Here is part 3 of 4 in our series Living on a Boat.
A number of people have commented to me that living on a boat is something that you can only do if you are single. If you have a family, it just does not make sense. Huh? We are a family of four living on a boat. Done deal! Say what you will, living aboard a boat with a family is not only doable, but I hope to convince you that it is actually preferable in many ways to conventional suburb living.
As I wrote on the weliveonaboat.com About page, we are a family – Ma, Pa, The Boy and now The Girl. The Boy is 3 1/2 years old and has lived aboard a boat since he was nine months old. The Girl has only ever lived on the boat – she is 9 months old. I clearly remember the day she was born. My wife was laying down in the aft cabin, heavy and uncomfortably pregnant, counting off the minutes between contractions to determine when it was time to head down to the hospital. That, my friends, is a boat wife!!
Many people imagine that living on a boat is all about boat parties, keggers and floating frivolous fun. Nothing could be further from the truth for most of us. Our community is just that – a community. There are some people who party on a regular basis, but most of us are just living our lives here. Our boat is our home. Our boat is a house first and a boat second. Now, that does not mean that we don’t have friends over for an evening on the boat – we do. This very afternoon we had two visitors, both came over in dingies and stopped in for a chat on their way to wherever to see whatever – just like a regular neighbourhood. In essence, my life is the same as yours just slightly more confined (we like to say cozy.) We are happy, relatively well adjusted people and as a family, we are close. My kids know where mommy and daddy are virtually all of the time – they are able to watch their parents working together and showing affection together; hopefully demonstrating to them how adults and spouses should interact with each other. The Boy is able to “play” with his sister any time he wants as they are both under the watchful eye of mom pretty much no matter where they are on the boat. After all, anywhere on the boat is still only a couple of quick strides away – so they can’t go far. In short, we are a close-knit family.
We have received a couple of veiled comments about how our life is effecting our kids. There seems to be a perception out there that kids somehow need all the trappings of a middle-income life to be happy.
They need their own room.
They need to have what all other kids have so they don’t get singled out … like a house.
They need to have their … own TV … cell phone?!?
Are you kidding me? I had a semi normal life growing up, but not only did I not have my own TV, but we did not have a TV in the house! And a cell phone – what’s that? I’m normal … I think.
The simple response to all this is: kids are adaptable – they adjust.
Kids don’t know what being happy is. They get their feedback from us as parents and adults. If they see that we are happy and enjoying life, so will they. If on the other hand they see that we are not satisfied and are generally unhappy with our lot in life, they too will develop that demeanor and attitude of discontent. Kids, generally speaking are molded by the adults around them. They model and mirror us. Want to know what you look like to others? Watch your kids.
Comparing growing up on a boat to the sterile modern suburb life is not even a fair fight. On a boat you have excitement, nature, a wealth of experiences and the joy of being, not just close-knit, but just plain close to your family. The suburb life has little of this. Now before you jump all over me, I acknowledge that there certainly can be, and are, exceptions to this generality. I am basing this on my own observations. The people in the suburbs are my customers. Every day, I get into my service truck and drive off the ‘burbs to service their appliances. Eventually, the houses all become the same, you can’t tell one street from another and things are so … clean. No, that is not the right word – boring. Cookie-cutter … everything is the same. Does that make sense? Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but is “cookie-cutter” a requirement for a happy kid and happy family? No way! I am not concerned one bit about my kids growing up on a boat. I’m glad that I am able to provide something different; a stimulus that hopefully drives them to a life of continual exploration and an experience that makes them interesting and interested adults.
Ok, enough of the kids-philosophy lecture – each to their own.
Living on a boat is definitely possible with a family. It might be harder for you if your family is already accustomed and acclimatised to living in a larger space but it is still definitely doable. There is one thing you can do to mitigate the body-shock of moving into such confined quarters; that is to get away from the mind-numbing activities of “watching TV” and “playing on the computer.” This is a mistake that we made. We used the TV and computer as our entertainment and became addicted to the mush that these inputs made on our brains Watching TV and playing on the computer are not activities, as in doing something, but are really something used to pass time till we can get our next mind-mushing hit. Sucking on the cocaine teat of the TV is a fruitless and unproductive activity that, as far as I can tell, has no redeeming value and does little more than make you want more. Instead – do stuff! Build something, go fishing, learn about the weather with your barometer, watch the clouds and know what they mean, learn the mating rituals of the Lesser Greebe, collect insects, do some scrapbooking or if all else fails – read a book! Fill your life with activity and break the crack/dope addiction. Change can take time and there is always a learning curve with everything new, but believe me, a life of ‘doing’ is far more exciting and fulfilling than a life of ‘watching.’ Your family will thank you for it (maybe not now, but later.)
One final point about living on a boat with your family, and I’ve mentioned it before, is that there are trade offs. The main one (for me) being privacy – it is hard to get away. Sometimes, you just need time apart to think or breathe or just be. That is hard to do with 4 people inside of 300 square feet. Privacy for us is nothing but a distant memory … way back in time when we were living in a house .. with doors … and locks … and rooms! So I guess I’ve traded my privacy and space for an economical, stimulating and exciting life. For me it is worth it…