I don’t have teenagers. Most likely they will change my mind, but now, with younger kids, you couldn’t force me to take back my extra bathrooms. Here’s why.
1. We don’t hire a maid.
I’m the maid. I don’t like cleaning bathrooms.
Not so long ago we had 4 bathrooms for 2 people. It was nice. I liked having a private bath. I liked offering guests their own space. I liked never walking far to take care of business. I liked that we rented part of our home to a roommate we never saw. But then I had kids, the babies turned to toddlers and house cleaning became a lot more work.
I taught my little boy to sit down while peeing to avoid messes. When his friends came over – not so much. Bathrooms were getting grosser. Just because I had my own bathroom didn’t mean I didn’t have to clean the other ones.
2. I want my kids to have a realistic sense of normal.
In some ways this post seems silly. 4 people sharing 1 bathroom is newsworthy?
When we built our dream house in 2006 it was nicer than any house our parents or grandparents had ever lived in. At age 30 we had what took over 60 years for our parents to attain and a big fat never for every generation before us. Thanks to mortgages and high paying tech jobs we could raise our children in luxury.
Our kids would grow up thinking luxury was normal. This thought irked me.
Indoor plumbing on it’s own is a modern miracle. The fact that we aspire to have a personal toilet, sink and shower for every individual in a household, and by law, automatic, instant hot water is required to flow from every spout is proof that as individuals and as a society we are suffering from delusions of royal grandeur. Even kings and queens of old never had it so good.
I’m thankful my parents often visited old college friends who lived year round in a cabin in Northern Minnesota. They manually pumped any water they used. The outhouse was a walk down the path and a wood burning sauna for clean up down another. Coming home to our one bathroom home for 4 kids plus mom and dad seemed absolutely regal to me.
3. I attribute my tolerance for sharing and firm grasp of reality with getting ahead financially.
Pictured to the right is a modern dorm room from a new student housing project in Rochester, MN. 3 bedrooms and 3 baths for 3 people plus a kitchen and living area to share. It costs almost $1000 per student per month to rent here.
At Macalester College (’93-’97) I shared a tiny dorm room with bunk beds, 2 desks and a sink with an assigned roommate. The bathrooms were down the hall shared by everyone on the floor. No kitchens and one common living area for the entire building. I paid $300 a month and considered it obscenely expensive. That building has since been torn down. I’m sure it’s been replaced with something more luxurious and much more expensive.
(I’m imagining my grandparents saying, “We didn’t have dorms, we stayed at home with our parents until we could earn a living!”)
These college kids are in trouble. The ball and chain of student debt and big mortgages keeps growing, right in step with over-sized expectations of personal comfort.
I want my kids to know the longer they are willing to share their spaces, the more people they share them with, the sooner they will get ahead in life. Sharing a family bathroom and sharing a bedroom with siblings are the best training grounds for future success: negotiating skills, tolerance of other people, even stronger marriages.
A significant other is the last hold out for acceptable sharing of private space. I can only imagine the culture shock couples must feel when neither has ever shared a bathroom before.
4. It’s easier to talk to kids about tough subjects.
It’s easier because they ask. “What’s this for?”, “Why are you hairy?” and so on.
My hope and goal is they will be fully equipped with the basic information about their bodies, puberty, and differences between boys and girls before it becomes awkward.
Close quarters create opportunities to talk about privacy, respecting boundaries and appropriate behaviors.
“I want privacy.” is a phrase my 2nd child picked up early. It’s often followed by “Come wipe my butt.” …C’est la vie.
5. Fewer bathrooms make for good stories and family togetherness.
Grandma and Grandpa lived in California. Their kids moved to Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Minnesota. Every other Christmas they’d all journey back with their kids in tow. We slept 4 on the porch, 6 in the living room, 2 in the guest bedroom, 3 in the family room, grandma and grandpa in their bedroom and two bathrooms between the lot of us. Negotiations and plans were needed to coordinate who would get up early, who would skip showers, who wouldn’t. As a kid, I adored these family gatherings. To this day, I feel closer to this side of the family even though I see them less.
The side of the family that lived nearby never stayed overnight. We never needed to coordinate bathrooms and consequently, I believe, we never bonded in the same way.
6. It’s a way to demonstrate the values I want my kids to have.
Resourcefulness, tolerance, patience, sharing, the power of delayed gratification and self mastery. I’m sure these can be taught regardless of a child’s environment, but I wasn’t confident how I would teach it surrounded by luxuries.
I knew I had these values and I knew how I grew up. I can’t replicate everything my parents did to help me grow up confident and secure, but I can replicate the number of bathrooms available. As crazy as it sounds, I think it matters.
Convinced? Here’s a link to a great article on how to share a bathroom, not just why.