Last week, I had the opportunity to spend the week with my godson, his mom, sister, and newborn brother, while J was in New England for a conference. While C’s husband cheerfully called us “sister wives,” doing the stay-at-home-mom thing with another stay-at-home-mom got me thinking about communal living. I lived with maybe ten different roommates in my single days, and while J and I have talked before about the possibility of living in community, since we married in 2008, we’ve only had one housemate. So this was an interesting mini experiment.
While our golden-autumn week wasn’t a perfect taste of life in community — we were guests, not residents, and I was sans husband most of the week — here’s what I found:
- When there are two parents home during the day, you get to go to the bathroom by yourself. (Or run in and stir the pot. Or carry a load of laundry upstairs without also toting a toddler.) This is not to be undervalued.
- When there are five kids five and under, there are a lot of brawls. I didn’t get a picture of Pippin’s face, scratched up by repeated run-ins with the two-year-old, but it was a sight to behold.(C and I fared better, even in discussing tricky subjects like the Tridentine mass.)
- The workday is just as long, but you can delegate to strengths. My kids wake up at 6:30; C and her kids sleep in till almost 8 — pretty essential when she’s up at all hours with a newborn. This meant I could fold laundry and unload the dishwasher before she woke up, and that she’d often run a load of laundry after I went to bed in the evening.
- Loading five kids into five car seats is a feat and will make you into homebodies. (Presumably installing the car seats is even worse, but we were able to delegate that to the menfolk.)
- Cooking for twice as many people isn’t much harder, except for figuring out what everyone will eat. Doing laundry for twice as many people isn’t much harder, either, and you can get by with fewer clothes because you’ve always got a full load ready to go.
- Staying at home all day without leaving the house is easier and more fun with more company handy but snagging introvert time is even harder. My quietest moments were sitting in the yard keeping half an eye on the three or four biggest kids and going on the occasional evening run.
Besides soaking up time with one of my very best friends, the week was most valuable for getting to observe up close and talk shop with another woman about how she runs her household. (She isn’t a dish glove wearing pansy like I am! She makes fewer baked goods, and more stir fry! She has a different system for fitting in newborn naps!) Over the week, I got to see homeschooling up close as my godson did his kindergarten, and in return, I brought up the kids’ old cloth diapers and taught C how to use them on the new baby. We explored the big yard thoroughly and ventured out occasionally for ice cream or apple picking. It was a week of working together with C, talking kids and faith as we wiped down the dinner table or sorted hand-me-downs.
The best part is we’ll get to reverse it next month when C’s husband has a conference in a city nearby to us. I can’t wait!