Country Mom: Oh give me a home...where my children can roam

Country kids rule when it comes to wide open spaces.
Country kids rule when it comes to wide open spaces.Getty Images stock / Today

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By Rhonda Franz

A recent study found that people who were raised in the city are more stressed out than their country-living peers. So TODAY Moms took the Green Acres-style debate to two moms to see what's better for family living. (As the TV song goes: More chores or more stores? Fresh air or Times Square?) Here, Country Mom Rhonda Franz explains her delight for nature and no traffic. See City Mom Teresa Strasser's post here.

My five-year-old son and I are on a walk. Actually, it’s more of a trek. We left home with a water bottle and a cell phone, and made good time up the big hill by our house. Now, we pick up speed on level ground that takes us through a grove of trees and beside a pasture.

Feeling daring, we stop before the lake and take a rare turn, walking carefully down the steepest part of the road. At the bottom, we pause at an old concrete bridge and check our aim by tossing pebbles in the creek. As we start up the long uphill that leads back to our driveway, my curious boy, remembering what I’ve told him about this place, asks if we can cut off and hike up the hill to our house. I hesitate, then look at him and nod my head.

“Sure,” I say. “Let’s go for it.”

He grins and (mostly) follows my instructions on this closely guarded secret route. We move through thick brush and over fallen trees while our feet crunch on leaves, and duck under low branches, trying not to lose footing. By the time we come up out of the tree line and into our backyard, we are drenched with sweat.

“Wow, Mom,” he says. “That was cool.”

Yes, it is, I think. We can’t do this in the city.

In these woods, the quiet roads are the sidewalk, and we aren’t constantly on guard against rush hour traffic. Fresh, tree-scented air blows into our faces rather than the choking smell of car exhaust

There’s no gym out here: big hills are nature’s treadmill—on an incline. The closest coffee shop is across the county, but I can finish my espresso in pajamas on the front porch without being seen. The closest thing we have to a bookstore is an old gas station with a newspaper stand, but my children can view every constellation they have read about in their library books—unhindered by big city lights.

And please, oh please get me started on the friendly neighbors. If I want their attention, I have to yell, which means private conversations in my yard can be, well, private. With only a handful of kids, the dinnertime door-bell ringing by children seeking playmates are few. You can’t tell me that isn’t sweet—at least sometimes.

Out here, baby, my boys roam. They explore, collect rocks, and run around unfenced. With plenty of space, I have time to capture my toddler, who rebels against boundaries and occasionally lights out for the road. He and his brothers will soon be old enough to build forts.

The view at sunrise? Beautiful. At sunset: Miraculous.

If you’re ever out this way, go ahead and ring the bell. We’ll cook food over an outdoor fire and if you want to go camping, I’ll show you the door—the back one. You’ll enjoy a quiet night and be welcomed in the morning by deer who frequently walk through the yard, then disappear into the woods.

And if you feel adventurous, my son and I just might take you on that secret hike.

Which do you think is a better place to raise kids? City or country? Vote in our poll.

Rhonda Franz is an educator, homemaker, and writer. She and her husband are raising a pack of boys in the Arkansas woods. When she is not hiking, building forts, or treasure-hunting with her family, she writes about a variety of things and blogs at and is a contributing editor for