Are you an adventurous parent? Do you prefer the comfort and safety of the familiar or would you be willing to pack up your whole family and move overseas if you found the opportunity? I can’t wait for you to meet today’s Living With Kids family, the Rushings, who did just that.
Jessica, her husband Matt, and their four kids moved to a small village in England, are thriving in their new life. She has a lot of great things to say about doing challenging things as a parent. And their home, which is an old vicarage, is full of charm and great places to curl up and read a book. Welcome, Jessica!
Our family of six includes my husband Matt, whose job is what brought us to England; my daughter Bridget, age 13, my straight-A getting lover of acting and theater; Gabe, my 11 year old son, who loves every sport on earth plus his new #1 interest of tap-dancing; Owen, my nine year old son who is equally obsessed with soccer, hockey, baseball, cricket, and any sport he can try his hand at, and also my resident assistant chef; and Quinn, my 7 year old son, again sport-obsessed, but also my little animal lover who does horseback riding and wants to become a farmer when he grows up.
We live in a tiny village in the English countryside that has nearly as much horse traffic as car traffic some days! There is basically one narrow road with maybe 40 or 50 houses, a playground, a pub that has been in continuous operation since 1352, and an 800+-year old church, which is right next door to us.
We live in the Old Vicarage — a 200-year old farmhouse that was once the home of the parish vicar. We have a huge yard with beautiful gardens, several massive trees that are hundreds of years old, a veritable orchard of apple and pear and plum trees, and a mossy old stone wall separating our space from the churchyard (which contains a cemetery!)
Our neighbors are all so lovely — they call us the Americans — and welcomed us right from the very start when we moved here almost 3 years ago. It’s so picturesque and quaint it sometimes feels like we live in a fairy tale.
The one downside though, to living in essentially the middle of nowhere, is that it takes a good 20 minutes to get to anything resembling a grocery store and there are definitely no good options for food delivery and very few for take-out. It’s sort of sad, but I really miss being able to grab sushi for dinner every now and then without an hour-drive round trip!
We are renting this house for the few years we’re living in England, so it’s not ours to keep. We owned a house in Virginia for a decade before moving here, so it was strange to go from homeowner to tenant, but we’ve gotten used to it! Before we moved, we searched online for places to rent within a reasonable distance to my husband’s work and my children’s school. A few weeks before we moved, Matt flew out to see our short-list options in person and as soon as he saw this place he called to say it was THE ONE.
We were actually inspired to move overseas for a few years by Design Mom’s amazing posts about living in France! I would read about their adventures and tell Matt all about them, and that was what got us thinking about how we could do something similar.
It took us a few years of planning and Matt looking at possible positions with his company before we could make it happen, but it was so worth it. We have had the most amazing experience here and it really has changed us all. My kids have seen so many different places and cultures. They’ve learned about a different school system — which has actually been one of our very favorite parts about living in England — and they’ve learned that they can adapt to new places and different ideas and incorporate those into their own lives.
We love it here.
The actual move was a bit terrifying as it was happening — we definitely didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into — and when I look back on the first three months we were here and everything we had to figure out, I am sort of amazed that we were able to do it all. But we did it and we’re al stronger and more resilient for having had those few months of chaos.
Honestly one of the biggest challenges was learning to drive on the wrong side of the car on the other side of the road! I spent every day for six weeks white-knuckled and terrified every time I had to drive anywhere. Plus I kept getting lost and the roads and parking spaces here are SO narrow and there are roundabouts everywhere. It was absolutely nerve-wracking and I did a lot of shrieking in both the driver’s and passenger’s seats for the first few months.
Now though, it’s totally normal and I can switch back and forth to either side of the car without even thinking about it!
The most pleasant surprise was the school my kids are in. It is simply amazing. They have had the most rewarding few years in school here that I ever could have imagined and I think (hope) it’s set them all up for continued success when we move back to America this summer. I truly can’t say enough good things about their teachers and the way the school is run here, there just aren’t words to say how grateful I am for their school experience in England.
Old houses are definitely quirky and full of character. There’s not a straight line or a square corner in my house; walls lean in different directions and door-frames are diagonal in some places and the floor tilts so much we can roll a ball down the hallway just by placing it on the floor, but it’s part of what I love about this place.
