parent opinion

Shared meals and bath trains: Why more women should form a "mummune".

'Why don’t we live in a village of women?'

This whisper often comes from a burnt-out mother who has been rescued by their female friends. The fantasy of the mummune (a mum-commune) can be mystical. Imagine a real life Themyscira where you could work and raise children in solidarity. It was an idea I heard mooted so often that I wrote a novel about it. 

Here are the top five reasons we can’t shake the lure of a 'mummune'.

1. Because women understand.

There’s a terrific biological shorthand to being in a collective of women. They appreciate the grit of exhaustion when you say that you survived a night with a four-month-old and a toddler with croup. 

They get a shower does not equal self-care—that’s just basic personal hygiene. They know that motherhood isn’t a job that comes with sick leave and when you ask someone to care for you, most of the time you are literally asking someone to do your caring for you, just so you can look after yourself.

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Video via Mamamia.

2. Life is expensive (and motherhood is unpaid labour).

Mummunes aren’t a new phenomenon. Their historical legacy traces to women’s villages such as Amazon Acres in the hinterland of NSW in the 1970s. 

There, women shunned meat, men and machines to live in a sanctuary of oestrogen. They were self-sufficient. These days there is a little less toiling of the land involved, but they’re a canny solution to many collective problems; the price of rent in the capital cities of Australia being chief among them. The idea of intergenerational co-habitation also makes a scary amount of sense. 

In Australia, the most rapidly growing segment of the population facing income insecurity and homelessness are women over the age of 65, with thirty-four per cent of single women over 60 having spent a lifetime caring for others, now living in permanent income poverty. For those without extended family in the next suburb, the appeal of a 'bonus Gran' is hard to shake.


3. There will be someone to help pack the bags.

Have you ever been on group family holidays and had the relief of sharing the job of packing to go the beach with a girlfriend? Emily Nagoski, author of Burnout, illuminates the exhaustion that comes from women being traditionally responsible for 'planful problem solving'. That’s the invisible work we do scanning for potential pitfalls and making sure you are prepared for any disasters that will arise (in go the spare clothes, wipes, nut free snacks, towels, sunscreen, sand toys, zip-lock bags for wet things, hats, water bottles, Band-Aids, Stingose, floaties and rash vests). In a permanent mummune, not only would someone share the job with you, but appreciate the work you did (and help unpack at the other end).

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4. It does take a village.

I wrote a novel about a group of women on the northern beaches of Sydney whose solution to their collective burnout was to live in a mummune. It is fiction, but there are many days when the fantasy was very real. 

I would have been lost without the clutch of women who came to my rescue while I had an overseas spouse and poorly children; taking my son so I could sit in hospital with my daughter and then dropping food on the doorstep to look after me when I became ill. 

My ideas were fuelled over the nights we came together to feed our children and share the load. We’d take turns cutting up veggies and portioning out sausages, passing around squalling babies while one of us fed the toddlers and the other swept the floor. 

We would bathe them all in a slippery train and eventually take them home sleepy in their pyjamas. In those grasping days of toddler parenthood, collective living can be a saving grace. These days we have to build our own villages.

5. Motherhood can be lonely.

Never has that been more evident than for those who parented at a social distance in 2020.

To those who made it through, I salute you.

Tori Haschka is the author of Grace Under Pressure, published by Simon & Schuster. She is the author of two cookbooks, mother of two children and lives on the northern beaches of Sydney.


Feature Image: Supplied.

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