Every family who winds up going off-grid likely has good reasons for doing so. Maybe they want to drop out of the "rat race," or maybe they're just hoping to get a little closer to nature. Whatever the reason, they're usually pretty well prepared — at least in terms of knowing how to keep themselves (and their kids) alive in the wilderness.
But when it comes to raising children, nothing is ever guaranteed. And when families are doing it out in the "bush" or otherwise off-grid, there's a lot that is different from mainstream parenting. In fact, a lot of it is really a bummer, especially in terms of the work that goes into daily living. There are tons of chores, lots of dangers, and plenty of that good old mud to be strutted through.
From getting the laundry done to ensuring the kids' safety, parents have to constantly be vigilant living off-grid. They also have to adjust to a whole new set of norms for family life. From waking up at dawn to hitting the hay at dusk, sleep cycles aren't the only thing that changes when a family goes "wild."
Here are 15 ways raising kids off-grid is totally a bummer (and five it's not entirely a drag).
20 Bummer: It's Stressful To Know Your Kids Literally Depend On You
For parents who live off-grid, their children's safety and wellbeing obviously comes first, just like any other parent. But what's intimidating about that is that off-grid, in the bush, there are a lot more hazards than in cities or suburban areas. Sure, there are fewer people, but that doesn't mean natural events can't pose a risk.
Plus, kids can fall and get hurt anywhere, but it's a little easier for parents to let their minds roam and become more frightened when there are bodies of water or high rock outcroppings nearby. Because if something does happen to their kid, they know it's on them to handle the situation.
19 Bummer: Nearly Everything Is Dangerous
Feeling chilly? Can't just crank up the thermostat when you're living in the middle of nowhere. And that means you'll need fire. Whether it's from propane, charcoal, logs, or some other heat source (even solar-powered electricity can cause fires!), your heat will become a hazard. As will everything else in the immediate environment!
From mudslides to avalanches to falling and bonking their head on a rock, there are plenty of risks out there. And while some are more intimidating than others (fire tops most parents' lists), parents will probably be perpetually worrying about all of them. Especially if your toddler has a passion for lit torches.
18 Bummer: Can't Call A Babysitter...
Whatever you have to do, your kid will be right there doing it with you. That's another drawback of going off-grid. Especially when date night rolls around, most families probably wish they had someone to take the kids just for a little while. But nope, when you're off-grid, you might be the only family for miles. The only human family, anyway.
And whatever you need to get done, you can bet your kids will be right there "helping," especially if they're toddler or preschool age! And sure, it means they'll learn things, and sure, you're getting to spend time together... But a little "me time" is good sometimes, too.
17 Not So Bad: They Learn Independence
There's a whole movement these days with modern parents wanting to be more hands-off with their kids. Whether they call it free range parenting or something else, the fact remains that most people recognize a bit of freedom is good for kids of all ages. In a [reasonably] safe environment, it's fine for kids to get out and try things.
The result is kids who are not only more confident in their abilities, but less work for parents to do in catering to their kids' hand and foot. Plus, it's good for kids to learn how to fend for themselves as they might just continue to live off-grid as adults, too.
16 Bummer: There's A Ton Of Work To Be Done
It's hard to care for a baby when you're, say, building a house (or a yurt). From all the power tools lying around to the unprotected nails that can snag a crawler's clothes to falls from high places, there are dangers lurking all over the place. Even for families who move to an already established cabin or another off-grid home, there are bound to be kid-unfriendly chores that have to get done.
Forget lying around on your lawn chair sipping your beverage of choice; you're more likely to be chasing after a toddler who's got who knows what in their mouth. Only off-grid, it could be anything from a rusty screw to a spider!
15 Bummer: Childbirth Isn't Ideal Off-Grid
Okay, admittedly, childbirth isn't much fun no matter what. But what's less fun than giving birth in a hospital or at least at home in near proximity to a hospital is giving birth in a yurt or ramshackle living quarters without reliable heat, water, or electricity. Sure, some off-grid homes are positively luxurious, but it's less common than basic accommodations.
