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Stay in London to have children or move to country?

(40 Posts)
PandaSam Mon 23-Aug-10 16:00:05

Help - I can't decide!

DH and I currently live in a two bed flat in SW London (on 4th floor - no lift) with a cat (no garden).

We both work in Central London and we love the area we live in but can't afford to buy anything more practical (with garden/ground floor).

We have thought about moving to Surrey to live near DH's family and we could afford a 3 bed house in a nice village - but we would both be commuting to London (until I have a baby - then could work part-time) and the costs of commuting would be £700 per month.

WWYD? Which is worse - forking out £700 per month to commute for a total of 3.5 hours a day - or living in a top floor flat with a baby and a cat!?

scurryfunge Mon 23-Aug-10 16:02:33

Can you look elsewhere in London that meets your requirements without resorting to Surrey?

thighsmadeofcheddar Mon 23-Aug-10 16:06:10

We live in Surrey, I don't work at the minute (DD2 18weeks) but would live here and commute over cramped conditions in London. I do love London but where we are in Surrey is so nice I can't imagine moving back in. DH copes with the commute, gets lots of work done on the train -only 25 odd mins to Waterloo.

Earlybird Mon 23-Aug-10 16:10:11

DD and I lived in a third floor flat in London, and it was fine. Maybe because I hadn't known different (and neither had she)?

We went to alot of parks/playgrounds, and met/made friends there. We also regularly visited the museums, events, etc on offer in London - the sorts of things many people travel in for were right on our doorstep.

The 'no lift' might be a drag though. Would your building allow you to leave the pushchair downstairs?

PandaSam Mon 23-Aug-10 16:14:34

Scurryfunge - I have looked at loads of other places but we would have to really compromise on the area to afford anything better and I really wouldn't want to do that with a baby.

Thighsmadeofcheddar - & Earlybird - you are both like the little voices on my shoulder and those are the exact reasons I am torn!

Couldn't leave the pushchair downstairs but could leave it in the car? Or maybe use a sling and then have a shopping trolley for all the other stuff (easier to drag up the stairs!)

tattycoram Mon 23-Aug-10 16:16:04

Top floor flat with a baby is fine, I've done it. As Earlybird says there's loads to do in London and lots of my friends stayed in their flats with their first baby and made the big move further out before primary school.

scurryfunge Mon 23-Aug-10 16:20:07

I think if location is the most important then you will probably have to endure the commute. DH commutes weekly to SW London from East Anglia....he has to rent a flat midweek.

At the moment it is our only solution. We can't afford to have the same standard of home in South London or Surrey so I understand how you feel about making compromises.

PYT Mon 23-Aug-10 16:23:43

Tough one. I can only tell you what we did, which is to stay in London, but move to a cheaper suburb in order to get a bigger place (we were living in Zone 2, moved to Zone 4). Glad we didn't leave London, but then, we are both Londoners and love the place! i can see the appeal of leaving the city for a bigger place, but personally, I couldn't stick village life. Can you rent for a while in a village and see how you get on?

Fiddledee Mon 23-Aug-10 19:46:51

We moved zone 2 to zone 4 and are now in Surrey. Zone 4 didn't suit us, garden large compared to most but it seemed very small with 3 kids in it. I am a Londoner that grew up in zone 2 and always thought that I would bring up my kids in London but I now find it too stressful and busy, schools too full, and it all just seems a bit grey. Trying to walk down the high street with 3 kids hoping they don't get knocked over by people, bus, other buggies etc..

There are nice parts of zone 3/4 with good schools and lots of pre-school stuff - East Sheen, Teddington, St Margarets. It just didn't suit us. We talked about moving to Surrey before the kids and I was too scared, I sorely regret it now.

VoidofDiscovery Mon 23-Aug-10 20:09:52

If you love it, I would stay, you'll never be able to afford to move back in again I'm an ex-Londoner.

My main concern would be schools (I know, this is rather foward looking), but it will be an issue. If you are happy with them, stay in your current area.

In many european cities people bring up children in flats. You have to be organised with shopping etc., but it can be done and you will get fit. I did it for a while in Bristol with 18mth old while pregnant with my second.

Commuting stinks, if trains are late or delayed, you are stuck, think of miserable winter commutes and you may be waiting at home for DH in the early years of your child's life, while he is delayed again. Plus often miss bedtime.

