In this episode, we explore the idea of communal living. The Kidbutz of Topanga Canyon is a budding experiment in house-sharing with kids. Two single mothers and a single father live together in a rustic two-million-dollar home in a cool Los Angeles enclave. With shared parenting duties and divided housekeeping and cooking responsibilities, this model seems a workable and very flexible alternative to marriage and monogamy. For these only children, the quasi-siblings around them provide constant playmates. And, parents know there’s always an adult present. But, there are pitfalls to communal living: jealousy, money issues and secrecy. Peter mentions The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, in which families living communally in Denmark advocate the flexibility of such an approach. Whereas, before, single mothers had to cook every night, now they’re only on the hook for 3 or 4 big meals a month. The other nights they can go to yoga or out on a date. Paul brings out the heavy guns with Sex at Dawn and talks about the “origins of monogamy” and “policing the womb,” in a tone of self-satisfaction that rightly irks Pete. Following the thesis from Sex at Dawn that monogamy is a consequence of private property, Paul observes that many married couples become focused on private property – on buying a house, accumulating trappings of success, etc. The men discuss the generalization that single people are defined by what they do, whereas married couples are defined by what they have. What are the reasons for this? Against this backdrop, the kibbutz lifestyle is refreshing. Does a viable alternative to marriage threaten the institution? Pete has some thoughts on the principles of the Catholic Church and the men conclude – a bit tongue in cheek – that 10,000 years ago tribal man had his cake and ate it, too: harmonious parenting without monogamy. Will we ever return to that model?
Image: Nichols Canyon © David Hockney