Are there any real-life Mutual Adoption Clubs (Sort of like a Kibbutz but without the business)?
November 29, 2011 10:22 PM   Subscribe

Are there such things as Mutual Adoption Clubs as imagined in Aldous Huxley's novel, Island? I'm looking for something like this, also similar to a Kibbutz or Co-op where a few families that are close friends live near each other (Sharing a house, being neighbors, living in the same apartment building, or maybe just in the same neighborhood). Families share child-rearing responsibilities primarily. Does anyone do this in a more-or-less structured fashion?

In Island, Huxley describes arrangements where children primarily live with their biological parents but, when things get tense or even boring the kids can go spend time at other families. My thoughts are that there are also benefits to the parents of sharing responsibilities. I imagine (and this is not from experience) that taking care of multiple kids, the amount of work and certainly the amount of time required does not scale linearly with the number of kids. Similarly, cooking for N people one time is not as much work as cooking for one person N times. So if you had 5 families trading off cooking and baby-sitting responsibilities, each couple would hopefully have more free time to enjoy.

So, do you know of any place with this kind of arrangement?
posted by cman to Human Relations (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Try googling "co-housing" Here is the definition from
Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.
Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities

I believe there are communities within the cohousing movement that have the type of arrangments you are describing.
posted by metahawk at 10:26 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

About ten years ago I did some casual labour hire and did stocktaking work on some sites with a group of women and men who went to the logical next step; they were part of an urban Christian collective who lived, ate, brought up children and even worked communally. The wages from wherever they worked went straight to the group and the community did childcare, shopping, everything, with rosters. They all arrived at work in a minibus and brought their own lunches in big pots. I was never quite sure which side of the 'cult' line they were on---they seemed orthodox enough evangelical Christians, just… primitive Communists. I was fascinated by the system, but every question I asked wound up as a discussion of my relationship with Jesus so I stopped asking.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:36 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I did fieldwork in 2009 on a tiny island in the Pacific (population around 50 people) where everyone pitched in to do everything. Kids ate at whoever's house they ended up at around dinner time and ran in packs the rest of the day. Women met together to prepare food; men went hunting and fishing together to provide it. When a pig was killed or when the fishing boat returned, food was distributed to a bunch of families, not just your own. Chores and building work around the island was done by groups of extended family members or friends, not alone or by a single household.

I guess maybe you are looking for things that are more regulated than that, but I think you'll find a lot of tiny villages or isolated communities end up running things more communally than we are used to.
posted by lollusc at 11:35 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is practiced (and/or aspired to) by many polyamorous families.
posted by desuetude at 11:54 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is a UK TV series where a group of single parents and their children tried communal living for, I think, a couple of months. Despite the name, there also men involved.
posted by Wantok at 12:42 AM on November 30, 2011

Kate & Allie: "The premise: the two decide to share a brownstone in New York City's Greenwich Village after their respective divorces, raising their families together." Some people live like this in real life.

Regarding co-housing: This housing cooperative in Oslo, Norway (link to not very good Google translation), has 138 apartments. About 2/3 of the residents regularly take part in communal dinners, three times a week. Dinner is cooked and served by people who live there. The co-op also has a kindergarten.
posted by iviken at 2:02 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, intentional communities. Each has its own set-up; check out Twin Oaks, which has been around and thriving (more or less) for 40+ years.

At T.O., kids live with their parents -- well, everyone lives together, but kids and parents have rooms right next to each other in the same house. Parents get "work credit" for taking care of their kids, but kids also have one (or several) "primaries," who are sort of like long-term baby-sitters who take over when the parents are busy/away/whatever. Meals are served communally. There's a daycare for the ~10ish young kids who live there now. It always seemed like a pretty ideal set-up to me, for young kids at least. They get to run around the woods and explore while also being safe, and having relationships with multiple older adults instead of just their parents. And their parents don't have to do dishes.
posted by staboo at 6:00 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

My old boss lived with I believe 3 other adults (2 couples) and 8 children. If I recall the arrangement correctly one adult took 2 years off to watch the kids full time while the others worked. After that a new adult took 2 years off. The thinking was each adult got 6 years in a row at work and no adult had to be out of the job market for a debilitating amount of time.

It worked great form what I could tell.
posted by French Fry at 10:26 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

In San Francisco, where there are a lot of buildings that have individual units that are sold as a group (Tenancy in Common), you get a lot of casual co-housing. I live in a cottage in the back yard of a house with some of my dearest friends - a family with two small children, a couple with no children, and a single man. We each have our own living spaces, but share things like internet service and bulk grocery orders, and we watch the children and take care of each others' pets. Because we are all tied together financially, on the same mortgage, it's different than everyone being neighbors in the same apartment building or something, but less socially experimental than a commune. We love it.
posted by judith at 9:03 PM on November 30, 2011

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