The giant windows on the front of the house are originals, from around 1800, and some of the panes of glass are a bit wavy, which is so charming. BUT they are also really drafty! We have a breeze that goes through our living room, even with the windows closed, anytime it’s windy outside! But we have heavy floor-length drapes on every old window that we close and that helps keep the house warm.
Standing at my kitchen sink, I look right out at this gorgeous old gothic church with massive leaded windows and old wooden doors with iron scrollwork. The clock on the church tower rings every hour and sometimes on the weekends, the church bells ring to mark special occasions. We will never have another house like this and I try to remind myself how lucky we are to have it now (especially when we get the astronomical heating bills in the middle of winter)!
Thankfully the kitchen and bathrooms are all modern and updated, so we have the best of both worlds. And because we’re renting, it’s been really lovely to enjoy the charms of living in an old house full of character without having to be responsible for the massive amount of maintenance and upkeep that goes in to owning a home like this!
Living outside of the U.S. has massively influenced me as a parent. There are a lot of similarities in how the English and Americans do things, but a lot of differences too.
One of the biggest differences here is that youth sports are almost all done through the school. My kids play a different sport every season in school, right from the first year of school through high school graduation age, and they have almost all their practices and games during school hours or just after school.
Since all of my children always participated in sports in the U.S., we were used to coming home from school at 3:30 or so, having a little while to have a snack and get homework done, and then heading back out for several hours to practices basically five nights a week, plus games all day on Saturdays.
Here, because everything is done through the school, we may get home a little later on days the kids have matches, but when we get home at 5 or 5:30, we’re in for the night and we have time to make dinner and eat together as a family.
The change this has made for our family has been so wonderful — it’s so much less stressful and our lives don’t revolve around our kids’ activities anymore. Getting back into the insanely competitive and time-consuming youth sports culture we were in when we lived in Virginia is not something I’m looking forward to when we return.
Another thing that has really changed our family is the amount of traveling we’ve been able to do while we’re here. Travel within Europe is super easy and SO MUCH less expensive than traveling in the U.S. — we’ve gotten round trip plane tickets from London to Rome for six people for less than $1000 total!
We flew to Menorca last summer for just over $200 roundtrip. We flew to Edinburgh for $25 each! We use the discount airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet, so the planes aren’t cushy, but we don’t mind at all — if it means we get to spend a week in Italy, we’re okay with not having a TV in the seat in front of us on the plane.
Since we’ve moved here, we’ve been to Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Germany several times each, Spain, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland, and we have trips planned to a few more countries before we move back.
We’ve been to the top of the highest mountain in the Alps and we’ve snorkeled in the Mediterranean. We’ve stood in the Sistine Chapel and we took a tour of the Guinness Factory in Dublin. It’s been amazing.
Before we travel we always make sure we at least know how to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank you in the native language of the country we’re traveling to, so my kids have picked up phrases and can read street signs in several different languages now. They’ve learned that even when we don’t know exactly where we are and can’t speak the language fluently, we can communicate and figure things out and get by.
It’s been a really great lesson for them and for Matt and I and I think they see that going new places isn’t scary at all — it’s really rewarding. And we’ve also tried tons of new foods! We ate octopus in Spain and wiener schnitzel in Germany and haggis in Scotland and so much gelato in Italy I can’t even describe it.
Nothing makes me as happy and proud as a parent than to hear my children discussing places we’ve visited and debating which was best and knowing that they’ll have these memories forever.
On a less serious note though, I really, really, really miss Target and Wegmans. I cannot wait to be able to easily shop for the things I need and want. And get sushi takeout whenever I want!
I am a really organized person and a total Type-A planner. It makes everything easier with four kids to have systems for chores and keeping track of activities and school uniforms and all the other things that go into a busy life in a house with six people. Not knowing what we have going on, or where the things we need are located, totally and completely stresses me out and that makes me a cranky mother.
So I plan and track and organize juuuuust about everything we have going on, but it means I can enjoy it more because I’m not stressing that I’ve missed something.
