collective living (and equality in relationships)

After writing about how much I hate doing the dishes and how the Beard and I have been splitting the housework and how gender equality can be hard to establish post-kid (and reading all of your very interesting comments), I realized how much there still was to say on the subject.  When it comes to gender equality in relationships, I could probably write an encyclopedia.  Not that it would contain any answers or definitive facts.  But it would contain a lot of anecdotes, complaints, and questions.  It isn’t a topic that deserves to get lost in the comments.  This deserves a whole post.  (And another and another and another, all things told.)

Last time, a handful of you told me about how you and your live-in partners divide up chores.  Most of you, it seems, divide things up based on who prefers to do what.  One person likes drying dishes and the other doesn’t (for the record, I too see hand drying dishes as a complete waste of time, who’s with me?!).  One person is really good at the taxes and the other is awesome at building shit.  Then one person mentioned cleaning the bathroom.  And I froze.  The Beard and I don’t have to discuss bathroom duty because it is a chore that we share with the entire collective.  Epiphany!  Collective living can make finding equality in relationships easier.  Holy shit.

I don’t know how I never noticed that before.

Three cheers for collective living.  Hip hip…

Other couples have to fight about who is going to clean the bathroom.  One of them does it more and resents the other.  One of them likes it sparkling, and the other doesn’t mind a little grime, and everybody is annoyed.  But not us!  We share a bathroom with 10 or so other people, and we negotiate that cleaning territory with them.  It never enters into our relationship.  We are each on the cleaning schedule, but it isn’t something just between the two of us.  Holy shit.  I am so glad.  Tra la la!

Your comments and my realization got me thinking.  How do we divide up all the chores I didn’t include?  Does collective living make anything else easier?  Well.  Let’s see.

We both take out the trash.  Whenever its full, whoever happens to be going that way.  We share a trash bin with the entire group, so anything revolving around that gets cleared up during meetings.  Plus one for the collective.

I mow the lawn (the Beard couldn’t care less about the length of the grass, and I like it neat and prim and worry that I may be channeling my lawn-obsessed grandfather) aruond our trailers, and other folks do the bits around theirs.  This means that for the price of taking care of a tiny lawn, I have an enormous lawn.  It also means that I don’t need to buy my own lawn mower because I use one of the community mowers.  (This goes for a number of really handy tools as well.)  Another point for collective living.

I do most of the renovation work (by choice, because I like it and I’m a picky bastard) to our house.  Though the Beard does stuff like paiting and hanging shit from time to time too, and especially lately as I seem to have no time to do fucking anything.  But again, we have access to far more space that we don’t need to care for all-by-our-lonesome.  Go collective living go.

The Beard sweeps and generally cleans shit up about a hundred times more than I do inside the trailer.  He does all the dishes (and just about all of the cooking), and I do all of the laundry.  We splitt grocery shopping.  We both barely manage to muddle through all the paperwork that life requires.  And so on.  These are things that no collective can save you from.

The one area where it doesn’t change much is child care.  When we lived in Mainz, with several very close friends, there were lots of oppurtunites to let Pickles hang out with someone else for a while, to get some time alone, even if it was just five minutes.  Not so much with the new group, but it’s not something I am willing to ask of people I still barely know.  So we share child care about evenly between the two of us, though I do almost all of the nighttime parenting.  I get all of Pickles’ clothes and things, and we splitt up paperwork and doctor’s visits and the like.   And STILL if there is an emergency/I am about to go postal there is always someone around that I can ask to look after Pickles for a second.  They aren’t areas collective living could help with much, and yet the collective’s presence provides a sort of safety net that makes it all just a little easier.

Looks like its collective living for the win.

0 Comments on “collective living (and equality in relationships)

  1. But. My doubt is: how many times per week does a 10-people-shared bathroom need to be cleaned? I mean: 10 is a lot!

  2. Fede: Twice a week (once superficially, and on the last day a more intense clean), and each person is up about once ever two months. It actually doesn’t get gross as fast as you might think. It is the most pleasant bathroom situation I’ve ever dealt with. It is always so clean to begin with that cleaning it goes pretty quickly.

  3. I had to laugh about your lawn comment. I HAVE to clean the bathrooms, vacuum, dust, wash the floors (all the inside stuff) because me mate has this thing for lawn care. His tractor was broken for 2 weeks. He wept every night it was at the shop. It’s definitely a family thing.

    And I hear in minutia about cross cutting, mower deck height, the cats that wander in the yard….the deer that nibble at the bushes and rip the sedum out of the garden…. Makes me smile; your grandpa has such long reaching powers. Vive el Stu!

  4. My experience with this has been mixed. When we lived in the warehouse (me, my partner, and 8 other people plus their SOs and a one-eye cat named puck over three stories of crumbling warehouse fun) the whole place oscillated between functioning community where everyone was engaged and doing stuff for the house and a hostile group of too-busy people who thought everyone else ought to be doing more. (This had a lot to do with how many of the warehomies were unemployed at any given time.) We had weekly worknights, which worked well…sometimes.

    When we moved out to our own place (I got pregnant, um, earlier than planned, and then there was an incident with a bunch of lead dust falling out of the ceiling) I found that in many cases, I find disputes with my partner about house stuff a lot easier to deal with than disputes that involve reaching consensus with 10 very busy people.

    My takeaway from that experience is that communal living can be great, but it has to be with the right people, and you want to have the right balance between shared and community resources. For example, while I may very well do group living again, I’m unlikely to want to share a kitchen. I’m enough of an introvert that I won’t cook in a group kitchen if I’m feeling over-peopled, and that can be a vicious cycle of not-so-good eating habits. I need to be realistic about my own habits and then create living situations that work with that.

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