Is Communal Living Making a Comeback?

By Ana Lewis

Recently, my father-in-law has resided more often in the hospital than in his own home, which is two doors away from us. It’s been a hardship on the family, as well as on him. And now, we worry about his wife, my mother-in-law.

My husband and his siblings have been very present for their parents, helping them through some very trying times over the past few years. Luckily, we all live very close together, so the siblings are able to orchestrate a lot of teamwork. Even with my mother-in-law living only two doors away, I am already wondering if it’s too far away for our collective peace of mind.

This makes me wonder how families do this when they live far apart, as mine has. What happened to the glue in our families that would create the elements of communal living?

While communal living has many benefits, there are also some issues. Here are a few items I am noting. And as I write these, I am also noticing that these can also be applied to any communal-type environment, including a healthy work community.

  • Sharing of resources. Everyone has his or her own skills and talents that contribute to the whole. Knowing that you add value to the whole community is important and helps each to feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  • Learning to live more in the moment. I find myself asking a lot of “what if?” questions that aren’t very productive and are more of the worrywart variety.
  • Including yourself in the care factor. When you spend a lot of time addressing what’s hot and stop taking care of yourself, it leads to burnout. Whether it’s with a baby or your elderly parents, it can be overwhelming and make you forget to take care of your own needs.

As the “sandwich” generation, I think we’re feeling the importance of being there for our friends and family as much as we can, while also acknowledging that we need help sometimes, too.

To gain perspective and inspiration, check out how some have successfully achieved current-day communal living:

Shared living: tearing down the walls between families and communities

Cohousing: A Growing Concept in Communal Living

The Hot New Millennial Housing Trend Is a Repeat of the Middle Ages

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