This World needs a New Order

4 11 2013

Okay, so, seriously.  We want to start a commune.  Not a free-love crazy hippie commune (although the ideal model would certainly involve love, hippies, and craziness in some measure), but a real-world tough-economic-times, scattered-families, nuclear-isolation-isn’t-good-for-anybody several-family home-share?  We can:

  • pool our otherwise-limited financial resources for groceries, rent/mortgages, utilities, transportation, holiday decorating, etc. etc.
  • buy a house with lots of bedrooms and a big ole yard
  • share the work load of house-maintenance and the neverending cleaning cycle
  • enjoy pre-existing kid companionship rather than having to schedule playdates*
  • enjoy pre-existing adult companionship rather than having to book babysitters just to procure the opportunity for a conversation and a glass of wine
  • cook meals and wash dishes in small groups rather than somebody always having to do it by him- or herself while the other somebody chases the small people
  • do everything else that needs done on the same model as the washing up
  • have enough hands on hand for some hardcore chore-division: Matt could find a way to trade for freedom and NEVER do the washing-up again, for example, without totally dumping it all on me, because surely there will be some other job that someone else absolutely hates and wants to never, ever, ever do.
  • plant one big, shared garden and have enough people around to both take care of it and be able to eat whatever there’s too much of when it works, instead of planting 4-5 scrawny little yard-gardens that do unhelpful things like yield one tiny squash and six thousand green tomatoes.
  • combine areas of expertise instead of each pair (or single one) of us having to try to become a Guru of All Things
  • do more projects in-house rather than needing to hire out or contract in, because of the wider range of areas of expertise available.
  • take turns minding children vs. using time in other ways (see below)
  • create more free time, so that each adult might be able to enjoy some occasional “me time” without having to give up the other necessities of professional work time, house-work time, play-with-kids time, and relationship-nurturing time.
  • teach our kids more things, because there will be more adults around who know more things.
  • model other kinds of conversation, problem-solving, disagreement and resolution, love-and-affection, etc. for our kids, so they have more positive models of human interaction and more models for adult relationships than just what we default to (on the good days when we get anywhere near “positive” anyway).
  • read plays by the fire on winter evenings, because we’ll have enough people to cast roles.
  • have impromptu house jam-sessions (the odds of this are good, as most of our friends have at least one amateur musician in the house)
  • stop losing at life math, and do more living instead.

The math is serious.  Think about it.  Right now, the way we’re doing this (and I’ll admit for those of you who actually have money, it probably doesn’t look so dire, but the theory will still work out in your favor!), 1.5 jobs is barely paying for 1 smallish house, 1 mid-sized car (which creates all kinds of problems since there are 2 of us who don’t always need or want to be going to the same place at the same time–the model we learned on was 1 car per adult, so we feel like we’re bereft), 3 people worth of groceries (counting the kids as 2 halves), and heating, watering, and electric-powering 10 little rooms.  If we could find some giant, sprawling, 16-bedroom farmhouse somewhere, and move 4 or 5 families into it, we’d have 6-10 jobs, to pay for a house that might cost 3x as much a month, not 4-5x, probably still buying a commensurate 12-20 people worth of groceries, but heating/watering/powering only twice as many rooms , not 4-5x as many, and probably 4 or 5 cars, which should be enough for most days worth of getting around, if we do creative ride-sharing, without .  Plus, there’s the matter of the house jobs… Imagine the house jobs!  Picking up the living room after the kids go to bed is still picking up one living room (I’ve learned this lesson from playgroup–8 kids trashing the living room leave the same number of toys scattered all over it (i.e. all of them) as 2 kids do).  Washing the dishes is washing 4-5x more plates and silverware but only one or two extra pots and pans–and on any given night, if 2 adults are doing it, 4-6 adults AREN’T doing it.  And when the kids get old enough to share usefully in dishes and similar work-tasks, the math will get that much better!

Plus, imagine the minutia–imagine what a great library of kids’ books we could build by combining  our little stashes instead of each of us trying separately to build a great one on our own.  We could have one set of cardboard building blocks, and every kid could play with cardboard blocks sometimes, instead of having to have 4 or 5 sets, one for each household, to accomplish the same goal.  We could have one internet subscription, not 4 or 5.  One printer/scanner, one garden house, one lawnmower, one or two of each kind of yard tool, toolbox-tool, car-tool, etc.  One opened bottle each of good vodka, cooking-sherry, and other bar accoutrements.  What about one collection of half-empty lotions, shampoos, etc?  We could all get rid of SO MUCH STUFF.  Or sell it on ebay (okay, probably not the half-empty lotions, but some stuff!) and spend the money on travel.

The way we live, one set of adults stranded in each house trying to do a whole tribe’s worth of work so we can provide everything our kids need, and everything we need for ourselves and each other, is stupid–it’s frustrating, it makes everybody tired, and it doesn’t work very well.  It certainly doesn’t leave us with the time or the energy to be creative and have any fun.  And if we’re not creating, and we’re not having fun, what the heck is the point of working so hard in the first place?

So, really. Seriously. Who’s in?  Who wants to change up the math, share out the work, spend more time enjoying both human company and personal time, and have more all-around fun?

*this isn’t to say that I’m not grateful for and don’t totally love our playdates, folks-who-play-with-us.  WE LOVE YOU!  LET’S ALWAYS HAVE PLAYDATES!  But I have this fantasy wherein I can make breakfast if I want, any morning I want to, and not have to wait until mid-day to have a chance to cook an egg, because E would have someone to play with OTHER THAN ME while rattling around the house in pajamas, long before we’re organized enough to put on clothes and vacuum for a playdate.

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One response

4 11 2013
Emily Baisch

See, in the DC area, I’d be all in. But yeah, career is here. As is my Mom. We have separate houses, but we already share groceries, cooking, and she helps much with kid tending, and it makes life so much better for all involved.

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