Sunday, January 30, 2011

On extended family living

Someone came up with a better name for this a few years ago and I can’t remember what it was, but I’m pretty sure I blogged it at the time. OK, it’s 3G living - I touched on it by that name in this post, and in a bit more detail and in a bit of a rant back in 2007 here.

Well so far we’re still just 2G living here, although the second G is spread out across an 18-year age range. And instead of parents moving back in with their children, we’ve got adult children who might never move out – and indeed, who might raise their own children here. Tom will be 22 next month, so we’re essentially four years into this particular experiment and, although the real test (when someone moves a partner in, which might never happen, or might result in one or both of them moving out again very quickly!) hasn’t happened yet, we’ve at least got some experience to write about beyond the theoretical.

First, why are we doing this? Mainly because we can. We’ve got enough space here and enough resources to ensure that everyone can have their own private space, plus enough shared space in the middle for us to comfortably enjoy together.

How did we manage that? Very creative use of space. Very careful husbandry – we hardly ever buy anything non-essential, have very cheap, short camping holidays very close to home, drive an old car and never buy in labour. Taking a few very carefully calculated risks and being lucky enough to be able to secure a mortgage to buy the right place at the right time (1997). (Although it didn’t feel like the right time in terms of house prices etc. at the time! We had friends who’d bought a 5-bedroomed house for £15K in the mid-1980s. Five times that ten years later seemed like a frighteningly astronomical sum.) Firmly refusing all offers of further debt, no matter how tempting or necessary they might have seemed at the time.

Fear of debt was one of my main motivations in deciding not to ask the children to leave home when each one grows up. (Note: I’m not asking them to stay either – they all have to make that decision for themselves in as free and unfettered a way as possible. But I want them to know that not ever leaving home is one of the choices that will always be open to them, as will coming back to live here if they do move away. Although I won’t be able to guarantee that no-one will have pinched their bedroom!)

By the time my mortgage is paid off, I’ll have endured the standard 25 years in debt. I don’t want to put my children through the same thing, if I’ve got a choice in the matter. I’ve done everything I can to make sure I do have a choice in the matter, so that they can have one too. I consider it to be one of my responsibilities to them: ensuring they’ve always got somewhere to live, some means of making money, and a sufficiently good education to be able to stay completely debt-free. Being without debt and sharing living costs means they don’t have to seek full time contracted employment if they don’t want to, which has meant they’ve had more choices than usual in wider respects. I’m planning to write more about self employment with low initial capital outlay in a future post.

Benefits of extended family living we’ve enjoyed are as follows:

· Pooling of skills, strengths, talents and preferences: one person can do plumbing, another likes to vac the carpet, there are four adult childcarers and educational facilitators; one likes growing food – another likes buying it! And so on.
· Pooling of funds and sharing of resources: Tom’s business can afford a slack period because there’s other family income to fall back on; in turn it offers some protection in the event of a failure of other sources of income; one electricity/gas/water/TV licence/ council tax/ mortgage account is cheaper than many. Even things like shoes, coats, clothes etc can be swapped around and borrowed/lent easily meaning there’s more choice available for less cost per person.
· There’s good company available without needing to leave the house! Some people like to play and discuss games, others like to talk politics, do crosswords together, cook and eat together or just mess around. There’s usually someone available and willing to share fun time with.
· Increased security. This is the house that never sleeps: someone is always awake, someone is always in.
· We are each other’s nurses and sickness cover. In the event of a crisis, we are each other’s crisis management team!

But there are a few drawbacks:

· It’s not without conflict. Two of the adult siblings in particular struggle to live in the same house peacefully; everyone knows everyone else’s weak points and people wind each other up – although they’re the same old arguments we’ve always had and everyone’s got used to it, so it’s not really much of a problem.
· Taking friends home always involves the whole family, straight away. This can be good and bad. It’s a bit more difficult to have a private life though – although possible. All four adults have managed it.
· People think we’re weird! Other relatives have really struggled to come to terms with what we’re doing: they think it’s just wrong and we’ve been shunned and criticised by them. But for us, this is just another continuation of our experiences of home educating. They were just the same about that. Some people get really disturbed by breaches of social norms, even ones that have obvious benefits and few drawbacks.

Overall, I’d add that it’s because we’re closely related family who have always lived and spent our time together that this works so well for us. We really respect, know and love each other and this is a bond that can’t really be replicated, I don’t think, in any other way.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Google Hollie Grieg

I've been seeing this message around on people's Facebook profiles and elsewhere, but didn't actually get around to doing it until I read this, by Lisa at Renegade Parent. Then I wished I done it earlier: it's something we're all morally obliged to do, perhaps.

It seems to me that the big question in the Hollie Grieg story is:

Why don't the named alleged perpetrators sue for libel?

Especially the ones in the public eye, in positions of public responsibility. If ordinary people are morally obliged to Google this story that's being carefully kept out of the mainstream media, aren't those named individuals obliged to clear their names of such heinous crimes?

