Raising an infant in a multi-person household

Guest post by Mamacita

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.

Comments on Raising an infant in a multi-person household

  1. I am happy to see this post. My boyfriend our son and our dog share a home with two roommates. Over the course of one year Ruben has had six different roommates and I too believe it has developed a comfort and confidence in him around others. All of our roommates are wonderful friends and love living with our little one. I really appreciate the positive influence it has on us as a family and on our friendships.

    “A life intentionally lived results in a constant series of transformations and evolutions” – beautifully written, thank you.

  2. it may not take a village to raise a baby, but sure does make it easier on everyone. i know it seems offbeat now, but i got the sense while reading your post that this is the way things are supposed to be!

    • I don’t know if I would say “the way things are supposed to be”, but having lived in rural parts of the “developing world” for nearly a decade, I will say that it is the way things work in most of the world. I agree that it seems to be better/healthier for the baby/child and the parents.

  3. I love how the articles on Offbeat Mama always seem to relate to my life at the moment.

    I’m due in three weeks with our first son and two weeks ago we had one of our friends move in to help us with rent and bills because my legs swelled up so bad that the doctor told me to stop working [I worked as a waitress]. I’m interested to see how it’ll work once our little guy is here, hopefully goes as well for us as it did for Mamacita!

  4. AMB: More traditionally, of course, it would be the extended family living together. (I get along with my mom, and yeah, if she lived with us, I could have a whole pack of kids.) Since we don’t live in those structures anymore, this is the next best thing.

  5. This post is awesome. I often find explaining to people that I have a roommate AND a child a little awkward. People always seem to give me THAT look – the “why aren’t you in your OWN house raising your OWN family” look, and I always feel the need to try and justify it. But this article helps me see that, f*ck yeah! There are awesome benefits to living with a roommate and raising a baby – benefits you just can’t beat!

  6. My husband and I started a family a bit sooner than we expected to. We were still living in the city where we went to university, and didn’t want to raise a family there. We had always planned to move back to the town where we grew up when we had kids since we had two sets of parents there. Since we couldn’t afford to buy a house before we moved back, we moved in with his parents, and it’s been great!! I don’t know if I’d be happy living this way without a baby, I’ve never been great at living with roommates, but the help with baby-rearing, cooking, cleaning is fantastic. I totally recommend it if you have parents or in-laws you get along well with. And grandparents LOVE taking baby off your hands so you can shower.

    It really does take a village. Or at least: a village makes for a happier, cleaner, better fed mother.

  7. we would not have survived the first few months without my parents. I was 18 when i had my daughter and living with my parents allowed me to finish high school and get my feet under me alitte bit better.
    that being said, when we lost our apartment and had to move back in with my parents a second time it didnt last very long. My daughter is special needs and creating a home that works for her takes some planning, which was sometimes difficult to coordinate with my parents and siblings.

  8. I wish my boyfriend would be down with a roommate. We have the space and the extra cash would be extremely helpful. He’s such a private person, at times a bit anti-social, and gets really annoyed with house guests after a few days. We have a 1 year old and I’m a SAHM and don’t get out much during daylight hours. Doing baby talk all day gives me a head ache!

  9. I love this! i currently live with 3 boys (one of which is my boyfriend) in a 4 bedroom house. We also have a pack of dogs and cats. I think one of the things that freaks my boyfriend out about having kids is the expectation that we would move out. we actually rent two rooms, mostly because we have alot of stuff, and i think it would be delightful to stay where we are and build a family. Maybe it’s because i am the second oldest of 5 kids, but i think its strange to be so alone especially when you are raising kids.
    I am a nanny for 4 little people (all are under the age of 4) and after a long day with them it’s so nice to go home and NOT be by myself.

    • I am the oldest of three, and we grew up in a small house, so I’m very used to having people underfoot. I think I would feel lonely to live in a nuclear family structure!

  10. My best friend, her husband, my husband, and I all lived together for a while.. with our three children (one was ours, two were theirs). We loved it so much that years later, when our families became to large to logically co-exist together in one house (we had four children, they had five) we moved in to houses that were next door to each other and shared a yard :oD

  11. It’s really lovely to have more than one other adult you can pass the “in charge” hat too, even for only 5 minutes. Our family is 3 adults and 2 kids, and yet the grownups still feel outnumbered at times (the kids have So Much Energy!) And the economics … it’s the only way we’ve survived this recession, and not have my wife have to drop out of college, that extra earning power.

  12. When I grew up we often had roommates. Well after I moved off to college my mom ended up moving into a situation where she was what she called a “pinch-hitter adult” where the couple had three children, including twins. Later I did a similar thing with some friends. We all happened to be looking at the same time, and the addition of my income alowed us to get a much nicer place. I had several friends question my sanity living with a family with three kids, including a newborn, but it seemed reasonable to me. Sure, it was not perfect, but it was not as insane as the doubters predicted. I am still close with all of the family, even though the parents are now going through a divorce (in fact I have managed to mantain the role of neutral friend, which has come in handy at time).

    Now that I have my own child, I still would consider a roommate situation, and have discussed the options of having my brother-in-law look with us for a place, or, at one point, another couple (the wife who has been a former roommate of mine already) with a toddler.

