Home means more now that we shelter in place.

Home means more now that we shelter in place. What could it mean for a family when an adult child returns home to live? Indefinitely.

Last March the world changed in many ways and we’re all still reeling. Jobs shifted or disappeared. One result was the return of our adult son from a village in Guatemala to his childhood home in the upper Midwest.

In our contemporary culture there’s a stigma attached to returning home, as if one couldn’t make it in the world and must retreat to the nest. The returning child might be included in the category of one who has never left. There’s an implied conflict in these scenarios as dramatized in such popular films as “Failure to Launch,” “Stepbrothers,” and “ Failure to Launch.” When I told a neighbor that our son was moving back to the states to live with us she said, “I’ll be praying for you.” Her tone had an underlying sarcasm to it. I might’ve said the same thing in the same tone to someone two months ago. But that was before our family’s decision to live in an intentional community.

The notion began when we started to count the blessings of our new living situation. Our new housemates, (our son and his partner) came here after having lived communally for many years. They know what it takes to keep a household running, the cooking and cleaning, the laundry. They’re used to dividing tasks and know when to pitch in without being asked. I knew that my husband and I could benefit from what they’ve learned and hoped that we wouldn’t get caught up in the usual trouble among roommates: stacks of dirty dishes accumulating at an alarming rate; random socks and shoes left to trip over near the couch or in hallways.

One reason communal living works for us is that we share a commitment to practicing tai chi and incorporating it into our daily lives. My husband and I followed our son in his pursuit of learning about this ancient form of moving meditation. We visited him during our 2 week vacation over the last eight years.

But you don’t need to be tai chi practitioners to live well communally. Your intention may be as simple as keeping the household together while exploring ways to have it run more smoothly and share the work more equitably. My husband and I are now retired and we own our home so there’s flexibility in our financial concerns. But it also means that we are at home all the time now. Our new housemates both work remotely and they are here all day as well. We are not socializing with our friends during covid or able to spend a lot of time outside during this Wisconsin winter. Of course, we can take walks and visit with the neighbors when we’re out shoveling, but our options for alone time are few.

Fortunately, there are nooks and crannies where we can work or read. The bedrooms accommodate a laptop nicely. We’ve had to shift spaces, donate items to Goodwill, share closets and drawers. When my husband moved his toothbrush next to mine, I joked that our thirty-six year relationship was getting more serious. Only it’s not so much as a joke now that living closer together makes for more intimacy– the bright side of unintended consequences, even during the dark days of winter and covid. We’re wondering what other surprises along with challenges will arise. Stay tuned.