And if they don't (as, so far, they haven't) then what are we to think?

Times are changing. Stories spread anyway, with or without the big guns in the mainstream media deciding what they want us to know. We, the public, form our own opinions. And generally speaking, when people in responsible, well-paid positions of public office do nothing to clear their names from specific allegations like this, it looks like a tacit admission of guilt.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

This man is saying what I've been saying for years

... but he says it so much better than I ever did.

Here is about an hour of some of the most enlightening, inspiring conversation you could ever hear.

It's Dr. Míceál Ledwith, whose website is worth a look too. Oh, and these articles, which I'm just about to plough through..

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Work goes stale

Zara and I were chatting about work yesterday, and we came to the conclusion that like old food, if it's not attended to in the right time and the right way, work goes stale.

My mother-in-law used to say: "There's nowt keeps like work", but I disagree. It doesn't keep well at all.

Zara explained: "If I start to tidy my bedroom and get halfway through, then give up and do something else, it's nearly impossible to finish the job because it's gone stale and the moment has passed."

I was talking about tidying up too, and washing dishes. I'd gone to bed leaving it undone the night before and woke up to two-hours' worth of stale work the next morning. Never again! I want to do it while it's fresh.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Taking care of the soil

Still, I thought I would go ahead and talk to the doctor. No reason not to. I left the commercial roads and cut over to Paradise on farm roads.

The farms stopped me. They were perfect. They were absolutely exquisite. Each one was minutely cared for, as if the rows were pulled up straight each morning and the corners tucked in at nightfall. The soil was looser than at other farms; it was lighter, fluffed up, as if it had been given a good beating in a copper bowl.

I drove along a stream bed bounding with spring rains and watched where it widened into a pool by a farmhouse. Ducks sailed across the pond as if in serene possession of their affairs. I watched. There was no traffic and few sounds. I rolled down the window and let the smell of the earth fill the car. I thought I could hear a duck paddling across the pond. I was awestruck.

I stared at the ploughed earth, at the breathing, fertile soil all around me. And then I began to cry. After the assaults I had felt and seen in the cities, assaults of man against woman, woman against child; after the endless asphalted city floor; after the heavy metal-dust smell of power coursing along boulevards and into dark buildings, here - here, all this time, these people had been taking care of the soil.

This is an excerpt from A Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong and Sheryl Feldman, kindly lent to me by a friend. It's the story of Penny Armstrong's midwifery practice amongst the Amish people in Pennsylvania and the quotation describes her first impressions of the area.

It struck a chord with me because the soil is what we've been working on here - the meditative pastime of sorting the real stone from the lumps of concrete, old bits of tile and other junk, and separating out the soil from mounds previously excavated from the house. Our predecessor built an extension and had the earth and other debris from the foundations and construction dumped in the coal cellar. We then converted the basement and dumped it all in the field. It's been there this past seven years, growing weeds, waiting to be sorted. I knew I'd get around to it eventually.

A few people have looked at it and suggested less time-consuming alternatives. "Why don't you kick it down the hill, cover it in compost and grass over it?" said one person.

"Just leave it where it is and grass over it," said another. "Make it part of the landscape."

"Get a digger," said someone else. "You can set them to sort through what they're shifting, to pull out the stones."

"Will it sort out the lumps of coke and concrete from the real stones?" I asked. It wouldn't. And anyway, it would cost more than we can afford. And anyway, I wanted to do it by hand.

People think it's mad, but it's meditative. And the children help, peering at bits of stone to see if they are the genuine article or just composite.

And while they help, we're talking about all manner of things: what the worms are doing. (Why aren't they over there, in nicer soil?) What's been happening in the house. What used to be here. Who used to live here. How they lived. Why they built the sheds. (WWII - Dig for Victory. We know this because my dad, who was a local child at the time, remembers them being built.) How they built them, and why like that. The history of the house, the field, the town, the world. How big dinosaurs are, and how far away Australia.

When I'm working alone it's time to think. There's something about repetitive physical work isn't there? It takes on a life of its own - a momentum. Jobs that you thought would take forever slowly but definitely disappearing. And at the end of the day, you feel like you've done something.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Re-post: Right *here*, right *now* - Apr 07

This is the principle by which I live, parent and educate because if difficulties arise, they always seem to come from either fears for the future or regret about the past. But we are free to choose where to focus our minds: Past, future - or now!

I don't know whether living entirely, permanently in the NOW is always a good idea. I tried it for a few months once, but found that I had to force my mind not to do anything else, and enforcement tends to only waste energy and to involve a corresponding backlash. So I'm happy to think back sometimes to think about what's happened to learn from it and to remember past events with fondness.

I do find it interesting, though, which particular events I look back on with the most fondness. They're often the times when I was doing something apparently unremarkable - except living in the NOW! The special events like marriage, birthdays and childbirths were often so fraught with complications to do with the specialness of the event, that I obviously found it hard to enjoy them properly.

