, not deciding what goes in the weekly shop or even whats for dinner made me feel uneasy. Plus, neither of us had jobs lined up, although I was lucky to have a few months of maternity leave left. Finally, we were gutted to be leaving the community we’d created in London.
Where we come from is one of those small-everyone-knows-everything-about-everyone-small-towns – moving back there was never the plan.
Newly wed and with our 7 month old baby, we moved back 10 days before Christmas. The first month or so was a whirlwind of unpacking, celebrating, cooking, eating and spending time together, as a big extended family. It was mid January that I started to feel like we actually lived here, that this was our home. And it was then that the sudden feeling of “what now” hit me, like a big ‘ole January blues beating. The return to day to day life post the Christmas buzz, without the plethora of cafes I’d usually visit or the baby groups we’d go to every week or the galleries and museums on every corner, started to feel really daunting.
I set about starting to replicate the life I’d had in London. I signed us up to three baby classes a week and on other days I’d seek out cafes (and sit there moaning to myself about the lack of decent coffee – we’ve got real good at making our own at home.) I met up with old friends, and found new friends that lived nearby with young children. We went on dog walks, to the baby cinema, and headed to nearby cities on the weekends. Life with 7 adults in one home – cooking, cleaning, playing games, watching films in the evening – was for sure busy. Suddenly three months passed, and it was March.
And it was then that the sudden feeling of “what now” hit me, like a big ‘ole January blues beating.
Soon though, something started to feel amiss. I’d been so desperate to fill that “London business” void that I’d jam packed my day to day life to the point that I was ending each day feeling totally frazzled- not ideal when you have a baby to care for and feed. I realised I needed a total mindset overhaul – rather than seeing moving back to my parents house as a negative, a failure, and one that I needed to prove myself to win at or feel ashamed to be living, I should be embracing this very unique chance to live a slower life. Finally – a rest from the chaos of living in the big smoke!
Slowly, slowly, time crept back in to my life. Time to think. Time to rest. Time to read. Time to stretch. Time to recoup as a family and figure out what we wanted from our lives. Slowly things sort of floated away. I still kept up with friends but did so once a fortnight rather than multiple times a week and we cut down the baby classes to just one. We spent more time, crucially, doing less.
We did less. And with that came more. More time spent in nature. More connection with my baby. More time doing nothing. More time together, and more time apart. More time, and less pressure. Hanging out the washing became the one thing on my to do list for the day, and we’d turn it into a game that would last an hour. Then maybe read some books and potter in the garden. The amazing thing about having a baby is they make you notice all those things we usually take for granted; the rustle of the trees in the wind, how great it is that dogs play fetch, the way the afternoon sun sends light dancing around the dining room…
I realised that rather than seeing moving back to my parents house as a negative, a failure, I should be embracing a chance to live a slower life.
And so here we are. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all idyllic and we’re certainly not the Brady Bunch – the three of us share my teenage bedroom, there are plenty of arguments in our busy household, we have to drive everywhere and we do really miss parts of our London life. But we’ve all adapted to a community like way of living, rather than just co-existing in the same house, and there is something so, so special about that, not to mention practical. Cooking, cleaning and washing is shared among us all, I have a handful of very willing babysitters on tap and having a baby at home has sure brought some sunshine and giggles back into our creaky old house.
It’s not going to be forever (although its probably going to be for a lot longer than we initially anticipated, thanks to Covid19), but for now I’m proud to share that I’m really enjoying it. London life was fun while it lasted, but the slow, Shayler lane is suiting me just fine for now.
Have you ever moved in with family? Would you even consider it?!