Monday, October 19, 2009

Why? (Ruth)

“Why” –that’s the first question people always ask when I say I’ve moved back in with my parents. (Either that or “You did what?!”)

Evidently it’s not cool to like your mom, it’s not cool to respect your step dad (or, for that matter, to admit that your step dad is way more “real” than most of your friends’ dads) and most importantly it is, I’m told, CRAZY to give up a life of privacy and independence and capital-S “success” for a life of cohabitation, co-mingling, and a little dose of chaos.

According to popular consensus the only reason a 28 year old woman would ever even dream of moving back home is because she can’t hack it in the real world—or because she’s broke, or her mom is broke (or broke her hip). And don’t even get me started on the things they have to say about my POOR HUSBAND who HAS to live with his MOTHER-In-Law! GASP! It is, apparently, un-thinkable that my husband and I (both being of sound mind and body) would honestly CHOOSE to combine our lives and households with my parents’.

Try as I might to explain it--people struggle with the idea of this being voluntary.

Some people get hung up on the supposedly inevitable mother-daughter power struggles that lurk in our futures, others fixate on the toll this arrangement is supposed to take on our marriages (or our sex lives). I even had one woman seriously ask me if this is a safe arrangement since my mother and my husband might possibly end up under the same roof alone together! (I’m sorry but if I can't trust my husband not to hit on my mom—or my mom to keep her hands off my husband then I have much bigger worries than how to fit two families worth of belongings into one three bedroom house!)

These days people like to preach the Gospel of Independence to me. They sing the praises of privacy and independence and space and success and “growing up” and living on their own…. And I understand their points: I’m not crazy. Two months ago I had a two story house in the suburbs. My backyard had a gorgeous custom designed pool with limestone decking and extensive landscaping. The backyard opened to a park and was a few blocks from the local elementary school. Our house was well appointed on the inside and adorable from the outside. We were perfectly situated on a cul-de-sac full of children and sandwiched between the world’s best neighbors. I won’t lie—I loved having a whole house to decorate and the freedom to skinny dip with my sweetie when I wanted. There are perks to living that life and I won’t try to deny them.

But here’s the flip side: Two months ago I had a mortgage and a half hour commute to anywhere. I loved my house but I spent less time in it than I would have liked because I was working to pay for it (and things were about to get worse because we needed to figure out daycare). Two months ago we were air-conditioning (and water-ing and gassing and insuring and tax-paying on) two houses instead of sending that money to Amnesty International or spending it shopping the local farmers’ markets or saving for my son’s college). Two months ago my husband was stuck in a soul-sucking job spending his days teaching other people’s kids instead of getting to know his own. Two months ago we were fretting about finding a day care and juggling two jobs and finding a way to make the time and the money and the guilt all work out in a way we could live with. Two months ago we weren’t getting as much time with my parents as we would have liked and it had been years since we’d worked with Habitat or spent any real time volunteering.

In short—two months ago we weren’t the parents we wanted to be, we weren’t the children we wanted to be and we weren’t the world citizens we wanted to be. We weren’t financially stuck—we were solvent and even saving some. But we were so busy being “successful” and self-sufficient that we were slacking where it really counts.

My parents raised me not to sit on my laurels when positive change is possible….

So why did I decide to combine houses?

Because it’s the right thing for me, it’s the right thing for my family, and it’s a piece of my right thing for the world.

1 comment:

  1. I always thought a commune would be a fantastic idea during my often isolated days of caring for babies. I admire your approach to living and look forward to hearing more about your co-housing life in this blog