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communal parenting

June 15, 2009
Lukas and Sadie Bea chat it up as their mamas try on clothes at E=, a downtown, locally owned, ecological clothing store

Lukas and Sadie Bea chat it up as their mamas try on clothes at E=, a downtown, locally owned, ecological clothing store

Since Scott has been back east, I have been hanging out with Heidi and Sadie Bea a lot. This is totally Heidi’s doing. She didn’t want me to be going crazy by myself with Lukas while Scott was gone. Today we connected at 3pm put both kids in the backseat of my car and went to do a bunch of errands in Santa Rosa together. It was totally fun going all together and these were errands we were both sort-of dreading. Then afterwards, we ended up at the Bodyworks Yoga benefit and dance party, where we ate, danced and socialized with friends. The kiddos loved the dancing but Lukas was done about the time Heidi was done and Sadie Bea and I wanted to keep dancing, so we swapped kids and Bea and I danced and Heidi and Lukas played with ice outside. It was a simple, fun day that did not feel stressful, even when we were stuck in traffic at one point.

It is just so much easier doing the exact same thing with two moms and kids instead of with one mom and kid(s). I think it is because we evolved that way. It is only recently that we have been sequestered into our little single family homes with no outside contact. The family itself is supposed to be community and the home itself is supposed to be our world. But it’s not how we evolved.

Homes are becoming larger and larger because they need to be everything to us. We defend against outsiders (locks on doors) and invite people over from time to time (peace talks). Hmm. Not all cultures have been this way; individual shelters have normally been for sleeping, not for doing all of your living. And raising children most definitely did not take place inside of them. It was outside, with the rest of the mothers and kids that it took place. In every human culture, actually. And to be isolated was the worst punishment you could be given. Have you noticed how kids always want to be outside and with other kids? Probably because we evolved being raised outside with other kids.

I truly believe that raising kids is not supposed to be as hard as it is these days, because when I am in a communal situation, it feels different. It feels happy and good and easier. And yes, there are happy and good moments anyway, but the day to day is much harder when isolated in the single family home. Is the so-called privacy worth it? Are homes in town built 2 feet from one another or apartments really even that private anyway? I think we are under some sort of collective outdated illusion.

The cohousing movement is a good answer but how common is it? To live in cohousing, one has to find a group of like minded people first of all, then go through a time consuming process that lasts years deciding on all the details, and then end up building something new, if it even happens at all, which 98% of the time, it doesn’t. Why can’t it just be a choice we have? I can choose right now to live in a single family home or an apartment or condo but not anything else. If I am single I could rent a room somewhere in someone else’s house. I might be able to find a granny unit somewhere to rent but again, it is someone else’s place. There are no other options.

The real reason there is no cohousing is because it doesn’t make as much money for a developer. If you build five 1 million dollar monster homes on large lots on a piece of land you make $5 million and only have to sell five homes. If you build 20 smaller cohousing dwellings clustered together with open space preserved all around that sell for $200,000 you make a total of $4 million and you have to sell 20 homes. A million dollars and not having to sell 15 extra homes is an incentive for a developer. But we are told it’s because “we like our privacy” Actually it is called isolation and perhaps grew out of an American mentality that we want to do things our way and we need to have our privacy to do it. Well, are we happy now?

This is where the free market gets us. It has completely eroded our sense of community right down to our living choices. Cohousing is good for everyone: older people have others looking out for them; kids can benefit from elders and their wisdom; the older people can help young families with the kids sometimes, the younger can help the older with yard work, the list goes on and on.

How can we find our way back to living situations that are less stressful for all? How can we go back to what feels easier? How can we feel comfortable with our lives again in the midst of an isolating culture that feels embedded in concrete?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 20, 2009 3:28 am

    I know what you mean so well! Though my husband has never been gone for more than a workday, I would be lost without my fellow mamas. They’ve become my sanity. I schedule get togethers and playdates as often as I can so that not only does Ben get social interaction, but I have someone to hang with who totally knows what I’m going through and doesn’t expect me to have it all together.

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