Is Home Where The Heart Is? Thoughts On The Best Place To Bring Up Kids

bondi beach

It’s been almost seven years since I moved from Australia back home to England, and I probably think about Sydney daily, even though I lived there for less than three years.

Isn’t it meant to take half the length of time to recover from a relationship after it ends? In other words: get a grip, lady. I shouldn’t STILL be pining for my lost Aussie love(s).

Strewth.

(And by ‘lost loves’ I actually mean the place itself and some fantastic friendships, not a cork-hatted man driving a ute.)

(Sorry to disappoint.)

But in defence of my pining, social media serves me regular reminders of Australia – snapshots of my much-missed pals, some raising kids and others doing their own thing, all being fabulous in their fabulous surroundings.

And social media offers me glimpses of the life I might be living if I’d stayed. This make my brain whir occasionally. I miss Bondi. Did I make the right decision in leaving?

I also miss London, where I lived for four years in my 20s. I was reminded by Facebook the other day of a particularly messy night out with one of my best friends, and felt a pang of longing for my old London life, with ‘old’ the operative word: the photo was taken 12 summers ago.

12!

Good god. I am officially ancient.

I love London, with all of its people and opportunities and its LIFE. But I don’t miss London in the same way I miss Sydney.

I associate London with being young and carefree and pissed but also stressed and squashed – squashed into tube carriages every day and squashed by trying too hard at work and still feeling like I wasn’t doing enough.

My current life now would not be compatible in any way with my old London life, and I never imagined raising a family in London.

People manage it of course, and the area I lived in – Crouch End / Muswell Hill, a kind of ‘boho’ posh bit of North London that was cheap (ish) because there’s no tube station – was full of posh mums and posh kids called Arthur and Ted (ha).

But to actually own a property bigger than a mouse’s garage you’d need to have Arthur and Ted in full-time childcare and be earning six figures and/or be married to someone rich.

And maybe if you sent Arthur and Ted to a top school you’d still worry about them joining a gang because all London kids are in gangs. (Eye roll toward sensationalist Daily Mail headlines that would have you believe this is true.)

Bondi, on the other hand, is a gang-free zone*.

(*Not strictly true I’m sure but, in Daily Mail fashion, it fits with my story so we’ll stick with it.)

What is true about Bondi, and about much of the rest of Sydney and of Melbourne – and probably Brisbane and Adelaide too, is that – even if they’re not gang-free zones – they are amazing places to bring up kids.

The weather and the beaches and the emphasis on being outside and the weather and the beaches…. (OHHHHH, TAKE ME BACK).

bondi beach

Paradise vs A Crap Town

Where I live now – Hull, in East Yorkshire, in the North of England – isn’t known for any of these things.

While it was UK City of Culture 2017, and is the birthplace of Mick Ronson and The Housemartins and Sir Tom Courtenay, and has a beautiful old town and is very close to decent beaches that aren’t quite Bondi, it’s possibly still best known for once being voted the UK’s ‘Crappest Town’ (it’s a city, actually). And for being in decline ever since its fishing industry deteriorated, and for low levels of employment and high rates of poverty.

And it’s crossed my mind once or twice whether I am depriving Ted of opportunities by raising him in a place that I myself have described as a ‘dump’.

(Calling it a dump actually feels like a massive guilty admission, as I’ve previously done lots of PR work to help boost the city’s profile, and I am normally very protective over it. But currently, it doesn’t feel like a thriving place.)

I left Hull at 18 for uni and later travelled and sought opportunities because it felt that there were few here. I worry already, before he’s two, about the lack of opportunities here for Ted.

The primary school that Ted and baby 2 will hopefully attend, two streets away, is rated one of the best in our county. Yet I think about my own awful (secondary) school: at 12, I remember classmates discussing getting ‘pills’ to take on a school trip to Alton Towers. Drugs. At 12!!!!!!

And then I think about the idyllic lifestyle of the families where I lived in Bondi and its neighbouring beaches, and how Ted already seems to love the beach, and how a Parallel Universe Ted might already have his name down to join the Nippers surf life saving club and be heading down to Bronte beach every afternoon.

Sigh.

What a terrible mother I am to have born him here and not there!

 

Bronte or Filey…Life’s What You Make It

Of course, if I hadn’t left Sydney then there wouldn’t even be a Ted, never mind a Parallel Universe Ted, and so any talk of Parallel Universe Teds is just RIDICULOUS.

(Unless we go down a Sliding Doors-style rabbit-hole of thinking that if there had been a cork-hatted man with a ute, then there could well have been a cork-hatted Ted, but LET’S NOT, EH?)

And there is good and bad everywhere, pros and cons for any place.

I guess the key is figuring out what matters, and how to make life work, however it pans out.

When I left Australia, I was completely single and kids weren’t on the horizon. But I always felt that if I had them, I would want to be geographically close to my parents (for their benefit too, not just to provide me with extra pairs of hands…honest).

And the other day, beach-loving Ted – the real one, not the Parallel Universe one – had a whale of a time at nearby Filey beach with me, his auntie and his grandparents.

Alright, Filey beach is not quite Bondi or Bronte but we had the ‘surf’ (ha) to ourselves and the fish and chips are better. So there.

toddler on beach

toddler and man on beach

Also, I appreciate that I am saying this from a place of massive privilege, but not many (none?) of the bad things about my home city currently have a daily impact on my life nor on Ted’s life.

(I am also aware that I am in a position of massive privilege to even be able to witter on in the first place about where is best to bring up kids. Many people don’t have options. They just get on with it.)

So yes, on paper there are always going to be better places than Hull to raise kids.

And yes I worry already, before he’s two, whether Ted will be offered drugs at 12. (OH GOD.)

But then I’d worry about Parallel Universe Ted being offered drugs or joining a gang in Bondi (even though there are no gangs in Bondi, according to me).

We have a lovely life here, despite Hull being a ‘dump’. (It’s really not that bad.)

And what does have a daily impact on our lives is living near to my family, Ted seeing his grandparents several times a week, me having access to regular ‘free childcare’ for which I am eternally grateful.

Home is home and it’s where the heart is and all that naff jazz, and I might just go out and buy a plaque which says exactly that for my living room and have done with it. (Maybe not.)

Thanks for reading, and bye for now x

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Hello, I'm Laura. I write about parenting, life, style, building a business and finding success on your own terms.

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