This year I became one of the millions of Americans who has lost their home. After two years of phone calls and faxes trying to secure a loan modification, in January my husband and I stopped paying our mortgage. We had purchased our 890 square foot starter home in East Oakland in 2004. We were smart, so we thought, brushing aside our broker's advice to borrow more on a riskier loan. We kept to our budget and we got into a safe 30-year fixed mortgage. Then came 2008 and the economic crisis. We had less income and our safe mortgage was hard to manage. So was our 1926 home which needed repair. We were so underwater it might take 20 years to start gaining any positive equity at all.
So we started thinking outside the box. How could we lower our financial stress and be the best parents we could to our kids? My husband suggested we could find a bigger home if we shared with my sister's family.
It made sense financially, and isn't a radical idea in many cultures, but it was a serious breach of my ideals of freedom and independence. I had not lived in the same state, let alone city, with any of my family for a long time. I already was anxious about holding it together as a mother of young children, now you are asking me to be civil and mature even after the kids go to bed? What if I screw up and act like a jerk? What if I can't bring myself to do the dishes when it is my turn?
Our cohousing experiment is now three months old. No one has killed anyone. So far we actually get the dishes done without a chart of who does what. The kids whirl around the house in a dust storm of princess gear and scooter parts. I know it may be the honeymoon, but cooking just twice a week seems like a dream come true. My husband and I have had three date nights, more time alone than we've had in years.
Some might say we lost the American Dream when we lost our house and independence. But maybe we are just recreating what it is we dream for.