Concept: Nest: A Co-Living Home Designed for Children, and For Parents Not to Have Nervous Breakdowns

It’s well-known that caring for small children is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Children are pack-animals, and when together, largely take care of themselves. Nest co-living homes are designed to be the village in the city we never had — an affordable child-utopia that you never have to leave.

Nest: Your Child’s Village is Here

They say it takes a village to raise a child — but in the modern city, there is no village. It’s not that kids are that hard, it’s that the modern world isn’t build with them in mind. Nest is a new kind of architecture to solve the crisis of modern parenting. Nest is a child-centric living environment designed for about 5 to 10 families to live together. It’s a home that is A-class toddler safe and provides the play equipment, the other kids, and the sheer space that kids need. Most important of all, it allows kids to grow together in a child-pack, and parents to practically and emotionally help each other. It’s the village in city that every small child and parent needs.

This is what’s inside a Nest home.

  1. A large central indoor play space that is beautiful, clean, and fun.
  2. 5–10 studio apartments (or rooms) that adjoin to the central play space for parents to live in. Rooms have high acoustic insulation for people with infants waking in the night.
  3. Backyard with swings, slides, sand pit, vegetable garden, art and painting area.
  4. A small library of children’s books.
  5. Extreme attention to safety, double doors, latching doors, no sharp corners, no exposed power-points, no dangerous windows. Impossible for a child to escape.
  6. A central commercial-grade kitchen, with organized individual storage units for each occupant.
  7. Central bulk food ordering of healthy plant-based food included in total cost.
  8. A cleaner of communal areas 7 days per week.
  9. Communal dinner provided every evening from 6–7pm, cooked by the parent on schedule.
  10. A roster of parent rotation to cook dinner and oversee the children from 5pm — 10pm. Each parent is on duty about 2 to 4 nights per month.
  11. Parents are able to leave their child in the home from 5pm — 10pm on evenings supervised by the parent on duty.
  12. A child room dorm with bunks if parents want their children to sleep in a separate room.
  13. Optional —parents are free to hire a nanny and cost-share to suit their situation.
  14. Monthly Sunday party, baking or BBQ, all friends, family, and kids invited, communally catered.
  15. All the gear: bouncers, changing tables, walkers, slides, tricycles, books, swings, balls, dinosaurs, art supplies — it’s all included in the home.
  16. A paid manager to take care of house maintenance, finances, and logistics.
  17. A thorough governance system for gathering feedback, input, complaints, dispute resolution. Parents provide an optional monthly report on complaints and ideas to improve the house. The issues are addressed by the house manager.

Indoor play spaces are great, but we need more

There are two fabulous indoor play spaces in San Franciso. Recess Urban Recreaction and Play Haven. They have large areas of beautiful and creative child-utopia for the under 3 range. Every day they fill up with moms and nannys (and an occasional dad) each paying from $12 to $20. But there’s a problem with these spaces — and that is that we have to leave.

Families need to be able to live in these indoor play spaces full time. Every parent and child retreats back to a little one or two bedroom apartment. I even met one woman who lived in a studio with her husband, baby and three year old. Instead of these places being somewhere we go, like a country club for toddlers, they need to be somewhere were we live.

Recess

Co-living is good for the environment

The Nest co-living model also drastically more environmentally friendly. Families environmental footprint can skyrocket when they have children. A move to the suburbs, a big house, a SUV, lots more packaged food. But a little mentioned fact about environmental footprint is that it’s largely proportional to how many people live under one roof.

Here’s the data on household energy use based on the number of people per dwelling.

When everyone is sharing the same lighting, heating and cooling, and coffee pot, we use less, a lot less.

Co-living combines resources. Shared baby stuff. Shared toys. Hand-me-downs. Food is ordered in bulk and included in the monthly rent. This means way less packaging. One oven on to cook for 15 people instead of 15 ovens on to cook the potatoes for each person separately. Two large refrigerators instead of 15 medium sized ones.

A new type of property

We have “types” of developments: commercial, industrial, residential, retail, hotels, hostels, colleges — all types of buildings that we understand. With the wave of people moving to cities, cities are becoming bigger, and higher density. You can’t just have children in the suburbs of small towns anymore. We need a radical new approach to property development that includes families — and how much families rely on each other.

The Nest model is a new type of building category: multi-family. Here’s what a multi-family home includes: a large central indoor play area, an outdoor playground, multiple studio apartments all accessing the central play area, extra safety precautions to prevent child-escapees, and all the finer details of what children need.

It’s not just us, property developers, urban planners and social change entrepreneurs around the world should be building child-centric high density developments.

The Problem

Parents are way stressed out. We tend to say that it’s because toddlers have terrible two’s, or working a corporate job is hard on top of the other full time job of mom-ing is crazy stressful. But I think the problem is simpler that that. The problem is in the architecture. It’s simple: parenting alone is horrible. Parenting in a pack is easy.

Children are difficult when not in packs

Kids are pack-animals. They are not designed to be alone, let alone with only one care-giver. Kids are hard alone, but easy in a pack

Kids need space

Children like to move. They get incredibly stressed out in small apartments and cramped living rooms. The need space to run in circles, climb things, and push those little trolleys.

Maternal loneliness

It’s heartbreaking reality that taking care of your own child that you adore, is often the most heartbreakingly lonely time of a woman’s life. It’s crazy that it’s turned out like this. If there’s any time in your life when you need mom-friends and to be around other people, it’s with a baby and small child. The solitary conditions that family life has become is unnatural and corrosive to women’s mental health. Suicide is the number one cause of death of new mothers.

Loneliness is an epidemic, which is weird because there are so many people in the world. Maybe it got this way because none of us grew up in communal homes, and few of us live in them now.