Also, there is so much to do in London, nowhere else compares.

PandaSam Mon 23-Aug-10 21:04:53

Thanks so much for all sharing your experiences...it's definately a tough one.

Schools are my biggest concern in London, unfortunately we can't afford to live in the areas that have the good schools (ours
are ok but very overcrowded)

Hmmm think I'm leaning towards staying in London with a baby (when DH can be at home more) and moving out to Surrey for primary schools later on.

I would move not for any reasons about commuting or London or Surrey, but because you mention that DH's family are close by in Surrey

Having family within close (babysitting) distance is invaluable in my experience, particularly when the baby is little for support
- but only if you get on well with them!

AirHairLair Mon 23-Aug-10 21:12:29

I would definitely stay in London to have a baby, then see how you feel if you plan to have another or when primary school is an issue. London is fantastic with small children, loads to do, see, places to hang out with other mothers / parents.

Plus commute for whoever's at work while baby is small and if you both go back to work is a real factor. While trains can be v quick back to eg Surrey, if you / DH has to work late or gets stuck in a meeting or socialises after work, you wouldn't be able to get a cab back to Surrey. So you have much more flexibility staying in London while baby is small.

Only issue is top floor stuff but if you have parking outside then yes get pram that folds easily and leave in car. I used the sling loads with small baby in London, really perfect place for it.

starmucks Mon 23-Aug-10 21:23:18

I lived in Zone 1 until DS1 was 18 months in a large three bed flat on the second floor flat with no lift. For the first year it was fine, although the no lift thing was a real hassle. On the plus side we were right beside a park and short walk to Oxford street. Infact for the first six months it was brilliant - all considered. Once DS became mobile it was a lot harder. Letting DS1 toddle around the park, let alone on the pavement was unthinkable. People are so self absorbed they don't notice little ones. We then moved to zone 2, which despite having loads more families was no less stressful. It was still very busy, the competition for schools ridiculous and people still very self obsessed. We stayed there 2 years and had a DS2. We are now in Kent, and both DH and I commute into London every day. On balance, it's the best thing for all of us and we really regret not coming here straight from central London. Commuting is fine, the schools excellent and people are a lot more relaxed about life.

theyoungvisiter Mon 23-Aug-10 21:24:35

Panda, what's your budget? I'm sure we could find you somewhere with nice schools a bit further out.

Also the good schools are not necessarily where you would think - we live in a not-posh bit of North London in a triangle between three outstanding primary schools.

And DS1 went to nursery at a "satisfactory" primary school which was nevertheless a really warm, amazing place with fantastic staff and committed parents. I wouldn't be surprised if it was good to outstanding in a few years.

Secondary schools are currently another story unfortunately - but we are adopting a wait-and-see policy and will move out if we have to. But a long commute with secondary age children is a hugely different kettle of fish to a long commute with a baby. Having DH cycle home at 6 every day made the early months bearable!

SparkyUK Tue 24-Aug-10 06:49:05

If surrey is close enough to commute, surely its close enough for the grans to come in to babysit?

SylvanianFamily Tue 24-Aug-10 06:54:20

I stayed, and I'm bemused by people who run.

Even if your flat is small, London is your playgound. Always something nice to do.

Babies don,t really need gardens - but they do need fathers. Commuting is tiring, and will reduce the time you and the baby see your DH. In London, I can take the kids for lunch with DH on a whim.

PandaSam Tue 24-Aug-10 09:00:50

Its really interesting reading how much others peoples views differ!

Our budget is about £325k. DH's family (who I get on really well with) live near Dorking so if we moved to Surrey it would be in that area.

For me the ideal would be to move to Kingston/Surbiton but DH has a "thing" about living in the "suburbs" (don't ask!). For him it either has to be a rural village or the city.

Any ideas on possible locations would be great!

Fiddledee Tue 24-Aug-10 09:18:19

Your budget is not huge as you know you will get more for your money near Dorking than Kingston/Surbiton (probably only get a small flat there near a good school) but your DH probably won't see your baby in the evenings.

We have moved out pre-primary school but once my youngest hit 18 months so its a bit less important than the baby days when I needed him home early.

Four flights of stairs with a baby as they get bigger is not easy. I had C-sectiona and it would have meant I would have been housebound for alot longer which would have been horrid.

