Over the past two years my little family and I have had many roomies (seven to be exact). Some stayed for as little as a month, while others stayed for a full year. The experience of having roommates as a parent has been incredible. While other people might cringe at the idea of having other people around all the time, I adored it. Our roomies for the most part were family (or our version of) and in our world family and good friends are everything. I have always put a lot of value in my relationships and had planned on continuing to do so after becoming a mom.
We never sought out roomies for the simple reason of just wanting them. In Toronto, real estate is high and you do what you can to maximize space and cost. Having roommates in a very large space, seemed to make more sense than having no roommates in a very tiny space. We were doing what we needed to do to make things work and live life in the city we whole heartedly loved. However, as time went on, we quickly realized that having family members and good friends live with us was priceless, and ended up being far more valuable than having the help with the rent! Furthermore, having like-minded roomies was magical.
By living a mindful and conscious lifestyle, you have a sense of peace in all the as is moments of life (even parenthood). In doing so, we were radiating positivity to higher degrees, spreading light far and wide. As we all practised mindfulness as individuals and together we saw it's incredible affects. Not only on us, but on our daughter. In that environment, everyone wins.
In moments of accidents or otherwise high emotion (sometimes inevitable with little ones) we never panicked under the eyes of our roomies, or felt added stress of discomfort. We seamlessly experienced calm and understanding reactions to these trying times and had endless security knowing our daughter was being given the same messages, being talked to with similar language and was modelled similar lifestyle tools and techniques. Complete consistency when you are coexisting with like-minded individuals was so comforting and so beneficial. We knew, we would always welcome the right roomies into our home. We love the benefits of communal living and value the growth each individual provides us with. We made a choice, and we will see where it takes us!
Then we experienced mindful living alongside another set of mindful parents and it blew our minds.
This past week was a major source of growth for my family and I. It was absolutely beautiful and there were many take-home's from the experience. For the first time ever, my little family and my best friend's little family stayed in the most perfect little cottage at the most perfect lake and had the best time. Our children are the same age, have been raised the same way and are two very different people. At the end of the day, they adore each other and play better than I have ever seen two toddler's play. Here is our story:
Since being pregnant this mama has been my go-to source of information, understanding, support and guidance. I knew from day one that we were interested in parenting in a similar way and could not be more grateful to have her in my life.
Of course, once the babies came it was like a light switch. Our babies were the centre of our universe's and we were theres. We bonded over the admiration and astonishment of our new roles and basked in the warm light and love we were experiencing with our new additions to our little families.
Living in separate cities, we made things work. With visits and sleepover's we have managed to stay close. Leaning on each other for every thing we needed and celebrating every milestone and natural wonder about our babies' growing up. This mama was a fit for me because she too enjoys seeking the lesson's in the trying times, discussing the positive's about parenthood (when other parents might deem them troublesome) and always stays mindful, present and engaged. We both love to learn, we both love to help others and above all else, at the end of the day we invest back in to our selves.
When we came up with the idea to do a combined family cottage adventure, we knew we hit something big. Our kids have always gotten along so well and quickly became the subject of each other's days. Talking about each other, and the other women they call mama, we knew the kids were going to be thrilled to spend multiple days together, outdoors.
What made this trip unique is the like-mindedness in the adults. With ease and understanding we gave each other our space, enjoyed the unlimited amounts of kid time and unwound together in the nights. Mama Sarah perfectly encapsulates the magic of the trip in her recent post:
"We spent the last 5 days at the most magical place with a family that I love with all my heart. It was so refreshing to live in commune with another family that practices mindful parenting. Every day flowed with ease. The parents taking turns with the children while their partners did their own thing- yoga, kayaking or swimming in the warm lake. The children played with, and alongside each other having very minimal disagreements. They did an amazing job at using their words often telling each other "no thank you" when needing their space. Sometimes sneaking in hugs and kisses with each other, and always concerned for each other's wellbeing and whereabouts. They ran around naked among the trees, splashing and swimming in the beach completely absorbed and grounded into their surroundings. It felt like everything was in perfect balance this whole trip and the beauty of the nature surrounding us completely emphasized that. The children truly mirrored the effects of the mindfulness and energy that was being modelled by the parents. Boundaries were set and implemented, but we treated the children with respect and allowed them ample time to play independent from us, exploring their surroundings while we observed with wonder. Solomon, and ourselves included, have grown so much in such a short amount of time from the experience of this trip. I am excited to watch the effects of it continuing to spill over into our daily life back at home, yet I am still dreaming of the days spent at the lake with our tribe."
I could not have said it any better myself, therefore I will not try!
The biggest take-home for me was that every parent needs to find their tribe. This could be one family to a few, what matters most is that your parenting styles are the same.
By coexisting we open up the opportunity for our children (especially those in one-child homes) to see other forms of love and relationships, much like our experiences with roomies. They see like-minded adults loving and respecting each other. They see their own parents love and care for another child. They see other parents love and care for them and they see another child who, due to similar experiences also enjoys circle time, buddha breaths and giving long hugs often. Offering our children this experience reached far beyond what we could have imagined and allowing ourselves and children the opportunity to observe and grow like this in one space was priceless.
It is with our tribe that our daughter has learned about love, patience, compassion and mindfulness. It is with our tribe that our daughter has learned about things Shane and I knew nothing about.
We have since started a roomie journal for Zinnia knowing that while these roomies and experiences may not be vividly remembered (or even at all) one day, their positive impacts will last a lifetime. In her journal each roomie writes what it was like to live with Zinnia, how they saw her grow in their time with our family and the impact it made in their lives.
We now know that for the rest of our lives we will give Zinnia experiences like these. We will turn the cottage trip with the Voordouws into an annual tradition, and we will always welcome good friends and tribe members an opportunity to stay with us in our home for as long as they need to.
You don't need a lot of money to raise a well-rounded, well experienced and wonderful little human, you just need a lot of love.