We live with 9 adults and we’re pregnant — has anyone else tried something like this?

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Photo by Grzegorz Łobiński, used under Creative Commons license.
We currently live in a group house with 8-9 other people, all Burning Man artists, no kids — and my wife’s newly pregnant. We told our housemates and they were really supportive and great, and seemed interested in the idea of having something small running around the house so that they could witness the process first hand and pass on all their alt-culturey values once the kid was interactive.

Looking online, it seems like most people get their own place when they get married and have kids. The few exceptions to that rule write posts espousing the virtues of cohousing for raising children, which I was already on-board with. I can’t find anybody who talks about the practical implications of raising kids in a group living environment, though. How much space we’ll need, what we’ll need from the roommates, what the roommates will need to cope with if they sign onto this adventure with us. I figure someone has to have done it before, either a hippie co-op or a punk house or anything in the long (if low-key) history of group housing.

Does anyone know of any bloggers or people we can talk to or books we can read about raising a kid in a group-living environment? — Tom

Comments on We live with 9 adults and we’re pregnant — has anyone else tried something like this?

  1. My fathers house was kind of like this… I live with my mother full time and with my father only on the weekends (until i moved in permanently as a teenager). but i LOVED my fathers house as a child. all of his roommates were hippies/artists/musicians, and they were all really great with my brother and I. I still actually talk to and see quite a few of his old roomies. i consider one of them to be my other-mother. it was a great environment, as long as you realize you have to respect other peoples space/belongings, which means once your kid starts running around and getting into things, some of your roommates might scold them. so i would suggest just being clear about your policies and philosophies on discipline and teaching. but if you live in a household where you are happy, everyone is accepting, and you feel the love, i say go for it! seriously! i totally loved that crazy hippie house. it molded who i am today!

    we are half way through our pregnancy and only have one roommate. we opted to get our own space, so we are moving soon. but if i had the kind of roommates my father had and you have, i might have stayed put!

  2. One of our friends grew up in this sort of situation. It does have it’s merits, but a caution to you: make sure your little one has other little ones to play with. Our friend’s parents lived in that enviroment until he was about 7 or so, but he never had any playmates.

  3. My house is slightly less intense, as when baby comes along in October there will be four adults, a 12-year-old, and two wild dogs. Another friend of mine is pregnant and is moving to a big farm house where I think there will be eight adults, so there are definitely other people doing this! I haven’t really looked up resources yet, but my plan is just to play it by ear. My one roommate was 12 when her sister was born, so she’s had a baby in the house before, and she’s excited for her sister to have the same experience she did. We haven’t told the other housemate yet, though he knows we’ve been planning to have a baby at some point, and I’m a bit skeptical that he’ll actually be okay with a crying baby through the night, since he shares the same floor as us, and is really deep into his PhD. But we’ll just play it by ear! We might also give him an out clause, so it’s easy for him to move out if he has to.

    We have a really large bedroom so we have enough space to make room for baby in our space, and we don’t intend on getting a bunch of plastic crap toys, so hopefully we won’t intrude too much on everyone else in the common spaces. In a few years if we decide to have another we’ll likely take over another bedroom and use that as the kids room – right now we can’t afford to have a separate nursery, but we probably wouldn’t use one anyway.

  4. Right now we’re living with four other people, and the “this rocks!” factor and the “this sucks!” factor pretty much balance each other out depending on the day.

    The rock side – help caring for your baby when you’re burned out; seeing the baby form a different individual relationship with each personality; more people to share cute baby news with; support and alternative ideas when what you’re doing isn’t working.

    The suck side – being a friend and being a parent are two different sets of feelings (unravel that as you will), sometimes the need to put on the I AM MOM hat comes out and makes things awkward; you can’t one person’s noise level for the sake of another, be they infant or adult.

    Basically… you’ll find your way. Feelings that you don’t expect to feel now will crop up, but other stuff that you’re worried about won’t be as big a deal as you expect. (For the most part.)

    Space-wise, if you can fit that many people into one place you won’t have too much trouble fitting another. A place to put clothes and diapers, plus a pack ‘n’ play or similar safe space to take some alone time is pretty much all you need.

  5. I have to second most of what Melissa said – I’ve been in the roommate roll in that situation and, more recently, my husband and I were housing four adult roommates – three of which moved out when I found out I was pregnant.

    When I was the roommate, I was a little put off by the couple just assuming (instead of asking) if I or the other housemates would be willing to babysit. Otherwise it worked out fairly well (with the exception of one of the housemates consuming the stored breast milk).

