“How’s it going with the housemates?”
This is a great question. Really it is. And I so appreciate people’s interest in this little experiment we have going on in two-family community life.
I just never have any idea what to say. “Uh, good…” I stammer and grunt, like a unresponsive teenager. “How was school today?” “Fine.” “How is living with two adults, two preschoolers and a large dog?” “Uh… good.”
As I grunt, my mind is racing. How is it going? What can I say about living together that doesn’t cross the line of talking about my housemates? It’s not that we’ve had any major arguments or “oh my goodness, you’re driving me up a wall” moments yet (at least not from my perspective), but we certainly will. What is private? What can be shared? Once I start talking, will I blurt out something inappropriate?
All of this is much easier for me to process at the speed of writing (vs. the speed of conversation, which often trips up my introspective brain), and so I would like to share a few tentative observations.
Observation #1: Life with young children can be lonely, and the presence of two real live additional grown-ups is priceless. I can’t tell you how many times over the past weeks that one of our children has been throwing a fit or screaming about something REALLY DIRE like the tragedy of getting the blue bowl when you wanted the green one. My eyes will meet the eyes of the other grown-up in the room. We will smile or shake our heads, and something inside of me will sigh contentedly. Ah… Perspective. Company. Solidarity with someone who understands that the green bowl is just in the dishwasher.
Observation #2: This only works because/when we do not judge or try to micromanage each other’s parenting.
There was this great blog post on MOM101. She says that we fight the “mommy wars” only when we are really at war with ourselves, with our own unmet expectations. In our house, we give each other a lot of grace, that is, we offer the repeated benefit of the doubt. Perhaps this is because each of us has been humbled by our own repeated parental “failures” and are at peace with our own imperfections? This question leads nicely into my next observation…
Observation #3: Community life sucks when I am not at peace with my own imperfections. Sigh. When I am feeling insecure it’s just so easy to “put judgments” into someone else’s head, to read into EVERYTHING they say or do or don’t say or don’t do. I am really skilled at this. It’s exhausting. Fortunately I usually get this way at night, and so mostly I just pray and go to bed.
Observation #4: Sharing household responsibilities has taken a huge burden off my husband and I. It’s amazing. During the week we alternate meal-prep and so some nights you come home and ta-da, dinner. In the mornings my cute-husband will often just make a big pot of oatmeal. Ta-da, the kids are fed. The other day one of our housemates mowed and weed-whacked the entire yard. I almost cried.
It’s not that we couldn’t do all these things ourselves. No, we are capable, independent Americans with power tools and kitchen appliances. It’s just that keeping up with household tasks AND young children puts us right at the edge of burn-out… all the time. With housemates to share the workload, there’s margin. Margin is my friend.
And look at that, there was even enough time to write a blog post.