Could We Live Together?

balloons in room

I have a really unconventional dream. I’m not even sure how seriously I take myself, but it’s worth publishing to see if anyone else out there is thinking like me.

I often wish I lived cooperatively. Not crazy-hippie commune, but a more post-modern, refined communal dwelling that respects privacy but also invites community.

I’m a single mom in Philadelphia, and I run a media company in New York City. I’m always running—from train to school to train to office to supermarket. When my husband and I separated two years ago, I moved into a pretty apartment three blocks away. It’s hard juggling work, kids, schools, commuting, groceries—and a thousand other things that come with being a modern mama.

Studies show that working motherhood is stressful—even when you’re married. Working moms do more multi-tasking, we’re more rushed, and in one well-known Pew study, many moms wished they worked part-time.

But I think there’s another way to ease the strain of trying to work and parent in the 21st century. For thousands of years humans lived in villages. About a 100 years ago, Americans and other wealthier nations decided isolated suburban compounds were the most civilized ideal. I find them lonely, inconvenient and especially isolating for children.

Now there are thousands of intentional communities around the country—and perhaps that’s what I’m looking for, with a few other ambitious single moms.

I dream about buying a big house, adding a few walls and small kitchenettes (by all means retreat when you have to), and finding two or three other awesome symbiotic single moms with young kids to rent out sections of the house.

  • Cook and clean together (I’m a mediocre cook, but am happy to do the cleaning)
  • Give our kids constant friends to play and hang out with.
  • Enable each other to run to the pharmacy or even a quick business trip when we need to. With a three-year-old, I can’t even take the trash downstairs in an apartment building without shlepping her with me.

Of course there’s almost a guarantee of problems:

  • We all have deep quirks and eccentricities, and personality clashes are inevitable.
  • Everyone has different standards around cleanliness, especially with children
  • What about boyfriends, out of town guests and family dinners? Do you really want other people’s relations imposing on your space? Most likely not.

I keep my eyes peeled to Dwell, Good and other magazines in hopes that someone near me is designing the perfect, future, more upscale way of not living in such isolation, especially where single moms can help one another function without having to pay a babysitter every time you need to work late.

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