    Now that I am the pregnant one, I am relieved that most of our roommates made the decision to move out. Not because I don’t think that group living in general could work – it just wouldn’t work with these people, who were not willing to help me at all with household tasks (not even doing dishes they had used or helping me plant a vegetable they had brought home).

    That being said, always talk about things with your housemates — they are part of the family and you’d be surprised how much of a difference voicing your desires/concerns goes. And keep up communication as things progress. This one goes for people in all sorts of living situations – don’t take anyone for granted and express gratitude for what people do for you. Seriously, every day my husband does the dishes and every day I thank him for doing the dishes… it seems like a very small thing, but anyone who’s worked endlessly and never been praised knows that hearing “I appreciate this” goes a long way. Set boundaries — anything from “this is how we would like to punish/raise our child, please be on board” to “when we are in our room with the door closed, that is our special bonding time and we would appreciate being left alone”.

    Really, it all goes back to communication.

  6. I loved in a share house with a baby once (not my baby) we loved having a bin around. I guess it did change the house a little in terms of not having parties etc. I loved in a household of about 10 adults/teens with 2 kids (baby and 11 year old). It was not a share house as such as it was in a third world country with my ex husbands family. It had a lot of good things (lots of help and the kids learning from things from different people etc) the hard things were not so much choice about your child’s environment. Are people going to be ok not smoking inside? What about drinking/drug use? Loud music at night, housemates friends coming over etc. I think it has so many variables that you just have to think about it and if you decide to give it a go then do just that. Trial it and see. You may decide with a 4 week old it is no good or might love it until your baby is crawling or about to head to school

  7. I haven’t had much co-living experience as an adult but I lived in a commune (really truly they called it that!) for a few years when I was growing up. I have fond memories and not-so-fond memories. (People are people.)

    I definitely agree: communication is key!

  8. We have a nearly two year old girl, Raven. we have our own place but an extra room and bathroom, so we often rent it out. Since our daughter was born we have had 3 different roommates (all close friends no “hey we met on craigslist” situations) Now I realize that one extra person is very different from such a large community place but here are some of the things I have found helpful.
    I think it is very important to establish rules/guidelines and make sure everyone is on board. The rules in our house are there to protect Raven, and at the same time protect our roommate (and their belongings) Things like:
    1-3:30 is quiet time.
    Raven is not allowed in their room behind closed doors
    No Drugs, period. Alcohol is fine once she is in bed for the night.
    Keep strangers to a minimum, we don’t like to tell our roommate that they can’t have friends over but at the same time don’t want a stream of random people coming in. (that being said we have a large number of mutual friends that come over regularly)
    Respect everyone’s space and belongings.
    Mommy and Daddy have the authority and responsibility (Our roommate does not correct her or do things for her. If something comes up he will say “lets go see what Mommy thinks”)
    It can be tough but at the same time wonderful, so I think if you and your roommates are all on board it will be a great experience. I wish you luck!

    PS. Can we get a guest post about your experiences with it in the future?

  9. My husband and I live with 3 other adults and I am due with our first in 5 weeks. My roommates are thrilled but I am a little nervous about how it will change the dynamics around here. Sorry no advice, and wow! 8 roommates! Just thought I would let you know, you’re not alone :). Often I will remind the roommates that the baby might scream a lot, and I’ve suggested noise-cancelling headphones and other precautionary measures. The last thing I want to worry about as a brand new mom is if my roommates resent me, or worse, my baby- just because the baby is doing her baby thang. They reassure me that they know things will change but they don’t care, but sometimes it does worry me because I really don’t think any of us can possibly be fully prepared for this big change. Good luck!

  10. When my son was first born I lived in a house with quite a few roommates. It sorted of weeded out the people who were cool with me having a family. Some eventually moved out and others helped me drive him around at night so he’d go to sleep. I think the noise is the big adjustment, while adults are noisey kids are a different kind of noisy and a lot of people can’t listen to crying that isn’t coming from their own child. Good luck! I wouldn’t get my own place until after you have the baby and feel like thats the way to go. You may find yourselves enjoying the extra company and comfort that comes with room mates during the pregnancy.

  11. When my first daughter was born my boyfriend and I lived in a band house with 4 other people, including bandmates and other girlfriends. We were friends and trusted all of them, and they seemed sincerely joyful to be living with us. I have to say that it was pretty awesome and I would do it again. BUT we had a great little space that was separate from the other bedrooms, and our own bathroom. This meant that I didn’t have to worry too much about the baby crying at night, waking up really early, band practice or whatever. And it was nice to have some privacy.

    So I would say that a big part of the situation is the physical living space. I don’t think it would have worked as well for us if our space wasn’t so comfortable.

