One of the most attractive things about cohousing is to raise your children. That was a hook for me. I could watch my children and talk to adults. It would be the opposite of the loneliness I felt when raising my first born and was stuck inside with a cold climate. I actually did get to experience that when I started homeschooling him and could talk to adults as I watched my younger ones when we got together in a homeschool coop.
The problem is that parents might love living in cohousing, but non-parents (or parents of adult children) might not love the parent much. Some parents keep an eye on their kids. Others think that cohousing is one big playground for their holy terrors.
Parenting style is one of the biggest conflicts in cohousing. Early on, before we moved in, some of the solar lights that lined a path were broken. Some accused the kids. No one had been watching them. Me included. My child was old enough to run around without supervision and I asked and he said he didn’t do it. But no one else saw if their child did or not (and they were much younger) and one parent thought it was my child. The solar lights are cheaply made and can break by a slight touch so if my son broke it, it wasn’t on purpose. I chalked it up to community living and told him to be more careful and this is our whole land now and that I’d pay for the damage since it was my child. I sent an email that I’d pay for it. None of the other parents offered that and no one replaced the lights and no money was spent, as far as I know.
My idea was when kids make mistakes or do damage, we teach them how to live in a community and take responsibility for it. However, soon it was clear not all parents feel that way. When the kids started messing with someone’s private garden (they had already been reminded that each house has a private area around it where they shouldn’t go unless invited), one parent said they didn’t see a problem with that at all. Others were upset we had to have a community meeting about it and they would rather be eating dinner with their family. The message to their own kids and the whole community was that the kids could go wherever they want, destroy anything, and behave however they want. I earlier tried to discuss with one family how I just wanted to take a walk around the property and don’t want their four year old to yell insults at me. I never saw them try to teach their kid but we were working on it at least until the family broke off all communication when the kids were doing even worse behavior.
I know one person who already came and left, as a renter, from our community because they felt it was only for parents of young children. I wish they had the chance to meet more people and see that we may be able to change and make it more considerate for all the households. I have heard other cohousing community members complain that sometimes they feel like they live in a daycare. And one community built a separate section just for senior citizens so they could visit the kids but not hear the noise in their section. Just more food for thought – kids are welcome, but are the parents behaving?