Post-mortem on co-ops with a newborn

Having just read my post from before my baby was born, I have to say that I am soooooo glad I trusted myself and not the people who told me to get my own place.  I was told quite a few times that I’d regret living with others when I had a newborn, but I just couldn’t believe that I would suddenly become a different person with different needs.  And I was right.  I loved living with others while I was home with a baby.

Our old coop was five adults and our tiny little guy.  I barely remember anything from that first week after our son was born, because I was almost completely without sleep and having a newborn is so repetitive (cry, change, cry, nurse, sleep briefly, cuddle, repeat every hour or two around the clock).  I do remember these events:

  1. When we came home from the birth center, our housemates were sitting on the porch with a bouquet of flowers and a big sign saying “Welcome Home LEIF!”  Tears came to my eyes.
  2. My mother-in-law Betty was staying with us and helping with everything.  One evening that week she cooked dinner and all our housemates were home.  We lit candles and ate at the table, and everything was perfect.  That was the first day our sweet housemate Mike held the baby, who was four days old.

The other memories I have from that week (and the next few) were nursing (which was quite painful) and walking Lief up and down the stairs (the only way to calm him…we called him our personal trainer).

As for the rest of that year, it was hard, but not because we had housemates.  Nate’s startup took off, and I did way more baby care than I ever expected.  Having housemates made this more bearable.  I had a terrible experience at work that summer.  We spent months preparing for our move to the west coast, purging about half of our belongings.  I had lived in Boston longer than anywhere else in my life, so it was hard to leave.

But I’m also really excited to be here in Berkeley.  Our old housemates were great, but they were single.  Our son is an only child, and he is extremely social.  We want him to be around other kids and we want to be around other parents.

If you read my post from before he was born, I am happy to report that none of the things I was warned about came true.  I was completely comfortable having others hold my baby, try to calm him, or occasionally babysit.  In fact, it was a godsend.  As far as seeing me at my worst, we joked about the donut-pillow I carried around everywhere for the first week — the relationship I have with my housemates is not a very private one.  I was very happy to have an excuse to mostly clean up most of the time (sorry about those other times!).  And the extra burden of maintaining interpersonal relationships was no more than it had been before.

Everyone was incredibly helpful to us the first few weeks, and after that it was wonderful to have my housemates occasionally organize events at the house.  There was a Princess Bride party at our house that was lovely: about a dozen very nice people came over, shared food, and watched the movie.  Since I wasn’t organizing it I could come and go as needed to nurse or change the baby.

Overall, I’m very surprised that the googs can’t find more information about the great joy of living with others while having small children.

So what do I expect from this new house? In many ways I expect more of the same experiences as my old coop: house meetings where we try to compromise to make everyone reasonably happy; random deep conversations about life, the universe, and sleep training; occasional frustration as dished pile up for some reason; coming home to a home-cooked meal and a housemate playing guitar.

In addition, there will be eight stompy little feet chasing the dog and squealing.  There will be piles of kids laughing while we tickle them.  There will be outings to Totland or the library or a museum.  And there will be four more brains to pick about what to do if our son falls asleep an hour early or gets an ear infection or throws a temper tantrum because we won’t give him dad’s iPhone to smear food on during dinner.

I’m looking forward to all of it.  And to blogging about the experience so the next person who wants to try living cooperatively with kids finds more info than I did.


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