The title of the seminar was “Going Solo and Connecting” and main speaker was sociologist Eric Klinenberg. He has done research in and written a book about the growing global trend to live alone. In the Nordic counties around 45% of the population live in single households.
His book is called “Going solo. The extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone”. I sat and thought a lot about a maybe more surprising opposite trend (in our individualistic culture) among 20 – 40 year olds in Copenhagen. They move into collectives! I have no demographic data showing this trend but there are many 100s of newly formed collectives and there are new ones popping up all the time. They consist of young adults. There are families, couples and single people who are finding that living together is a good, cheap and enjoyable way of living an urban life. It is also a smart way to use available apartments! Some co-op members have their partners in a different collective – in Swedish we have a word for this – särbo (living separately even if you are a couple), but when a couple is having a baby they often decide to move into the same collective.
I have interviewed some of these parents for my study about first-time parents social arenas and found that they have a different way of looking at their everyday family life. They also find themselves in a situation which is very different from parents who live in a nuclear family after a child is born. Many of the parents I have met who have chosen to live in a nuclear family are experiencing loneliness when left at home by themselves to care for the baby. They tend to be more in need of more or less organized family social arenas outside the home. The parents in co-ops I talked to said they had no need for such arenas since they had the support they needed in their collective.
I decided to interview parents who have chosen to live in a collective after they got children – as I myself did when I had my first child – because I have a hard time understanding why it is not more common for families to live in co-operatives. At the seminar the word “stigmatized” came up in connection with elderly people wanting to move in together. It is not “normal” to live together in other forms than in nuclear families or single households. The ones who are daring to go against the nuclear-solo-trend are having fun rebuilding and connecting nuclear family apartments and, as was mentioned on the seminar, do it even if they have to go through hell to get banks to give a loan and sellers or landlords to accept different forms of cohabitation. It seems as though they are breaking new ground. Or are they re-breaking the ground that their parents generation in the 1970s started to break until they got interrupted by the 1990s?