The real differences lie not in the fact that we live on a sailboat, per se, but are a family of five living in a >>"tiny" home<<. There are definite challenges to this arrangement...
Lack of Space: Captain Obvious here! We live in a two "bedroom" boat that is slightly larger than an average sized RV. At forty-four feet, >>our boat<< is by no means "small" for a cruising monohull (in fact it is pretty average), but a) most cruisers are couples and not families and b) our livable square footage is actually less than an average home's living room. It's...cozy. Our twins share a room (and to call it a 'room' is laughable) and Isla sleeps in >>a make-shift bunk bed we created in our walk-thru<< to the aft cabin. We have almost zero privacy and no doors except for those on the twins' room and our bathrooms. Our communal living space is halved when we raise up our (folding) dining table and if we are all aboard, we are - quite literally - tripping over each other. Hosting out of town guests? Forget about it, we simply do not have the space.
|This is where they play most of the time. Note that if I need to go to the bathroom, galley, nav station or cockpit I must step over children.|
No Dedicated Play Area: Most homes have a dedicated play space for their kids, it might be a basement, a child's bedroom, a playroom or a back yard. In this area toys rule the roost and kids are usually free to make a mess at their will, play safely, and - in most cases - out of their parent's way. We do not have this luxury. There is no dedicated area for the kids to play on our boat, they play in the salon which also is our dining room, living room, office and recreation room - meaning to get from point A to point B at any given time, I usually have to step over an array of play things and a child or two. There is literally no escape!
|Our table which does duty as our craft area, stage, fort (underneath) and also happens to halve our salon space.|
|Yeah, attempting to get work done with three toddlers in a communal living space is pretty futile.|
|She climbs up here by herself. She's two. Our adventurous kids keep us on our toes!|
The challenges are there and they are real. There are times when an extra bedroom, an office, a comfy couch in front of a flat-screen t.v, a playroom, locking doors, a garage and a backyard would be positively lovely.
The world is our oyster (how many homes do you know >>can up and sail to another island<<?) and the challenges of living small also bring forth many benefits....
Family bonding: Our girls are never more than ten feet from my person, so I always know what is going on and simply being close to them means I am always there. This might not seem like a big deal, but our close proximity to each other day in and day out is fostering strong familial bonds as a direct result of this togetherness. So. Much. Snuggling! Our girls are sisters, playmates, and bunkmates and are leaning >>valuable lessons<< in side-by-side playing, personal space, cooperation, respect for another's space and conflict resolution because of this. Being so close in age means they often play with the same toys exacerbating these lessons and life skills. Of course this closeness also results in epic cat-fights, tantrums and ear-piercing meltdowns, but - hey - they are laying some pretty solid ground work and it is my belief that, in the long run, being physically close as a family will result in emotional close-ness later on (>>crosses fingers<<).
|Grainy pic, but this is a pretty standard morning shot. We all pile into mommy and daddy's bed and cuddle.|
|This is a game they love to play. I'm not sure what it is, but they set up chairs with pillows and blankets, and sit there.|
|Their sisterly bond and friendship is something that is very important for me to help cultivate if I can.|
|Our resident coconut man, we love him! Each time we see him we get water nuts, fruit and hugs!|
|She is our resident Denis the Menace. Her spirit is wild and her mind fearless. She is awesome.|
|Trying to find indoor pictures for this post was hard because 95% of our waking hours are spent OUTSIDE!|
The bottom line, and one that I have preached many times on this blog, is that little children are completely adaptable and as long as the parents can adjust (and this here is the tricker part!), living on a boat is very do-able with kids. Some things will be easier than you expect, some will be tougher - but one thing is certain, parenting is hard work no matter where you are. You will need to find your own groove, develop your own systems and do what works for you. This lifestyle is most certainly not for everyone and while it works very well for us and our family (most of the time...), there are just as many people who wouldn't last a week living like we do. Some people thrive living in a city, some prefer suburbs, others find peace in rural areas and we happen to live on an island. There are families that live in busses, cars, tents and yurts...Whether or not a certain lifestyle 'works' and is 'easy' really depends on the person and, pun intended, what floats their boat.
|Shirtless, dirty, and swinging fearlessly from a rope on a tree. As it should be!|
Is is harder? A little. Is it worth it? Totally.
* Big thank you to Facebook follower, Chris Wick, for asking this question and inspiring this post!