Our unusual living arrangement

Monday, March 11, 2013
Of course as soon as I posted my last entry we lost power where I am. Sooo I'm writing this via my phone while I wait to see if my day resumes here or I head out to pick up my lovey.

Hubz and I have always lived with my mom. First because that is where I was living and it made sense for him to move in with me in town. Then because we were unexpectedly expecting Turtle-Love and needed all the help we could get. Then we all needed each other while during my pregnancy my mom's house,  the one I grew up in, was foreclosed on because one thing after the other kept falling apart and financially things couldn't keep up. I ended up delivering Turtle-Love a month early from all of this stress and we needed my mom more than ever.
When our lease was up at the rental place we decided to find somewhere affordable where we could continue living with my mom but have more separated space. We found that, and then soon after circumstances changed and my aunt (my mom's sister) her oldest daughter with her three kids, and her son came to stay with us while my cousin waited to accept a job in town. They looked for their own place but couldn't find anything suitable. A joke was made that we should all live together in one big house (our current house was feeling very very cramped) and the funny thing was, we found one. The house we found had several separate living areas, including a walk out basement that was very large that Hubz, Turtle-Love and I, along with our large dog, could occupy. Away from everyone else so we could build our family relationships further. We were in our first year of marriage after all, but still with my family.
Unfortunately the day after we signed the lease and terminated our previous one we discovered mold in the basement. We ended up living in the formal dinning room while everyone else settled in and we waited to hear what would be done about the basement. I had enough and was increasingly irritated with our single space and we made the decision to move to the top floor, the converted attic space. The attic apartment we live in is great! We have a sky light directly over our bed that makes going to sleep so calming and wonderful. Turtle-Love loves finding and saying goodnight to the moon and stars. We have our own kitchen(ette), living room, bathroom, and ample storage space. It is only one bedroom but it is spacious and all we need considering we co-sleep. There are two big disadvantages though. Our dog isn't allowed in the house (he was going to be allowed in the basement) and it is a steep walk up 36 stairs from the main living area we all share. Realistically we need the exercise, and Char (our pup) has a friend that he stays with - my cousins dog - in the garage. We have a fenced yard they play in, so we figured we would make the best of it. We've been here since June of last year. In January our landlord wanted our (the whole family's) decision about our lease renewal. As I'm pregnant, I refused to move anywhere near my due date (early May) this time - just in case. We would either move in February or not at all. Our family decided they wanted to stay as well, and so our lease has been renewed.

There are several advantages to living with so many people. Decreased financial burden, help with Turtle-Love when hubz is out of town or at work, my aunt cooks dinner nearly every night and does the majority of the grocery shopping. My mom does most of the laundry (I wash our cloth diapers), after dinner clean up is split among those who did not cook while someone else watches the kids. Turtle-Love has play mates, my cousin's kids are 10, 4, and 3. His vocabulary has skyrocketed with her little chatterboxes around! The list goes on, it really does. I'm grateful for this opportunity and generally enjoy our "village" lifestyle. That doesn't mean it doesn't come with it's woes. Unfortunately that is most of the point of this particular blog post.

There is a really big difference between the ideal village lifestyle - where you live in very close proximity to your support system but in separate houses - and the all-in-one house village lifestyle we currently participate it.

We are having trouble establishing and maintaining our individual family dynamic. Turtle-Love knows who each of us are. He knows his relationship beyond a doubt with me, with hubz, and with my mom. The other roles and influences in his life though I'm not so sure of. We spend a lot of time downstairs with everyone. Turtle-Love plays with the other kids every day. He really enjoys the time he spends with them, and talks about them often when we aren't with them. The trouble is that I'm worried about how he identifies himself with them.

*Okay, so I wrote all of that from my phone Friday afternoon. I've obviously lost some of my gusto but I'll keep expressing my point from here

I am concerned that if we do not separate ourselves from the rest of the family more that Turtle-Love wont bond with our baby the same way. That he will see himself as the same as the other kids in the house and how they relate to the child I am carrying, rather than seeing himself as the big brother, a sibling. The four of us will make up our individual family, but I am worried about how he will perceive that if we don't make the effort to separate ourselves, relationally and spatially, from the rest of the family. Going further - I'm not sure how to create balance in this situation.

Does anyone reading this happen to have experience with village style living? Ideas on how to help build our individual family's relationships without creating a rift with the rest of the household? Does anyone else even live like this?!


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