Kevin, Cameron and Kara at Wilson's Apple Orchard
When my wife and I joined our cohousing group two years ago, children were not yet in the picture. At the time, the things I looked forward to the most about cohousing were communal gardening, shared meals (I was getting sick of cooking for one or two people), and riding my bike to work. About a year and a half ago, my wife and I became foster parents for two brothers and officially adopted them this last December. Then, about a month ago, we added two more foster children to our family. Since my wife is employed full time and I only work half time, I am the primary parent in our household. Becoming a parent of four has given me a completely new perspective on the potential benefits of cohousing. Here are the things I am looking forward to most:
- In cohousing, there will be no shortage of playmates. Our son Cameron (16) is much busier with sports and school than his younger brother Kevin (13). Kevin often complained that he had nothing to do and I felt like I was spending a lot of time trying to keep him occupied. Now that he has two new playmates, I am amazed at how easily the three of them entertain themselves without any input from me.
- In cohousing, there will be a diversity of playmates. Kevin enjoys playing simpler board games with his eight year old foster brother, but he would probably have more fun playing a more complex board game with older kids. While our new foster daughter enjoys some games with her brothers, I know that she really wishes there was another girl to play with.
- In cohousing, there will be a diversity of mentors. Kevin likes to play baseball, but I gave up on that sport in 6th grade (mostly because I was terrible at it). Cameron enjoys drawing, but I never made it past stick figures. It would be nice to have easy access to other adults who could teach my kids how to throw a curve ball or how to create a self-portrait.
- In cohousing, I will be able to swap childcare with other adults. A few weeks ago, our foster daughter had two friends stay overnight. Watching six kids really wasn't much more difficult than watching four.
- In cohousing, I will have child-care support from other adults. When I was growing up, my parents both had long driving commutes to work. On the flip side, this commute allowed us to live ten minutes from both sets of grandparents. If my parents had to work late or wanted to go out on a date, they had easy access to child-care. In many ways, my wife and I have made the opposite choice; we both ride our bikes to work, but we now live several hours from our parents. My hope is that our cohousing community will function like an extended family with other adults teaching, mentoring, and looking out for the little ones.
In short, I believe that cohousing offers us a new way of being in community that will be more supportive and less lonely for adults and certainly more fun, free-ranging, spontaneous, social and creative for kids.