Property and childcare is ever-more expensive

Families in San Francisco are paying between $3,000 and $5,000 for small, cramped apartments. Babysitters cost $10 to $20 per hour, usually $20 in major cities. Nanny’s start at $3,000 per month. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Home-to-daycare transportation is daily trauma

If you’ve every had to get out your apartment to work in the morning and get your toddler off to daycare or pre-school by 8am, you’d know the daily traumatizing nightmare this is. Kids don’t take well to being moved around, and in the 2s they can fight you every step of the way. It’s normal to have been abused by 15 tantrums by 9am and It’s unnatural to do this, and you shouldn’t have to. Imagine if your child woke up and started naturally playing with their child-pack friends, and all you need to do was give them a chopped banana, a clean t-shirt, and get yourself ready for work and leave?

Cities are dangerous

A child is a death-seeking missile. Small children are constantly, with all their might, trying to die. They are trying to run down stairs, climb out windows, eat toxic things, pat dangerous dogs, run in front of cars, vanish into crowds of people, fall onto sharp corners. The world isn’t built for toddler safety, which makes parenting one a harrowing anxiety-ridden experience that turns you hair grey.

Babysitters don’t solve your problems

Arranging baby-sitters is a bitch. It’s expensive, and they frequently cancel a the last minute. You have a build trust. They aren’t always available. You don’t know when you book a new one if she will be any good with your child. Some of horrible.

Public playgrounds and indoor play spaces are not safe spaces

You have to monitor you child constantly at a playground, and at a private indoor play space too. You can’t leave you child safely playing and use the bathroom. You can’t send a text message. They give you child a little bit more to do, but don’t take the weight off the omnipresent hyper-vigilance.

My child actually escaped into the street at Recess, even when I was close to her and watching here. It happened because sometimes, they leave the doors to the street wide open. Kids are fast, and mine in particular is a lightening bolt on crack cocaine. I stopped going because it was simply too dangerous to play in a place that doesn’t have a closing door.

Public playgrounds and indoor play spaces are not communities

Public playgrounds and indoor play spaces are not communities. They are collections of strangers in the same place at the same time. Kind of like a gym or yoga class. You might make a friend if you are outgoing, or lucky. They are not designed to create the strong bonds and daily contact of a community.

Kids reject screen time when they have better things to do

Screen addiction is one of the hardest things for a modern parent. They say kids don’t have an “off-switch” — but they do — it’s called “the iphone.” Screen time is bad for kid’s brains. It’s also highly addictive.

But a funny thing happens when kids get outdoors, or in kid-packs, and have something interesting to do — they eshcew the iphone for something more fun.

The antidote to screen time is a child-pack, and more space.

Better child-management is a critical feminist issue

Women in their peak career years usually don’t want to be swamped with baby and toddler duties, and they shouldn’t have to be. Kids are good at taking care of other kids, and kids can be taken care of more efficiently in packs.The legal ratios of professional care-givers is usually five infants or nine children to one adult. The one-to-one ratio of adult to child is unnecessary and unnatural.

In the 2016 annual letter from the Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates said women should “spend more time doing paid work, starting businesses, or otherwise contributing to the economic well-being of societies around the world. The fact that they can’t, holds their families and communities back.”

Women carry the brunt of the parenting work.

Mom-ism in the workplace is real. Mothers are highly predjuced against, in a way that fathers aren’t. It’s not a a good thing, but it’s somewhat understandable when in a woman’s homelife, she’s doing far more work that her partner — and everyone knows it.

My story

I had an unusual situation. Dad decided during my pregnancy that he hated children and everything related to children and he would “not be involved” which meant at 6 months pregnant, we never saw him again.

It was weird because every other mom I met on the mom-scene had a husband and had planned children. I was also bootstrapping and self-employed on a drizzle of an income, trying to build my “dream” career of making funny zero waste videos, designing indie-save-the-world games, and making podcasts on environmental psychology, which meant I had lots of interesting work to do that didn’t pay me, and no big salary corporate job.

Wham-bam add an unplanned baby with baby-hating dad who had permanently retreated to his bat-cave to that mix, an agonizing broken-heart, and a new country with few close friends. It meant that my experience of the difficulties that mothers face raising baby’s was massively amplified. I noticed things that other mother’s didn’t.

I saw the agonizing contrast between how difficult, exhausting, and lonely it was to care for a single child that demands intense 60-seconds-per-minute focused interaction, but when two or three children together you could sit a back and watch them play, and gently make sure none of them would run into traffic. I felt the knife in my heart of isolation, of being always alone that much more sharply. I choked the crush of living in a room slightly bigger than a closet reaching peak suffocation. I suffered on the long 12 hour days of toddler death-prevention on weekends when the weary brain is mangled by being locked in the mental jail of bulletproof hyper-vigilance.

It wasn’t that my struggles were different to the mothers around me. All the other mothers were struggling with the same things I was. Mine were just so strong I couldn’t help but feel like I was strangled by them without relief. It became jaw-droppingly obvious that the answer was simple. We are pack animals, and children need to be in packs. There is literally no where I can go to find a child-pack. But we have no homes, no buildings, no structures, no communities where can go to make this — a child pack. The problem is in the architecture.

Vision

This might sound crazy — I know it does — but anyway, I remember watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie in my early tweens and there’s this scene in it where there are skate board ramps. I thought it was so cool that I would definitely live in a house like that when I was grown up. Why not? Who was going to stop me? Why be boring when you don’t have to?

We can re-invent housing to be spectacular. We don’t just need to do things the way they are, just because they are the way they are. We can re-invent our world.

Disneyland did it. The Color Factory in San Francisco did it.

The Color Factory San Francisco — a raging success with tickets sold out 30 days in advance