Kids (and adults) and work and families
From: David Mandel (
Date: Sat, 14 Dec 1996 11:50:00 -0600
A few random thoughts on the subject that's been kicking around, most
immediately in response to Albert Harum-Alvarez of Miami, but also other
recent discussion:

1. Aside from Sharingwood, which is apparently inhabited by a more highly
evolved species of human being, finding effective and equitable ways to get
the mundane work of a community done seems to be a problem in all cohousing

2. It also seems to be a problem in most nuclear families I know, whether
in cohousing or not. Our kids are no better about picking up after
themselves and doing the few chores we try to assign them in the home than
they are about doing general community work. And they're not doing any
better since we moved into cohousing than before.

3. We have a hard time getting many adults, who chose to live in a
cohousing community, to take on work responsibilities and follow through
with the ones they take on. I admit I'm among those who complain that we
demand too little from our children in the way of assistance, but perhaps
better modeling would be a start.

3. I've observed that some older children have a hard time moving into
cohousing. Most teens are genetically grumpy and resistant to authority,
and suddenly they have 20 or 30 times the number of adults who think they
can tell them what to do. Over the three-plus years we've been here, some
have made the adjustment better than others.

4. Younger children, on the other hand, love the easy access to playmates.
We now have a bunch of 10- and 11-year-olds who were 7 and 8 when they
moved in. It will be interesting to see whether the transition to teendom
is easier for them, more accustomed as they already are to helping out and
putting up with the adults. (The biggest problem with these younger kids,
by the way, is that they start acting more like siblings and fight with
each other.)

5. The extended family question is interesting. We have a few
manifestations of it (the daughter and grandson of one member live across
the street and participate in common meals; the son of another member also
lives across the street with his girlfriend; one members is raising her
three young grandchildren following the sudden death of their mother a
couple years ago). But I think more of us are in the other category --
perhaps in part drawn to cohousing because our own extended families are
far away.

6. I don't think the search for adopted extended families has anything to
do with the reputed inability to attract minority members to cohousing. I'm
not familiar with statistics saying that minorities have closer extended
families and it's not consistent with my own knowledge. I think our society
is still quite segregated, and therefore a cohousing core group that
comprises all or almost all whites is likely to stay that way. Groups that
are multiracial from the start or predominantly minorities from the start
attract more minorities along the way as well. Also, take a look at what
neighborhood you're building in if you want to be multiethnic. Also ask
whether your homes are affordable to a wide range of income groups.

David Mandel
Southside Park, Sacramento, where we are in the throes of yet again
revamping the systems by which we allocate and accomplish the work of the
community. It's a tough one. Hardly anyone is satisfied with the status quo
but we have major differences over what would be better. Stay tuned and
I'll tell you more details as we get through the process.

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