I live in a house full of mammals: five adult humans, four dogs, two cats, one baby human (and possibly a kitchen mouse).
Some of our family members and friends found it weird for a married couple to have roommates. During the year of our engagement, people asked us when we’d be moving out. We only had one roommate at the time, but even so, folks expected that a new couple would want their own cozy little nest. We considered it, I admit; having privacy for our newlywed bliss did tempt me. However, we had a great relationship with our roommate and couldn’t beat the rent break. (This saved us later, when I got laid off for a time.)
A few years later, I got pregnant. By this time we had moved into a rental house and added another roommate. People started asking when we would move out. They expected that having a baby would make us want to retreat into a house by ourselves. We considered it, but even less than last time. Instead, we had a conversation with our roommates about what it might be like to have an infant at home, and they all said they would try it.
And so things remain. The third roommate just finished moving in (though she’s slept over for months now), and the house is full. I think we have the perfect living situation, especially having a baby at home.
Reasons to live with other adults when you have a baby:
- We save a lot of money by splitting rent and utility costs. Sometimes we even make communal meals. We need that savings for all the new budget items a baby brings. It also allows us to afford a stay-at-home parent.
- Someone is almost always around. That means the stay-at-home parent (me) doesn’t go stir crazy being alone with the baby all day. I generally keep her in her play area, but I can have water-cooler conversations with people in the kitchen. It makes a huge difference to spend time with our friends; it’s super convenient that some of our best friends live just down the hall. Additionally, even though we don’t get out very often, our roommates’ friends come over, so we still have a semblance of a social life. (It’s convenient for our friends, too – they get to visit up to six people at once.)
- We have endless free entertainment for the baby. She likes to look at people and watch what we do. I bring her into the kitchen while my roommate cooks dinner and she seems happy just to watch him. When the baby won’t go to sleep late at night, I take her into our office so that she can watch our roommate work on the computer. Just having people around entertains the baby without anyone having go out of their way to do so.
- Someone can always lend me a hand. I try not to ask for help often, since the baby is my responsibility, but someone can hold her a moment if I need to grab something out of the oven. (Or they can get the thing out of the oven for me, instead.) The roomies also babysit on occasion, so that I can take a shower or spend time with my husband.
- Our daughter is comfortable with all sorts of people. She’s met our friends, and we know already that she enjoys socializing. Some of that must be because she regularly spends time with people other than her parents. As a baby this translates into entertainment, but as she gets older I feel happy that she will have close relationships with other grown-ups. She will talk with and learn from multiple people; she will grow up in a community of caring adults.
If you live with the right people, a loose co-housing arrangement can be a wonderful support system for new parents.