Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

good-bye city hello country

Hillarie Maddox and Udie Chima with their youngest son at their Whidbey Island house. Photo by Joshua Huston

Where we live: Good-bye city, hello country

Exposing kids to ‘more possibilities of how to live’

Growing up in rural South Dakota, Hillarie Maddox dreamt of living in the city. As an adult, she did just that, matching the professional aspirations and lifestyle of those around her. Her husband, Udie Chima, grew up in Seattle and always saw himself as a “city person.”

In 2020, the couple and their first child were living with Chima’s parents in Wallingford while saving money to buy property outside the city. When COVID hit, they reevaluated their goals, which altered the trajectory of their lives.

Reevaluating how to live

“We both started feeling really claustrophobic, and it didn’t help that we were living with my parents,” Chima says. “But it didn’t feel like we could go back to how things were. We wanted to get out of the cycle, the same sights and sounds, to form our own way.”

They began scoping out towns and properties, seeking acreage, greenery, and racial diversity. The week they bought their current house on Whidbey Island, they found out Maddox was expecting their second child.

Not having grown up with much time in nature, Maddox is grateful that her kids — now ages 2 and 5 — are exposed to more possibilities of how to live. With distance from her corporate past, Maddox recognizes the disconnect many of us have with the earth and our bodies, and the unsustainability of goals like promotions, wealth, and travel.

A new investment

These realizations led Maddox to trade in her laptop for gardening tools. She quit her job at Amazon to homeschool her children and invest in the local agricultural community. She began growing vegetables, and the family’s yard now features native landscaping and food forests.

“It started with spending time in nature and letting the kids see where their food comes from,” Maddox says. “That alone is really world-shifting.”

Maddox started a farm collective with other local women — some are farmers, others are creative business owners. It is a primary source of community and education for her family.

Including kids in whatever they do

“We want our kids to be included in whatever we do, so we bring them to the farm,” Maddox says. “We have meetings, potlucks, get-togethers, and our kids are always a part of that. It’s not directly earth-tending, but it allows them to see that we’re having these conversations about what it means to be inclusive with our kids. What does it mean to create communities that support each other? That’s really powerful for them.”

Maddox also started Black Girl Country Living, which offers workshops, podcasts, and coaching to others who resonate with the family’s values. Her Instagram account (@blackgirl.countryliving) covers gardening, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more — and how they all intersect.

Missing some city haunts

But even with nature as their playground and healing space, Maddox and Chima do miss some aspects of city life.

“The museums, for sure,” Maddox says. “There’s always so much happening on the weekends [in Seattle] and there are so many good parks. It’s taken a lot more effort to find other moms and kids who I want to raise my kids around, who have shared values. … Even more so, finding other families of color has been challenging, so I’ve put in a lot of effort driving down to the BIPOC community center on the south end of the island.”

Maddox also misses Seattle shopping and pastries, but the trade-offs have been worth it.

“Learning to find something I enjoy has been the greatest payoff, and being able to find ways of working with my family on different creative projects,” says Maddox. “I don’t think that would have ever happened if we were still in the city.”

Worth the work

Chima agrees that the personal sacrifices are worthwhile, even though he misses Seattle’s music scene and the ease of getting together with friends and family in the city.

However, “[the move] has opened up a lot of possibility in terms of what we can do with our time and our careers,” says Chima, who works full-time and remotely as a UX designer. “Moving out here and the quiet that came with it has made me more in tune with how I want to spend my time because you don’t have as many interruptions. It’s just quieter in the evenings, and you can reflect.”

A place to ground

Since moving, Chima has started a podcast about music, Sound Dialect, and has become more active in online music communities while dreaming bigger about his role in those spaces. Maddox feels more grounded in the earth and inspires others — including her children — to pursue more sustainable lifestyles. Their kids are experiencing the healing powers of nature. They are growing up with the wind in their hair and their hands in the dirt.  

Read more:

Dad Next Door: ‘Lip-Gloss-Gate’

Where we live: Buying our first home with ARCH

About the Author

Melody Ip

Melody Ip has been an avid writer since she got her first diary at the age of 5. Today, she is a freelance copy editor and writer, in addition to being the copy chief for Mochi Magazine. She loves the trees and rain of the Pacific Northwest, still sends handwritten letters, and always has at least five books on her nightstand.