Besides, if you wind up needing help, there is literally none to be had. Which is a bit intimidating for soon-to-be and even experienced moms. It's best to be prepared, but it's kind of tough to fully do that when you can't go buy the things you need easily.
14 Not So Bad: Small Bumps And Scrapes Are Okay
Kids get hurt, and that's a given no matter where you live. So it's no different out in the bush. Whatever a parent feels about their kid's independence and safety living out in the middle of nowhere, they're bound to become immune to cries of "I got a splinter" and "there's a scrape on my knee" pretty quickly.
After all, unless it's a serious medical condition, most kids can walk that stuff off. Which might just mean that parents who live closer to civilization are overdoing it a bit... Or maybe off-grid parents are just much more lax about risking bodily harm!
13 Bummer: Living Quarters Can Be Tight
When you're off-grid, you can't really expect a three bedroom house with two and a half bathrooms. No, instead, you're likely looking at a one-room yurt for everyone in the family. And if you're lucky, you'll have some sort of indoor plumbing. Which means that life takes place in one small interior area, no matter whether the family has one kid or five (or more).
And when you have a baby, it's even more difficult, since you might be stuck in those close quarters through some inclement weather and dreary conditions. Get used to pacing the floor, because that's all the space you have to stretch out.
12 Bummer: You Have To Learn To Make Do
Hand-me-down dresses? Check. Having to hang onto them for every other kid in the family since you can't just run to the store for the next size? Priceless. When you're living in the bush, there's a severe shortage of local Targets, so you might be tempted to hang onto everything that passes through the household.
Especially for families with multiple kids, you just have to learn to make do with what you have. So what if that means putting a dress on a little boy, or cutting some pants to make shorts? We're not trying to impress anyone anyway (because the moose don't care).
11 Bummer: There Are Slim Pickings For Friendships
No family moves off-grid for the socialization aspect! In fact, most families move out to the middle of nowhere to get away from worrisome neighbors! But when it comes to friendships, they're likely to only grow between people who are in close proximity to you. And it's probably slim pickings, especially for families who live in rugged areas.
Even if there are families nearby, the kids (and moms) won't have much say in whether anyone becomes friends or not. After all, you can't say you're busy or bug off of plans since there's not much you can use as an excuse. You're stuck with those unruly neighbors as BFFs, get used to it!
10 Not So Bad: Technology Isn't A Drain
One of the primary concerns of modern parents is how much their kids are dependent on technology. There are screens everywhere, and they're not always offering constructive or even healthy media. For off-grid families, a clear benefit of being so "out there" is that there's no media influence. Unless mom or dad sets up a device before they leave the Wi-Fi range, the kids only have nature (and maybe some toys) to occupy themselves.
The kids might not like it (at least at first), but it's definitely good for them. And if they don't have the option of technology to take up their time, you'd be amazed at what kids who have a little freedom to explore will come up with!
9 Bummer: Sometimes Utilities Aren't Reliable
Picture the whole family huddled around a gas heater or a campfire. Cozy, right? But not when your power has gone out and it's the only heat source in the camp. Especially if you have small kids who need to stay away from a potentially dangerous fire, it can be tough to keep everyone warm.
Light is another unreliable utility off-grid, especially for families who are relying on a generator or other source of power. If you have solar power, that's great, as long as storms don't roll in and block the sun too much. Either way, it's a gamble!
8 Bummer: Daylight Is Your (And Their) Alarm Clock
Hopefully, your off-grid abode has some means of making coffee because you're gonna need it. When you live where there are no city streets, street lamps, cars, or 24-hour fast food restaurants, you basically have to live by the cycles of the season. And in some seasons, that means rising when the sun does. So good luck getting to sleep in or stay up late.
Not only are most parents who live off-grid pretty tired by bedtime, but there's also not much you can do about kids whose circadian rhythms adjust to the sunrise-sunset pattern. Besides, there's so much to get done!