The more I live in the present moment, the less I fear the future. I have been known to indulge in the occasional panic about things to come to varying degrees, but I suspect this causes a frame of mind that looks for bad news and therefore often finds it. I have images in my mind about the long term future which all involve happiness and contentment. I think we do tend to find what we're looking for, one way or another.

Some thinking about the future is probably sensible though, to avoid danger. But taking action to avoid danger is a different thing entirely to just worrying that it will come and hurt me and mine. But too much focus on taking such action can lead to inertia, or - worse - the wrong sort of action.

I believe the universe is intelligent. Some people call this God, Allah, Jehovah, the Tao or other names relating to their culture and interpretation. This intelligence creates order and I think the key to right action lies in observing and complying with this order. Not being gullible or desperate to find answers or to follow the crowd.

By switching off the noise and finding somewhere quiet, to listen and think and just to be, the right answers arise on their own.

Right answers feel different, like nothing else. They just click into place and feel right, then it's easy to trust them.

posted by Gill at 8:10 AM


Mieke said...

Very, very beautifully put into words, thank you, Gill. Very Zen, too ;)).
11:08 AM, April 27, 2007

Amanda said...

A lovley post!
11:24 AM, April 27, 2007

Ruth said...

I can never live in the right now. I have spent my life looking ahead to what might happen and taking action to avoid it if it looks bad. I drive the whole household mad:)mainly cos any predictions I make about future events normally come true lol, be they be good or bad. I wish I could let go of the future but I can't. Does that make me a control freak?
3:47 PM, April 27, 2007

Adele said...

"Right answers feel different, like nothing else. They just click into place and feel right, then it's easy to trust them."

Yay Gill! People tend to underestimate this kind of intuitive knowledge, but I think it's the most important kind. :)
4:00 PM, April 27, 2007

Allie said...

I'm a *right now* kind of person too - or I try to be! Just yesterday at work we learned of a student who had been killed in a car crash. I took a reserved book off the shelf where it was waiting for her - a stark reminder of the fact that we can never plan with any certainty.
8:01 PM, April 27, 2007

Gill said...

Thanks all! But that one just wrote itself ;-)
I should maybe root around for more, where it came from!
3:32 PM, April 28, 2007

Re-post: And now for something controversial - Jan 07

The Commission for Social Care Inspection has just published their State of Social Care report, in which it claims that "Individuals and families are increasingly having to find and pay for their own care."

Well, here's a new idea: Instead of putting your children into full-time state-funded daycare from as early an age as possible, so that you can go out to work and buy things you might not actually need, thereby becoming less familiar with and more isolated from them as they grow up so that by the time they're adults you're all essentially strangers; instead of spending your children's childbearing years reclaiming your own youth, working for more stuff you might not need, going off on holidays you really, if you're honest, might not even enjoy that much and becoming even more distanced from your family so that by the time you really need them they barely know you and anyway are following your example and busy having 'lives of their own'; Instead of putting off having children because they're expensive or not convenient or you never quite 'met the right person'... try doing the opposite!

If everyone lived a more natural family life instead of thoughtlessly living by state-imposed, state-serving (by 'state' I really mean corporate business interests) mantras like 'every child must go to school', 'relative poverty is a serious problem' and so on, the numbers of elderly people left reliant on care from stangers would be drastically reduced. In fact, strong, home-based family networks tend to look out for their neighbours too, so the reliance on state care would be virtually eliminated. In fact, reliance on the state would be virtually eliminated! And then where would we be? ;-)

In a much better place than we are now, in my opinion, with far fewer problems.


Qalballah said...

4:17 PM, January 12, 2007

IndigoShirl said...

Well Said.....:~)

5:47 PM, January 12, 2007

Ruth said...

Good post Gill.
8:27 PM, January 12, 2007

Amanda said...

This is an interesting post, I really enjoyed reading it :0) but I don't see how it would work :0( Most of my friends have waited until they have met the right person/got some security before having kids. Most of them work because they have to/need to. I do know what you're saying though. But its a hard cycle to break...
I've been in a situation where I have looked after a dependent relative, I personally would'nt do it again.
1:47 PM, January 13, 2007

UmSuhayb b David said...

living in Sweden, the state encourages us to send kids to daycare from age 1, way too young I think. I'm some sort of misfit when I say I'm a housewife, the swedish word for it in fact is hardly ever used (I was given a questionnaire to fill in by the Health visitor and I couldn't find a box to tick which showed my 'occupation'!) In the end the questionnaire went in the bin.. anyway!
3:15 PM, January 14, 2007

Unshelled said...

Hi, meant to do that earlier ...

I love how you really get straight down to it and as they say call 'a spade a spade'......

4:44 PM, January 14, 2007

Gill said...

Thanks all. I see even Melanie Phillips kind of agrees with me, which is slightly worrying TBH!

Yes, it's a hard cycle to break, but well worth the effort I think.
11:27 AM, January 15, 2007