In a post that I wrote about informal childcare arrangements in a cohousing village over a year ago, I reflected on the ways that living at Treehouse might ease my load as a parent. I hoped for spontaneous activities that my toddler could participate in, as well as regularly scheduled time slots where he was being cared for by others, that I could rely on for some sorely missed me-time.
While those hopes still hold true, having befriended some of the families who will be living beside us, I now spend more time thinking about the ways that I might be able to ease their loads. If I’m at home with my son during the week, why not add a few more children into the mix? He’d probably have more fun, and other parents could then reduce their expenditure on childcare, have focused time with their other children, or recharge their batteries. As I’ve come to know and care for other members and their small children, I see their strengths and their struggles, and want to offer my support where it is welcome.
I don’t just want to spend time with our community’s many children as a favour to their parents, though. I relish the time I spend with our littles, and feel privileged to have witnessed their growth over the three years I’ve been involved with the project. I hope to play a significant role in many of their lives for years to come; I want them to know that they are always welcome in my home, that I am genuinely interested in hearing about their dreams and fears, and that I value them just as they are. I know that they will teach me a lot about compassion, trust, play, and cooperation. Perhaps I can teach them something in return.
The list of activities that I want to organise after move-in keeps growing: storytime in the common house library; arts and crafts sessions; wide games in the forest. Things that don’t make sense, or require too much energy to plan for a single child become more viable and worthwhile when there are several children who might participate. There isn’t that much difference in cleaning up the paint splashes of five children, versus one.
When I think of life at Treehouse, I imagine a place where there are more opportunities for me to be the kind of mother, friend, and neighbour that I want to be: generous, playful, helpful, open, interdependent. I imagine a life where I know that I am needed, valued, and relied upon by people outside of my family of three. Where simple things like inviting another child along for a trip to the library make a big difference in the lives of others. Where my son never questions the benefit and beauty of both giving and receiving help.