One of my biggest regrets of the past three years is that I wasted so much time worrying. I was a worrier with a capital W. I worried about where we were going to live, what we were going to do for work and what school my daughter would eventually go to. I worried about all sorts of things but, mainly, I worried about the future.
I am a planner you see. I wish I wasn’t but I am. So there you go. This means that, although we lived in a pretty little cottage in a lovely village in Berkshire not far from London, I couldn’t relax. It was all so… temporary.
We rented our house and lived on a rolling short term tenancy contract. Buying a house was on our “To Do” list, not because we aspired to owning property particularly but because tenants in this country hardly have any rights or security and, after 6 years renting we’d had enough. We wanted to put down roots properly but knew the chances of affording anything bigger than a shoebox in that part of the UK was nigh on impossible.
I can vividly remember getting so panicked about the future when Frog was six months old that I was in tears by the time the (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine returned home from work. Having had no one to talk me off the ledge of my own worry I’d wound myself up into a complete state.
Other mums at the baby and toddler groups would discuss optimum age gaps between siblings, planning pregnancies and school start times, while I fretted. I knew I couldn’t afford to return to my old job – I’d barely break even once I’d shelled out for petrol and childcare fees. Work woes took over house woes at that time. I was fixated on setting myself up as a freelancer on the first step towards our Master Plan.
Everyone told me to “live in the moment” and “enjoy this special time” while my baby was small. And I tried to. I really did. But it’s easier to live in the moment when you know your future is secure. All the time, at the back of my mind, was this vague sense of unease as a big knot of worry tangled in my stomach.
“Things will turn out OK in the end,” my mum reassured me. I wanted to believe her but I couldn’t.
When I got a new contract we decided to save everything I earned and try really, really hard to get a deposit together to buy a house – even though we didn’t know where that house would be.
We only had the luxury of saving because I was basically working two jobs – around 80 hours a week – and the NLM earned enough for us to live on. If we earned less there’s no way that would have been possible.
18 months ago things were coming to a head. The house we lived in was owned by a lovely family in the same village. They’d decided they wanted to move back in, meaning we had to move out. That was OK – we’d told them we wanted to move out in the summer anyway. But it gave us an added pressure to actually get a Plan B in place.
I used to lie awake at night worrying that the NLM wouldn’t get a job in a different area before the cut-off point for teaching posts (if he didn’t have one sorted by May half term we knew we’d have to stay in the area until Christmas). Until his job situation was all sorted we couldn’t make any house plans. That made the planner in me feel a bit sick.
And then it happened. It turned out my mum was right all along. The NLM got a new job – 200 miles away in South Devon. It meant we could move to an area 45 minutes from my parents’ place. We wouldn’t be so isolated from family and, another bonus, houses were far, far cheaper there compared to Berkshire.
One year on and here we are.
We’ve been in Devon for a year now. We rented a house for six months while we got our mortgage sorted and found a house to buy in a little village on the edge of Dartmoor. Within a month of picking up the keys for that house I became pregnant. Frog will start at the village primary school in September, just before the new baby is due to arrive.
Life is calm now. That ball of worry disappeared nearly a year ago. We are settled, happy and enjoying life properly, finally.
The last three years have taught me a few things. To trust my mum when she gives me advice. That being a planner isn’t always a bad thing. That worry about things you can’t control is pretty pointless. And that working hard isn’t always enough – you need a fair amount of good luck too.
It’s not that we weren’t happy before. I have hundreds of happy memories from before our Devon days and many friends who I still miss. But this is a new type of happy. It’s a contented happy that, as a family, is still pretty new to us.
So here’s to one year in Devon. And hopefully many more to come…