7 Bummer: There Are Pets Whether You Want Them Or Not
Whether you're a staunch vegan or have a whole gaggle of animals for meat, odds are, you're going to wind up with some "pets" off-grid. From chickens for eggs to cows for milk, there's bound to be some kind of animal living near (or with!) you. And even if you're living off the land a la herbivore, trust us, the kids will find a "pet" they have to have.
It might be a snake, it could be a frog, or maybe it'll be some other furry or feathered critter that takes a liking to your tot. Whatever winds up following them home, it's here to stay, mom.
6 Not So Bad: Life Is Totally An Adventure
Off-grid kids learn risk-taking young! Like toddlers who practice the art of beekeeping... And although there is a risk in nearly everything families need to do to survive, it can also be an adventure. Kids might learn a bit more about risk-taking (but doing it safely) earlier on in life thanks to living off-grid, and that's not a bad thing.
Besides, what kid doesn't want to run wild and free in the great outdoors? It can be exhilarating for parents, too, and the whole family might embrace more adventurous activities than they would have back in the suburbs. The fresh air does everyone good!
5 Bummer: There's No Target
Want some veggies? Be prepared to grow them yourselves and wait a few months before you can put them on the table. Craving a latte? Good luck with that, unless you have a cow (or goat) you can milk... Obviously, there's no Target (the holy center for all things mothering and parenthood) out in the bush, so there's little chance of getting anything ready-made.
And there's really nowhere to go other than the acres or miles of expanse surrounding you. Of course, there's probably a lot happening that will keep you busy, but what parent (and moms in particular) doesn't love tooling around Target with a latte in hand and their charge card at the ready?
4 Bummer: Keeping Anyone Or Anything Clean Is Impossible
Moving off-grid? Forget about ever wearing a white t-shirt again. Whether it's the kids just playing outside or chasing animals around, you're bound to get way filthier than you ever imagined. And for children who are really young when the family makes their move, they'll likely have a greater affinity for mud and muck than "city" kids.
Regardless, kids are mud magnets, so parents who live off-grid can't expect a whole lot of cleanliness. Besides, even if they have a washer rigged up, there are some stains that just won't come out no matter how hard you try. So the household motto might become "don't bother."
3 Bummer: Have To Educate Your Own Kids
There's no public school out in the bush. And for a lot of families, that's not a bad thing. People in the suburbs homeschool all the time for a variety of reasons. But off-grid, it's literally your only choice. Well, unless you opt for no "school" at all, but the local authorities might take issue with that, depending on the laws in your area.
Because while parents have homeschooling rights everywhere, the law varies as far as what proof you need that you're educating your kids. That might mean tossing a notebook at them while they lie in the hammock, or it might mean trekking out of the bush to access academic books and other supplies. And, mom and dad are the teachers!
2 Bummer: People Are Judgy (And Sometimes Get The Law Involved)
Is it an intellectually stimulating play space, or a ramshackle dwelling that's dangerous to live in let alone play in? That's for the critics (and perhaps social services) to decide. There are plenty of stories of child services tracking down families and starting court proceedings over their living conditions, the kids' diets, and plenty of other factors. The difference for off-grid families is their way of life can sometimes be what they're persecuted for.
A home without running water, electricity, or a working toilet (composting doesn't often count!) might draw criticism, and it could result in severe judgment from onlookers. And that, in turn, can lead to parents potentially losing their kids just for living the way they want.
1 Not So Bad: Nature Is Good For Kids
The one most amazing thing about off-grid living for kids that cancels out a lot of the negatives for families? The restorative (and educational!) powers that nature has. Plenty of families are tired of city living and paying too-high mortgages and other bills like childcare expenses.
Often, moving off the grid gets families closer to nature, farther from debt, and more immersed in the world around them. Relationships grow and strengthen, and as kids get more mud under their fingernails, they gain more wisdom about how the world works and challenge themselves in new and wholesome ways. Of course, it's not for everyone, but for some, the benefits outweigh the bummers!