by Ellen Thomas
A recent New York Times article, Does Co-Housing Provide a Path to Happiness for Modern Parents?, really resonated with me as a pediatrician and Cedar Cohousing member, Generations of nuclear families in single-family housing, car-oriented neighborhoods, or in apartment complexes that don’t lend themselves to interactions between neighbors, have led us to a place where American parents feel isolated, overworked and under supported. The article argues, and I agree, that the solution may be “living together, separately,” among people who place a high value on community interactions.
Judith Shulevitz looks deeply into the isolating impacts of the American model of single-family, detached housing. She calls it “the lonesome cowboy model of domestic architecture." And, she includes some fascinating discussion of the political and cultural forces that got us here.
Shulevitz points out that the pandemic revealed some of the inherent problems with that model. While some of the interactions she describes weren’t possible during the pandemic, for a lot of lonely parents, they still aren’t really possible. “Parenting was the leading answer to my question about why they’d chosen co-housing,” she writes, “Kids aren’t stuck in their apartments; they can run downstairs. Neighbors’ kids or older members were almost always around to babysit, and for a while, there was a somewhat more formal day care arrangement.
Adults benefit from the ad hoc interaction, too. Instead of planning dinner or drinks weeks in advance, on any Wednesday or Saturday, a sociable soul can find a neighbor to share a snack or a beer with.” The adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” remains wise and true and Cohousing is a modern effort to find the balance between community support and maintaining reasonable privacy for the individual or family. Shulevitz concludes “If I had to single out one feature of cooperative living I find particularly attractive, it would be regular, spontaneous contact with people of all ages. I had my children later in life, and my parents weren’t healthy enough to spend as much time with their grandchildren as all of us wanted, and then, as happens, they died. I’m nostalgic for an intergenerational experience I never had.” I believe she describes the feeling of many parents, and we at Cedar Cohousing imagine a community that provides just that experience.
Having trouble with the above link? Here's an alternate.