In our spoiled-rotten society, having children share bedrooms has become much less common than it was when I was a child. With only two kids, it’s not such a stretch to accommodate each one with his own space, in which only his own things are kept. And he has a lot of things to keep, most likely, so you’d better make sure that’s a large bedroom, please. Eventually, if you keep having babies, you’re going to end up with more kids than bedrooms. Then what? (Only in America could this sound like a difficult question.)
I have heard it spoken of as if it were an actual abuse to expect a child (or a teenager) to share a space with a sibling, but I have shared rooms with my sister, and I don’t remember it that way at all! I recall a few houses where there were enough rooms for each of us to have one, and we still decided to bunk together on occasion.
As we grew into adolescence, we grew apart, thanks to the bizarre American idea (created and perpetuated by your friendly local socialist school) that our families are the people with whom we have the least in common. We no longer enjoyed sharing our space quite as much, but I secretly wished for my roommate back. Still do, some days. (Not that I don’t like my current roomie.) Room-sharing is good for relationships. This assumes, of course, that you are nurturing those relationships in other ways. Poorly raised children won’t learn to get along no matter how many of them you squish into one room.
Attitude is everything. A reader asked yesterday how to get her children used to the idea of sharing a room with a new sibling. It was simple enough for us, because we never thought it would be a problem to begin with. We simply told them it was happening. If there was whining it didn’t last long. For younger children, if you don’t give them the idea that sharing is a hardship, it will probably never occur to them! Older kids or more change-resistant children might need some time to get used to the idea, but if you make it clear both that there is no choice in the matter, and that having a sibling is a neat thing, it doesn’t take long for the complaining to stop. Put your emphasis on “no choice in the matter”. You are the authority. Act like it.
Babies. We keep our newborns in our bedroom for the first few months, then move them at about 5 months. For night time feedings, I’ve often sat on the end of my other kids’ beds to nurse the baby back to sleep. Nobody seems to mind the interruption, or even notice, most of the time.
Fitting it all in. I know this is tough news to swallow for some people, but you need less stuff. If you can only fit one dresser, you can only have enough clothes to go in one dresser, right? We have three bedrooms and average sized closets for seven people, and we still have plenty of space for everything we need. As for their stuff, each of my kids has one toy box (one of those larger decorative bins from Wal-Mart or a big plastic storage box will do). They can’t have more toys than can fit in one box. The boxes are kept on high shelves so we’re not constantly scattering everything about. I get them down at play times, and (ideally) put them away afterward.
Privacy. The need for privacy is real, of course. No one wants to get dressed or use the bathroom in front of everybody. But our culture’s insistence on the absolute sanctity of a teen’s privacy seems to me to be predicated on the idea that teens need to fornicate (or other things that end in –ate). I think most readers of this blog would agree with me that teens need to not fornicate. I don’t worry too much about strict privacy, even for big kids. As long as they can go to the bathroom and shut the door, or pull the covers over their heads, they have adequate privacy. I was once a teen who shared a bedroom, so please don’t tell me how wrong that is. I know better!
How many kids can share one room? I can’t say for certain, since I only have two to a room right now. I’ll put the three oldest boys together when the baby needs to move to a crib in his sister’s room in a couple of months. This is really a question for Smockity to answer. They’ve had ten people in a three bedroom house for several years now. Since there are only two genders (no matter what our ridiculous sexual culture claims), you should, theoretically, only really need two bedrooms for the children. My grandmother raised twelve kids in a tiny 4-bedroom house, so it can be done. There are some really ingenious bunk bed configurations that could reasonably get four kids in one bedroom pretty comfortably, though you’d need a pretty big room to go beyond that number. T
Every family’s situation is, of course, different. I imagine it would be tough to fit a toddler into a teenager’s room, for instance, so arrangements would be different in a family with a large spread in ages. I’m sure we’ll have to get even more creative as our children get older and (if the Lord wills it) more numerous. When considering how to allocate space in a small home, it might be easy to become discontent, always wishing for something bigger, more storage space, more floor space. Instead, I choose to focus on the sweetness of family life, no matter how loud and messy it might get.
The fact is that our culture expects parents to provide much more in terms of space, stuff, entertainment, and even food than is necessary or likely even healthy for children to have. When I consider how much space the average person anywhere else in the world has to himself, I realize that Americans—even those of us with large families in small homes–are spoiled rotten.
We could be living in two rooms with four kids in Mumbai might not be much consolation when gazing out at a neighbor’s spacious home with only one kid per room, but that is a heart problem, not a material one.