Similar to a Newborn: The First Five Months in Cohousing

Doug Henderson James, 2nd from left, smiles before a celebration dinner

We are completing five months in our digs and five months into the adventure of being a cohousing community. Several people in the community have pointed out that adventure requires missed turns, missed trains, etc. Something that goes smoothly is a vacation; all else is an adventure. I like to think of our first five months as similar to a newborn.

A newborn is thrust into a new physical environment (she trades a warm cozy womb for very large cold world). She has to learn how to do and control everything. In the process of learning come times of breakdown (over stimulation + physical exhaustion = total collapse.) Couple that with no sense of perspective and every obstacle becomes a mountain, every denial a case of torture.

This is where we are. As a community we are a newborn learning how to talk to one another, how to compromise and when to compromise. Like a newborn we thrash about, loudly voice our needs, even lose control. We do not have a history to rely on. Our common experience of building our building is not necessarily the best experience for creating community behaviors. We have to create that history and to do that we have to be on an adventure.

I trust that like a newborn learning to control her hands to be able to suck her thumb, her arms and legs to crawl and then walk, to control tongue and mouth and air passages to speak, we too will go from our “neo-natal” stage to toddler to grade schooler to adolescent to … well you get the picture. It is an adventure.


Can you say more...

Thanks for this post. It's of interest because we have been working together for five years on our urban cohousing apartment building and have recently begun construction. We think we'll be moving in by the end of this year. I was surprised to hear you say "Our common experience of building our building is not necessarily the best experience for creating community behaviors." Can you say any more about that? In particular what would you recommend to use to help prepare us for moving in together. Currently we have many common experiences such as: dinner together twice a month, potluck before the monthly business meeting, many working team meetings and an annual retreat with outside facilitator.

Thanks. I look forward to meeting you when I come to Durham in May.

Sheila Hoffman, Seattle