If you follow @pinkhouseliving on Instagram you'll probably know that me and my family are upping sticks and moving The Pink House from Edinburgh to London (reversing the move we made six years ago). What you probably don't know is that we're surrounded by people who think we're bonkers. Even my GP, when I told him we were heading back to London, looked horrified and said, "why on earth would you want to do that?"
When I first started to moot the Scot-Lond move (the seed was planted during the Scottish Independence Referendum - something which now appears to be coming back to haunt us), this resistance made it harder to come to a decision. But the Pink House Husband and I finally made up our minds on the move at the end of last year.
But on reflection it's not surprising many think our move is mental. At our life stage (I'm 38) lots of people move out of London to a) be near family, b) afford a bigger house/garden, and c) to find a more peaceful way of living. We are doing the opposite (although we did the former abc six years ago when the 7yo was a baby who refused to sleep) but somehow it just feels right.
I wasn’t ready to leave London when we did - we only went because the sleep deprivation and endless crying (me and the baby) had pretty much defeated me. I had no idea the motherhood thing would be so hard and I wanted/needed family support. Both my parents and in-laws live in or near Edinburgh so it just made sense to my sleep-deprived mind. And I'm so glad we did move to Edinburgh for the six years during which the children were really small - it's allowed them to forge a close, loving relationship with their grandparents which I'm confident will last a lifetime.
I first moved to London after completing my English Literature degree at Cambridge. For me and most of my friends, moving to the capital was the obvious choice if you wanted to realise your career potential. The bright lights and golden-paved streets beckoned, and for the most part didn't disappoint: living in London felt like living in the centre of the universe; who cared if your kitchen was a bit cramped - the fabulous bars, fantastic career opportunities and creative vibe more than made up for it.
But despite working my way up first the London advertising industry and then the magazine world, when my eldest was born, my head was so scrambled I could hardly remember having had a career, let alone what it had been. Before we knew it, our two-bed flat in gritty Archway was sold, and we were somehow the owners of a charming five-bed, four-storey Victorian house in one of Edinburgh's poshest areas. Once here we threw ourselves at the grandparents' mercy, desperate simply for a few hours sleep and the odd evening to ourselves.
As I started to get more sleep and freedom, the loss of London hit me harder and harder, despite regular visits to the Big Smoke to visit friends. But I kept telling myself it was grass-is-greener syndrome, and that living in London with young kids (my youngest son arrived in Dec 2012) wouldn’t be anything like as brilliant as it had been in my 20s. People (Edinburgh residents) kept saying how I had ‘the best of both worlds’, meaning I could enjoy the space, higher standard of living and more peaceful environment of Edinburgh, with occasional visits to London to see the sights, visit friends and do ‘the fun bits’.
I disagreed. I didn’t want to be a tourist in London; I wanted to go back to being a LONDONER, with all the dirty tube journeys, short cuts down smelly Soho back alleys, and knowledge of the crusty-looking place in Kentish Town that did amazing croissants if you went before 8.36am on Tuesdays. After 12 years living in the city, I had earned the right to call myself a Londoner, and I was gutted I couldn’t.
For me, London is the one place in the world I feel most alive; most myself. It’s filled with amazing memories of my adult life - memories I chose to make (unlike the memories of being bullied that haunt me whenever I leave my Edinburgh home and walk past my old school). There’s the spot in Green Park, near the tube, where I randomly bumped into my now-husband when I was out for a run, just a couple of weeks after we’d started dating. There’s the cobbled Soho street where I used to go for after-work Thursday drinks in my first advertising job. There’s the super-steep bit on Hampstead Heath where I beat (nearly) all the boys to the top in British Military Fitness. So many memories I want to be reminded of every day.
But I also want space to make new memories. We're moving to a part of London - the South East, around Forest Hill - that neither of us really know. This is where we will create new stories for our new family, unencumbered by people from my distant past on every corner. In a way, I feel like moving back to London is my version of the big ‘living abroad for a bit’ adventure that never quite happened, but without moving too far from our families, or somewhere temporary. I want this move to be our last, at least while the kids live with us. I want it to feel like home, but still be exciting. And I guess that’s how I like my life to be - comfort and security, but with regular moments - maybe hours if I’m lucky - of excitement. London is home AND exciting, so it’s perfect. Luckily the husband feels the same way.
And of course London is way better for both of our careers - now the kids are a bit older, and since starting The Pink House, I’ve felt that old rush of ambition return. Ambition is a world I like to use often; women are often made to feel ashamed of being ambitious or competitive, but ambition and a sense of competition are things I value highly in myself, which allow me to make the best of myself. While the kids were very small and my ambition had to take a back seat, I didn’t feel properly myself; I felt less me. I was so relieved when my drive to succeed in something other than keeping small people alive came back, and I’m damned if I’m not going to allow myself to realise my potential, especially after so many years of being a full-time mum. I feel I’ve earned it. Living in London again will give me the opportunity to see how high I can really fly - same goes for my other half. That's what I promised myself when I graduated from university, and I'm not letting my 21-year-old self down now.
But hopefully the way we’re planning to do London will mean I actually have MORE time to spend with the kids, partly because I won’t be spending the best part of a day every other week travelling up and down the UK for meetings and events. Having lived north of the river before moving to Edinburgh, the houses in South East London seem surprisingly not-quite-so-eye-wateringly-expensive (obviously I’m not about to say ‘cheap’ here), and we’re actually able to afford a decent house. Plus Brexit seems to have worked in our favour, affecting London's property market more than Edinburgh's.
The Edwardian semi we're buying (fingers crossed all goes smoothly) might be a bit smaller than our Edinburgh house, but it's lovely and has loads of potential. It even has access to a huge communal garden, meaning the kids will have more space to play outside than they do now. It's also close to the Overground station, which will allow me to shoot straight to Shoreditch (where I plan to work - and play - some of the time) or central London in about 10-15 minutes, depending on where life takes me.
The schools thing is definitely difficult - possibly the hardest thing of all, logistically. Basically, we’ll make the best decisions we can for our 4yo and 7yo with the info we have at every stage, and trust we’ll find a way that works. And if it doesn’t? We’ll change it. I'm so excited our boys will grow up as Londoners, with all the opportunities and delights our capital city has to offer.
Basically, yes, we are a little bit mental to be leaving our lovely Edinburgh lives, our supportive Scotland-based families and friends, and our beautiful house, but being mental is, in my view, an important part of life. If it doesn’t scare me, I’m not doing it right; I refuse to get too comfortable - not yet, anyway. One life, and I intend on living it in a way I will never regret. And I’m excited to have a whole new Pink House to start decorating - this one’s done!
Did you move out of London to have kids, but are now considering a move back again? I'd love to hear from you - drop me a link on firstname.lastname@example.org and/or comment below, including your contact details if you'd be interested in me potentially using your story in a magazine article.