Sounds Like Life to Me: Parenting in a Busy World

In a perfect, pre-Covid world, I would never have to rush my kids through breakfast or tell them to “just hurry up!” so we could get out the door. After work, I would never be too preoccupied in my thoughts about the mad rush of dinner and activities to really listen to them talk about how their day was. I’d never get frustrated trying to get them in the car to head to activities and back home — or maybe, I’d never have to drive to activities in the first place. I’d never dream of skipping bedtime stories because I’m getting them to bed too late. 

But we’re living in a different world right now — a world of restrictions, homeschooling, and cancelled activities. Here in Halifax, we’ve only had a couple of weeks of severe restrictions, and yet I can’t help but think what a stark contrast this is to our everyday lives … and how much I’m okay with that. The fact is, I spend most of my days in an exhausting cycle of trying to achieve balance, but never actually succeeding. Being a parent in a busy world today often means:

  • Being pulled in different directions
  • Sacrificing one thing for another
  • Feeling guilty about work
  • Feeling guilty about parenting
  • Feeling guilty about everything 
  • Needing more time for partners
  • Needing more time for kids
  • Needing more time for ourselves

When I express my frustration over this cycle, my caring-but-predictable husband often says, “sounds like life to me.” After all, isn’t that how most of our days look as working parents? 

It may sound like life, but it doesn’t have to be OUR life. 

In the past two years, I’ve been on a journey towards minimalism. At first, I thought minimalism was just having less stuff in your house. But the more I explored, the more I realized that minimalism is about simplifying your life to create space and time for what really matters.

When I heard about what families are trying to create with Treehouse Village Ecohousing, I understood this to be more than just a community with energy-efficient homes and a pretty cool common house. To me, it was a way of creating a lifestyle that gives you more time for the things that are really important.

When I heard about what families are trying to create with Treehouse Village Ecohousing, I understood this to be more than just a community with energy-efficient homes and a pretty cool common house. To me, it was a way of creating a lifestyle that gives you more time for the things that are really important. 

These Treehouse Village members are literally working together to create a lifestyle — and designing homes and communities to support that lifestyle. Of the 30 homes available, 23 are already spoken for (as of May 15) by those who have decided to become members and start working to design and develop this community. These members include households with young children, older kids, adult children, or no children. 

Because no humans are exactly the same, these members have different priorities, wants, and needs — some like more privacy, some like social opportunities, some like to walk downtown for a coffee or a craft beer, some would prefer to spend their time in their forested backyard or on the walking trails. 

As I’ve learned more about this project, I’ve come to see that each member is unique, with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, yet they all value:

  1. Living lightly on the earth
  2. Sharing resources with neighbours, where it makes sense ecologically and economically 
  3. Living in a comfortable home in a neighbourhood that promotes healthy, peaceful, and balanced living

Of course, it’s the young families in Treehouse Village I’m most curious about, because I can relate well to their current stage in life.

First and foremost, they want their children to be able to “free range” (a term I had only associated with animals before, to be honest). They envision opening the door to their homes and letting their children play outside without having to be with them the whole time. They will feel confident doing this, because the outdoor space they are creating in the 15 acres of forest has been designed to be safe and child-friendly. They’ll know that neighbours are keeping an eye on their children outside as well, or will take turns watching all the children. 

I know what some people will think, because it’s what I thought at first — you don’t want strangers looking after your children! However, these neighbours will have been working together for many months (and in many cases years) to design their community. Weekly online meetings, plenty of social events, and many, many conversations with every other member means they become neighbours (and often friends) long before the homes are even built. 

I imagine on storm days when school is cancelled, the parents will make a plan to keep the kids together, taking turns watching them or hiring care so they don’t lose a day at work.

Treehouse members are also planning to share childcare resources where it makes sense. Either they’ll take turns doing school pick ups and after school care, or hire childcare providers together to watch all the children — on their own property but not in their homes. With the common house having a full kitchen, dining room, and children’s playroom, plus 12 acres of undisturbed forest and an outdoor play area, it’s a dream set up for childcare. I imagine on storm days when school is cancelled, the parents will make a plan to keep the kids together, taking turns watching them or hiring care so they don’t lose a day at work. 

The walkability to downtown Bridgewater, pool, arena, library, schools, and daycares means less time in the car and less yelling “hurry up! We have to go!” 

There will be so many other benefits at Treehouse Village. Neighbours will share equipment, appliances, and tools, saving time and money. No need to have an extra bedroom in your home, because the common house will have guest rooms. The common house will also be where you can exercise or work and where you can join in a shared meal in the large dining area, while your kids play in the adjoining playroom.

They’re setting examples for their children to create the life they want, in a way that’s good for the planet, too. I have no doubt it will all be worth it.

I’m still amazed at this group of individuals who are putting in time and effort to build an entire community shaped around the lifestyle they want to live, and the balance they want to achieve. They are not settling for just choosing a suitable home in a place they might want to live and building their lives around it. They’re setting examples for their children to create the life they want, in a way that’s good for the planet, too. I have no doubt it will all be worth it. 

At one point in my life, had you told me about cohousing, I very likely would have said it’s not for me. And while I haven’t jumped into membership (yet?), after learning more about this project and meeting the people involved with it, I have to say, especially now, after being forced into a quieter life due to the pandemic, I totally get it. 

An intentional life with more time with my children in nature, more space for creativity, less rushing around, more social opportunities at my doorstep. Now THAT sounds like life to me. 

Does it sound like life to you?

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Categories Community Life/Families

Post Author: Guest Author: Christy Wentzell Johnson

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