    We lived there for about a year w/baby. It ended only because her father and I decided to separate. We all still have fond memories of that time and they still care about our kid. It is nice.

  12. We have lived communally for 3 years now in varying degrees. When we first got pregnant (Our son is now 1) we lived with over 15 people. As my pregnancy progressed our wants for a smaller “community” grew, so for the 2nd half of my pregnancy we only lived with 8 or so friends. Since our son was born, we have our own house, but we still have friends live with us. I can’t imagine it just being the 3 of us. I love the help and the closeness that comes with the way we live. I do have to add, everyone we’ve ever lived with has always had the same values, and morals as we do, so it makes it easier!

  13. I used to live with two room mates, one of whom had a small son (he was 3-5 at the time and we adored him) who would come stay with us on weekends. From the room mate perspective, I’ll offer this advice (not all of which was followed in my situation):

    1. Communicate with your room mates about the baby’s needs (quiet for naptime and when that will be, for instance). My roomie didn’t always tell us when he would have The Kid for the weekend, which sometimes meant last minute changes in plans to accommodate our small housemate.

    2. Don’t expect your roomies to help you with your baby. They may offer to, and that would be great, but in planning for the crazy time just after your baby is born, don’t count on others. Plan to take care of things yourselves and then just be super, super grateful if/when your roomies pitch in. And then remember to say thank you to them!

    3. Remember that people who don’t have babies often don’t know a whole lot about babies unless you teach them. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s worth keeping in mind. My roomie asked me to watch The Kid for an afternoon and then left, and suddenly I realized I hadn’t changed a diaper in like 10 years and I had no idea what kind of food The Kid ate or where his sippy cups were kept.

    4. Be gracious. When the baby won’t stop crying or something else is going wrong, do what you can to keep that stress out of your roomie’s lives, since it’s their home too. Maybe sometime your kid-free roomies will want to throw a party that’s not very kid-friendly – try to accommodate that so that your roomie’s feel like the baby has added to their lives and not curtailed them.

    Being the room mate of a small human being (even if only on weekends and vacations) was overall a great experience that I still miss sometimes. Congrats on your coming parenthood and good luck!

  14. I have lived with extended family members, and I grew up living with aunts/uncles/grandparents in a tiny apartment in the USSR…I don’t remember much, but from what I’m told, it was rough on my mom to find a quiet space for me and my baby brother. Then I was also often sick, as more people=more germs and more chances to catch something (I had pneumonia twice, skin rashes, colds, worms, whatever…).
    Then we moved to Europe and at the age of 7 I lived in a big rental house with my parents and international students. That was ok, we had more space and our own “living quarters” but I developed friendships with all these artsy young adults and it was great.

    The way I look at it now, being a parent of two is this way:

    After you produce your own human being, something changes and what you thought was cool or fun or enticing or intellectually stimulating…well…it changes a bit. Having said this, you may not want all these people coming and going in YOUR space at all times. Plus, you can’t really expect everyone to embrace you having a baby, the baby needing some quiet, or the baby crying non stop cuz they are colicky or hungry or gassy. People get excited about babies I’ve noticed, until they are faced with the real deal 🙂
    Even now, I am living with family and we have trouble negotiating help…so it may be the same for you with people who are not family. As someone said earlier, don’t expect everyone to jump in and help out…especially in a fashion that you truly need.

    Also, yes, think of the hygiene and safety factor. And this is where having your own space comes in.

    I think this would work better with older kids, 4 and up. I personally would have reservations about it UNLESS I was very close with the people and knew they were on the same page with me on many things from noise expectations, to no smoking, to child rearing philosophies….good luck!!! 🙂

  15. Maybe this is a good time for a pre-baby party for your roommates? You can present each of them with noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, and use it as a sort of ritualistic way to open the discussion about boundaries and how things will change. It’s kind of like the Festivus telling of hard truths. You can put on some relaxing music, have a few drinks, and have everyone sit in a circle, passing around a baby substitute. The person holding the baby substitute gets to talk about what they are excited about and worried about with the impending baby arrival. Then, you’ll have a good feel for the things you need to be aware of post baby!

  16. Good luck! The only advice I have is that you really don’t know how you will feel until the baby arrives. Each person’s situation is different…so while you think you will do X be prepared for Y. Babies have their own preferences too which may or may not suit this situation.

  17. I’ve found that baby’s don’t change things as much as toddlers. My cousin moved in when my boys were 2 & 4; she was pregnant and had a baby 5 months later. Since she did sometimes watch them, we created the rule of “one adult, one time” when asking for something. This way they wouldn’t just keep asking down the line until someone said yes. We kept disipline separate unless someone was babysitting.