I hope they remember the sound of horses clip-clopping past our house all the time and the church clock ringing every hour. I hope they remember how insane it felt to stand on top of a mountain and see the whole Alps spread out in front of them. I hope they remember climbing through the gap in the hedgerow to run next door to play with their village friends and sitting by the fireplace in the winter and playing Pictionary as a family.
I hope they remember hopping on the train to London to go to shows in the West End a few times a year. I hope they remember that when we moved here, we brought some of our traditions with us (birthday breakfast presents, Christmas sibling gift exchange), but we made new ones too (bonfire night fireworks and mince pies at the holidays).
I really hope they remember how hard their dad and I worked to make sure we got to take lots of cool trips and see lots of cool places and that we always made a point of doing things together as a family. I hope they forget how often I yelled at them to make their beds or put their shoes away or pick up their bits of school uniform off the floors.
And I hope they forget the time I forgot to order the heating oil in the winter and we had to wear winter coats in the house and sit by the fireplace for three days until we could get it delivered!
I love the chaos and loudness and busyness of a house full of people. It totally gives me energy and makes me happy to have the music on, the whole family in the kitchen dancing and singing and helping cook dinner and doing homework and shouting over each other. It’s loud and crazy, but it’s MY loud and crazy. I hate a silent house and I already dread the days when my kids have moved out and my house is quiet all the time.
As my kids are getting older, I’m discovering how much I love the peeks into their grown-up personalities that are forming. My daughter has a wicked sense of humor and great fashion sense and she is just so fun to hang out with. My oldest son is completely not embarrassed to hug and kiss me and hold my hand in public still at 11 years old and even when people remark on it, he just responds by giving me another hug. It’s awesome to see them becoming their own people.
My nine- and seven-year old sons are still mostly in the little kid phase, so they balance out the occasional emotional turmoil of parenting teens and preteens. We’re in a good parenting phase right now and I want to soak it all up while I can.
I wish someone had told me years ago that it’s okay to admit to your kids when you’ve messed up and you know it. Every parent makes mistakes, yells occasionally when they shouldn’t have, says no when they should have said yes, says yes when they should have said no.
For many years I thought I couldn’t admit to my kids when I knew I had done the wrong thing because that would be showing some kind of weakness, but I’ve finally learned that that’s crazy. Not only can I admit my mistakes, but I should! It’s good for them to see me acknowledging when I’ve messed up and asking for forgiveness because it teaches them to do the same thing.
On the flip side of that, I wish someone had also told me that I don’t have to justify my parenting decisions to my kids (or anyone else either). If Matt and I make a decision, we don’t have to explain over and over to our questioning children why we’ve made it. I am all for explaining our reasoning so our kids understand our decision-making process, but I’ve learned that I don’t have to try to over-explain and attempt to make my kids happy with every decision I make.
More than anything I’ve done in my life, I think one of the things I will always be most proud of is that Matt and I moved our family to a different place for a few years and tried something completely new.
We got closer as a family because we had all these adventures together, we learned that we can get through stressful times during the move and the first few months being completely out of our element, and we showed the kids that meeting new people and traveling to new places and trying new things and not necessarily doing what everyone would expect you to do is not scary, those things make your life so much richer and better!
We will miss SO much about living in England when we move back this coming summer, but we’ve all changed and grown in ways we never could have if we had just stayed where we were. And now we’re looking forward to a new adventure when we move back to another new place. We’re so lucky to have gotten this chance and we’re better people because of our experiences here.
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing, Jessica. It makes me want to pack up my kids and move across the ocean. Seems like such a wonderful adventure! Giving your kids a chance to see the way different people live, and the chance to experience new cultures and places, is such an opportunity for learning. Not every family can make it happen, but for those who can, I’m always impressed when they embrace the chance!
I also really loved what Jessica said about loving when things are loud and crazy because it is HER loud and crazy. I think sometimes as a parent it is easy to get overwhelmed by the chaos of the home. We all have those moments, but I love the reminder to really lean into the crazy a little bit and appreciate it for what it is.
Jessica can be found on the web here or you can check out her Instagram. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram. Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, gay parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.