Modern Family: Why Communal Living Works For Me

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modern familyI have a dream. (Ugh, did she really just say that?) I sure did, and it’s oh-so-appropriate here because a dream is exactly what I’m about to describe. I dream of my children growing up with other children whose parents are caring and creative and open-minded. I envision those other parents teaching my children some of the things that I can’t, like how to build a bridge or care for chickens. I see myself learning from them, too, and I imagine sharing my personal talents in a lifelong information exchange. The kicker is, I dream of this all happening right where we live – in a big house that we share with another family on a big piece of land with a few other houses for more friends and family to live in. Yes, ma’am – I want to build a commune.

Looking back, it’s safe to say I’ve exhibited a predilection for communal living. I shared a bedroom with my younger sister for years without much complaint and I never longed for a single room in my college dorm, even though it seemed like the cool thing to want. The summer between my sophomore and junior years I lived in a house with seven guys and didn’t mind their relative filth and stench as long as I had my own bathroom. After graduating, I worked for a band and lived on their tour bus for eight months – and yes, those quarters are as close as they sound.

Perhaps the most telling factoid is that I have never actually lived alone. Not ever. This was not by accident or for lack of affordable housing. I simply never wanted to. I’ve known lots of people who felt a true need to experience life in a solo dwelling, and I get it, but I have always wanted to have lots of people around.

Which brings me to the present day and my very real desire to create a living situation for my family that involves shared spaces, shared meals, lots of shared responsibilities and tons of shared joy. The current (and evolving) list of participants in my non-traditional living experiment includes our neighbors, a family of three, as well as four unmarried and childless folks who are just crazy enough to throw themselves into the mix before it’s even officially their turn to help with potty training or clean up after a gaggle of toddlers.

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