  18. When my son was born, i was single and had two room mates. The house is mine and i rented out 2 rooms to bring in some extra income. I also like living with people and being a single mom, i appreciated adult company without having to leave the house. I had been renting rooms for 10 years, so it was just part of my lifestyle. I had a room, my son had a room and we had a guest room. I think form my experience what made it work was being up front with my room mates and making sure they understood baby schedules and noise levels. Second, i never expected anything out of my rooms mates except the usual courtesy, respect and friendship that goes with sharing a roof. When they did offer to help out, it was a bonus for me and greatly appreciated. Sometimes i had sitters to the house, even when my room mates were home, because they just weren’t into looking after kids at that particular time. It worked well. What my son got our of it was an openness to meeting new people, that he still has to this day (he is almost 4). What i got out of it, were some good friends and a lower financial stress level which let me work less and spend more time being a mom. When he was two, i met my husband type thing. He moved in shortly after with his 8 year old and we got pregnant. we don’t rent rooms anymore because we’re full house. We do host couch surfers on a regular basis to keep in the spirit of sharing a roof. It is totally doable. Just make sure everybody has a safe, quiet, sane place to retreat to. And remember: babies need love, food, a roof and stability. They don’t need mountains of stuff! Enjoy your journey into parenthood.

  19. We lived in a house with another couple for awhile. They had a baby boy (6 months or so when we moved in together). We basically just found it easiest to keep any important stuff in our own room, and to make sure not to leave anything out that we didn’t want him to get to. It was fun having him around, since we planned on having kids fairly soon after that (and we did).

    The living situation didn’t work out for other reasons, but the kid was an awesome little dude. I definitely agree with what some others have said – don’t assume your roommates will baby-sit without asking (one time I found myself home alone with the kid right before I had to be at work). Once your kid is old enough to have things (toys, bottles, pacifiers, stuffed animals, bits of paper, etc.), try to keep it fairly picked up.

  20. We have three roommates right now. We had one when I got pregnant, and he moved out (in no small part, I assume, because I was planning a homebirth). These roommates have moved in since August, when our kiddo was six months old. I don’t have a lot to say about roommates and tiny babies, but it’s been pretty great having roommates and a bigger baby. They do their part around the house, babysit occasionally (with warning and notice and preparation and then with extreme gratitude later).

    Logistically, we have two rooms. The baby sleeps with us in our bedroom, and we have a second room (the smallest bedroom) for my partner’s office and the baby’s clothes, etc. We could probably get by with one large room if my partner didn’t work from home, but we own this house, so we get a fair bit of say in how the space is used.

    One hard thing has been babysitters. Our kiddo is so comfortable with our housemates that if a less-familiar babysitter comes over when they’re home, he will not settle down unless my housemates come out of their room and help. This puts them in the uncomfortable position of being babysitters when that wasn’t what they were planning to do with their evening. We find it easier all around to take the baby to the babysitter when we want a night out. I’m sure this will change as he gets older (both for the better and not).

    We’re just getting into the toddler years, and it’ll be interesting to see how things change. A couple of our housemates aren’t big on general noise and bustling about — crying is fine, shrieking is not — so, we’ll see how that goes as the kid gets more active/loud.

  21. Patience!! Both of you need patience— and understanding. As long as there are both, you have half the battle overcome. Patience for when your baby wont stop screaming, and understanding for when you ask your roommates for them to stop screaming. haha!

  22. You’ll be fine! It’ll be nice to have a few spare hands around.

    Room you need: for a baby? Nada. For a toddler, the living room should be kept free of sharp edges.

    That’s… pretty much it.

  23. My husband and I had one housemate (we own the house) before our little boy (now almost three) was born. Now we have two housemates and we’re expecting our second child. We live in a three bedroom house, so my whole family unit lives out of one bedroom.

    Like other posters here, I spend about half the time wishing I had a BIT more space (don’t need a ton!), and the rest of the time wondering how people who don’t have two additional adults around manage to raise kids. We are very lucky in that our housemates love our little boy and are happy to babysit occasionally. Making a quick run to the store without the kid is usually no problem, and just as importantly, they play with our kid when we’re feeling tired and touched out.

    A lot of this has to to do with them, though. It wouldn’t work with just anyone. Our first housemate is a single woman, but she has taught elementary school and she loves children. Our second housemate is my little brother, and he’s always down to play with blocks or trains. So it’s worked out wonderfully in that respect. And it’s a huge load off, financially, for us.

    But I do feel a little cramped, especially at the prospect of having FOUR of us in one bedroom! Still, the benefits still outweigh the downside at this point in time.

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