    Thanks, Mamcita for sharing your story. There are so many benefits, many of which I often wish we were reaping.

  13. My husband and I with our 2 sons share a home with his sister, husband and there little one. I think its great. It makes our family so much closer than ever. We have each other to lean on and as a mom having another mom in the house is wonderful, we can relate on so many other levels now.

  14. Wow. Even though I’m not ready to have a family yet, this article has done wonders for me. I’m an OBB reader who enjoys OBM, and am currently engaged. Everyone keeps pressing me about when we’ll move out. We couldn’t POSSIBLY have roommates while we’re engaged or married, or blah blah blah. So, THANK YOU, for this. Thank you.

  15. I wholeheartedly agree! I would not have been able to afford to continue living with my daughter in my own home after my husband left, had my best friend not moved in too! Now we have me, my daughter,my housemate, and on weekends my boyfriend and my housemate’s boyfriend too! My munchkin just loves all the attention she gets, and (as a bonus!) I love that I’ve got the social life I was lacking for most of her early life!
    It wouldn’t work for me with just anyone I think though, having people around who are also close friends helps too!

    • As Boyfriend of Jedgee Joy, I find it quite nice to have a big family around me a lot of the time now. I see her housemate and her housemates boyfriend as family and It works.

      Munchkin does love the attention she gets, and I have a very strong feeling that the housemate and housemates boyfriend love the attention munchkin gives them.

  16. Fantastic! My husband and I will be moving next door to my mother next year, into my grandfather’s old house. I loved seeing my grandfather every day when I was growing up, and I’m delighted that my future children will have the same experience. It’s not what we had expected, as my father died quite suddenly last month, but it’ll be good for my mother to have us nearby after years of living abroad. We’re looking forward to it.

  17. Absolutely LOVE this post. My advice (which really means nothing if you don’t like it:) Keep up the living the living situation as long as you can (and while you still love it of course)!!

    We lived like this for the first 18 months of our sons life, our house had 1 other married couple, and up to three individuals (with respective dating partners so it felt like more roommates then:), and we absolutely loved it!! But due to schooling options everyone split up (our friends were done with their schooling and my husband had to relocate cities to finish his degree) this past summer, and i miss it all so much!! And the switch over to living in a new city in a townhouse with just us 3 and a new one on the way kind of sucks! Oh, man do miss the days of communal living!

  18. Thank you for posting this. I’m currently an Offbeat Auntie at the moment. My husband and I live with a fantastic house mate. We got a lot of pressure when we got engaged to “move on” and get a place of our own. Honestly we love living with our house mate and splitting bills. We make communal dinners and try to split things as best we can.

    Since my sister has had a little one I have feared if my husband and I start our family we will get pressure again to move out. You get those odd…she lives with two men look. But I would not change our situation at all we are our own trifecta of awesome balancing each other.

  19. I love that i am not the only momma who has room mates! most people we tell that it was our idea to be newly married with a baby and room mates think we are crazy! we currently live with two guys and have another guy moving in next month. we have the entire upstairs to ourselves so its perfect for when we need some alone time as a family. I have been trying to get another family with kids to move in with us! i think it would be a perfect community!

  20. I really appreciate this article, my husband and I will be trying to have a baby in this coming year, and currently our house is full with 6 cats, a snake, and 5 adult humans. We have talked with them a little about things, but it is good to hear ti can work out.

  21. I was directed here through Offbeat Home and I am really in love with this!

    It has really sparked some thinking for me and my future. After living in 2 very different environments (Sunnyvale, CA from age 0-12 and Brooklyn, NY 12+) and then eventually coming back to a similar area in California, I have felt like California was lacking that village mentality.

    In NY I had the world around me and everyone was like family. In my business (like it or not) and helped my mom (single mom) where they could.

    I felt safer, more loved and I wondered how, if I ever became a mother, I could capture that similar feeling and now after reading this, I wonder if a community type roomie situation could be the social safety net type thing I have been looking for.

    Who knows…I am not a mom and that is a ways off …but I just wanted to say that my thinking is inspired tonight…so thank you for sharing!

  22. Thanks for this great post! A friend who is well acquainted with our crazy ‘family’ passed it along to me; it’s nice to know that other folks are enjoying this type of communal living! We are 5 adults (and 1 part time adult) and 2 dogs sharing a house, and my husband and I are expecting our first baby in a few months. We’re into our 3rd year now, and it’s been a great experience so far! It’s convenient to have a built in social life, and lots of other friends are always stopping in to hang out because there are already so many of us here! 🙂 We always have someone to go out and play with (our gear rooms are somewhat epic) and it’s fun to share occasional meals, movies and whatnot. As if we’re not crazy enough, we’ve also been renovating the house….4 rooms completed since move-in day! It’s a wonderful way to live!

  23. You! Poster! I know you! I see what you did there!! You’re on my favorite website!

    You guys, this blog writer here is one of the most bad ass mamas I know. And she is saving my ASS on my own pregnancy. I won’t reveal her identity though… but you’re awesome girl! And so is yer baby! 🙂

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