We live in an age where the isolated nuclear family is the norm. I’ve heard many friends complain about the difficulty of forming friendships and community connections after a long day of work and parenting responsibilities. I’ll admit that I used to have the same difficulty until I invited the “purple-haired troll” and her daughter to live in my basement as a roommate.
Last summer my friend, Janet* needed a place to stay over while she was between apartments, and her daughter was spending time with her father. At the time, I had a four-month-old and a seven-year-old, so I welcomed the company and adult conversation she brought. Plus, she watched our girls every weekend so my husband and I could have some time together, and she occasionally delivered clean, folded laundry to our bedroom door. When it came time for her daughter, Allie* to come back and Janet to move out, we asked them to stay.
Even though my husband is outnumbered by girls eight to one (even our dog and our cats are female), our house is exponentially louder, and we had to move the office to the playroom, our lives are bettered by the presence of the purple-haired troll roommate. I should note that her hair is black, after a short stint of blue, and an even shorter period of bleach-blond, but the nickname has stuck. I even got a concerned call from the mother of my daughter’s friends trying to figure out whether her girls were just overly imaginative in telling her about our resident troll.
When our daughter, Karys and Allie are not arguing like an old married couple, they play really well together. Granted, my time moderating squabbles between them has gone up, but my time trying to arrange play dates or find after-school activities for Karys has gone down markedly. At eleven-years-old, Allie is taller and stronger than Karys, so together the two older girls are the perfect mother’s helpers. They can entertain my now one-year old, Saryn, for long stretches of time while I actually finish projects around the house or cook dinner.
If we run out of bread or milk, I can ask our roommate to stop by the store on her way home from work, and she cooks meals at least two nights a week. Instead of having to arrange a coffee date around nap time, Janet and I often have impromptu coffee dates at the kitchen table on the days she works the evening shift. When my husband works late, Janet is usually around so I’m not the only adult making meals and getting backpacks ready. She also has really good taste in TV and friends, introducing us to Doctor Who, and a cast of real-life characters we might never meet otherwise. As a bonus, when we go out of town, we have a built-in pet sitter.
My girls have a “DD” and a “Frand” who love them like family in our roommate, and our house has stretched to fit the extra people and the extra love. It’s arrangement that might not work for everyone, but it certainly works for us!
*Names changed to protect the innocent…and purple-haired.