Another point to consider as I would not want both me and DH to be both an hour away from the kids during the day at work in case they get sick at school/pre-school even if grandparents on the doorstep they are not always available. I am getting a local job while my DH commutes.

theyoungvisiter Tue 24-Aug-10 09:23:40

well you probably couldn't get a house (not one in good condition) but you could definitely get a 3 bed flat with garden in our area for that.

here's one a stone's throw from the outstanding Chestnut's primary

here's another close to the outstanding South Harringay infants

Not saying Harringay is necessarily where you would want to live - but it just goes to show, there's definitely affordable stuff within zone 2 close to outstanding schools.

You can see the locations of the schools by clicking on "show primary" in the map at the bottom of the page, and then you click on the pin in the map and it links through to the ofsted reports.

It's worth asking around because London has some amazing nurseries and primaries. I've had far better facilities for my children than friends in the "proper" country, lots of surestart free activities, subsidised nurseries, wide choice of childcare, huge parks, great schools, as well as all the museums and attractions of central London a 10 minute tube ride away.

Maybe moving out is the right thing for you - but worth shopping around first.

AfricanExport Tue 24-Aug-10 09:37:02

Personally I would move to Surrey. I do love living and working in London and as a young couple I think it is fantastic. But I think that a child needs different things (having a good pub or club down the road just doesn't seem to do it for them!). The green spaces, the lovely people, the parks and some really good schools would defiitely make me move. Also having family close by is really helpful, something I never had.

Loads of people commute and yes the hours are long but it is not true that just because you live in Zone3 your commute is going to be quicker. I know for a fact, as I did it, that it takes less time to travel from Rotterdam to Hanger Lane on a working morning than it does to travel from Tooting to Hanger Lane!!!! What matters is where your DH works and what his route would be. A fast train from Surrey could be a lot quicker than 2 tube changes.

SparkyUK - I must be honest I think that that is very selfish, I want to live in London so if I want a babysitter you (granny) must trek into the city to do it?? Really?

toja555 Tue 24-Aug-10 11:19:01

Starmucks, I wonder where in Kent do you live?

I live in zone 4 and would love to move further out, but the reality is that we are already taking DS to a childcare from 8 to 6, and with both having jobs in central London and DS2 due soon it is too hard to imagine that we will happily commute for e.g. an hour to/from work.

If one of you is going to work part-time, I think that will work much better.

starmucks Tue 24-Aug-10 14:23:39

toja555 I live near Sevenoaks. Both DH and I work full time, although today I have a rare day off. It's an hour door to door for both of us: DH to the City, me to the west end.

When we were in zone2, it was still an hour to the City for DH but for me it was more like 45/50mins door to door. So time wise, the difference isn't that massive. What's more, the train is a far more leisurely journey than the tube or bus. On the childcare front, we're fortunate to have an amazing nanny who lives in part of the week and moved with us.

For us, our quality of life as a family has gone up massively since moving out.

elportodelgato Tue 24-Aug-10 14:42:11

I'd stay in London with a small baby - there is so much to do, loads of other mums, it's really good fun and I would have gone nuts if I had been out in the sticks.

We had a slightly bigger budget than you when we bought our house in Hackney last year but not by much so have you considered other areas? I know Hackney is not exactly des res (our particular area definitely not!) but it's zone 2, easy to commute, loads going on for kids. Walthamstow and Harringey are similar priced and also great for families but I know that's the wrong side of town for you...

I understand your concerns about primary schools but you could always move out of town later if you really feel you can't face the local primary. In our case we feel our area is getting a bit better as time goes on, the school is certainly vastly improved from 3 years ago when it was almost in special measures. DH and I feel it's worth getting involved in the local primary and getting stuck in a bit more for the other benefits which DD will get from being in a multicultural school but I know this is a minority opinion!

StreathamHillary Tue 24-Aug-10 14:48:56

I have loved bringing up children in London and would not move to a commuter belt. here

or here or here or this would get you into an excellent 'Outstanding' primary (Streatham Wells) and a choice of two excellent state secondaries (Dunraven / Elm Green). Lovely local park, excellent transport links, and a great area and community which is inclusive and representative, and with great opportunities for baby-friendly activities, all within easy walking distance. Bigger parks (with Lido) a stonesthrow away and all London't great attractions for weekend family days out within easy access for a spur of the moment half day.

And you wouldn't have to cross London to visit the Surrey based family members.

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