Should two divorced women and their kids move in together?
May 16, 2010 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Is it a good idea for two divorced women and our (total of three) little kids to move in together for safety, companionship and financial savings?

I'm a newly single mom of one child (2 years) living with my parents and looking for a new apartment. I'm not psyched about the prospect living alone. I've always lived with siblings, roommates, a boyfriend or a husband. I don't really think it's natural or safe to live alone, or for one adult to be in charge of a child.

A good friend of mine who is also divorced and living at home (with her 3 & 5 year old) and I have been discussing living together. We've known each-other for two years and actually met because she used to be my child's daycare provider. We are both ex-nannies and trust eachother with the kids.

The pros are saving money (30% less rent $), providing a much nicer home, having a safety net in case of illness and/or injury, playmates for the kids, almost a two-parent household and the comfort of living with a trusted loving adult.

The cons are adapting to a new roommate in the midst of other major life changes, asking the kids to transition into a whole new family, the emotional risk to the kids if it doesn't work out and they have to leave their new family, the risk of the kids not getting along and lost sleep to the noise of more children.

I'm also in such a strange place that it's difficult to make logical fore-sighted decisions. I wonder how much loneliness might be impacting my decision-making skills. So hive mind, should I suck it up and go it alone with toddler? Or is it worth the emotional risk to move in with another mom for safety, $ savings and companionship?

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posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have similar parenting philosophies? Because I could see that as a point of conflict if you each parent your own kids very differently.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:57 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

The two issues that came to mind as I read this were 1) what happens if/when one of you ends up in a serious relationship? and 2) are you comfortable with people assuming that you're in a romantic relationship with your friend?

I think the arrangement could work well in the short term, to allow both of you to save up some money and provide some support to each other, but that you might want to set an end (or re-evaluation) date of a year or two from now.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:07 PM on May 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

FWIW one of my friend's parents did just this. My friend considers the other woman's child her brother, that woman's family her family, etc. etc. It worked out nicely I suppose.

But that's just one situation!

You could just try it for a bit, it might work or it might not but you can't really know until you try. The kids will be okay.
posted by tweedle at 5:10 PM on May 16, 2010

The primary comic shtick of Kate and Allie? Different parenting methods and relationship drama with each mom. Definitely think seriously about how this would be handled in your household before going ahead with the idea.
posted by meerkatty at 5:10 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

My questions would be:

- In your best-case scenario, how long do you envision this arrangement lasting? What about in your worst-case scenario? Are your friend's answers to these questions the same as yours?

- How well do the kids get along with each other? You said you totally trust each other's parenting style, and certainly your kids have experienced your friend's style, but what about the reverse?

- Have you, or do you expect to, come to a comfortable agreement regarding the sharing of responsibilities, expenses, and so on?

- Are your kids pretty adaptable emotionally? Are her kids? Or more broadly, what do the kids think about this potential arrangement?

- Are you looking to share living arrangements because of the money and other considerations? Or is it because you are a bit afraid of striking out on your own? If so, what lesson is that sending to your kids?

I guess what I'm saying is that I could envision it either being great or being horrible. What will make the difference is (among other things, of course) the answers to the questions I just raised.
posted by DrGail at 5:18 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

What happens when one of you starts dating. Do you have similar philosophies about overnight guests?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:20 PM on May 16, 2010

This has so many possibe upsides, and such manageable, mostly predictable downsides, I would seriously consider it.
Being lonely and trying to raise a 2 year old sounds pretty tough. Having a trusted friend around sounds like a great way to make the transition easier for all of you.
Good luck.
posted by mmf at 5:33 PM on May 16, 2010 [14 favorites]

Boston Marriage
posted by griphus at 5:57 PM on May 16, 2010

It sounds great! You already trust each other with the kids.

Sure, there are risks, but they sound like the same risks that come along with remarriage and stepfamily (actually, fewer risks because you probably know each other better and are both good with kids).

Scheduling! Will be crazy! So make a big calendar and get used to putting everything, EVERYTHING in there all the time and talking about your schedule constantly and asking for babysitting as far in advance as you can so you can make plans and rely on each other.

My only major worry is that you start treating her like an employee--don't do that (and make sure she doesn't do that to you) and you should be fine.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:27 PM on May 16, 2010

When I was a kid, my mother (an undergraduate university student at this point) and I lived with roomates from before I can remember until I was in the sixth grade. I loved it. I know from her perspective the financial aspect meant she was less worried and had more time to be relaxed/spend with me, and I enjoyed having other people around. When I was 4-7 we lived with two other single parents and their kids, and it was just a great atmosphere, because everyone cared about each other and there was always something to do, someone to take care of the kids, etc.

Also, I am an only child and I think that early interaction with other kids helped me avoid some of the typical "only child syndrome" - difficulty sharing, being a loner, etc - that some kids get stuck in.
posted by hepta at 6:29 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

We (my partner and I and some friends of ours who are a couple) have often joked about moving in together--the more adult hands, the easier things are. With a second adult in the house, one of you can run a quick errand, which can be a major production, or impossible if it's naptime or bedtime. Or take a break when you need it. Or step in and whisk a child away when the other one's about to blow a gasket.

Sure, there are risks. You should probably talk before you do it about parenting things, as well as the usual housemate stuff about sharing food and space and bills and all whatnot. But in your shoes, it's a risk I'd take. The payoff could be big, beyond just the financial stuff.
posted by not that girl at 7:03 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Of course it can work! Haven't you ever seen Kate & Allie?

Seriously...I think if you negotiate a lease that can make it easy to leave if it's not working out, it's worth giving a shot to.
posted by mreleganza at 8:39 PM on May 16, 2010

Think of it the same as if you were getting into a serious relationship with a man who was divorced with kids, and were thinking of moving in with him. Which is to say that the step is certainly not an insane one, just one to undertake with significant vetting, thought, and deliberation.

Also, be prepared to have people think you're sexually or romantically involved with one another, if that matters to you. In my experience people get all wrought up over anything that's even slightly different than usual.
posted by threeants at 9:58 PM on May 16, 2010

I would do it, but before I moved in I would make sure that there were household agreements set.
Chores, parenting, overnight guests and possible exit plans if you just aren't compatible.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:10 PM on May 16, 2010

asking the kids to transition into a whole new family, the emotional risk to the kids if it doesn't work out and they have to leave their new family

You seem to be assuming a certain sort of shared housing structure is the only one you can do. People with children do have roommates. You don't have to do every single thing in your life as a two-parent family simply because you are saving money on housing and helping each other with watching the kids. There are other options here.

Maintaining some separation might help with some of these concerns. For instance, you could have certain meals separate from your roommate and her children. You will probably do different things for family holidays. You can share expenses in a roommate like way, rather than as a family would. If you were a family, you would probably have times when you toke the two older children out for special time with you, while the younger child did something with your friend -- but you don't have to follow this model if it's not what you want. Figure out what you want out of this and talk it over with your friend.

Not a parent, but I know several people who are parents and have roommates.
posted by yohko at 11:06 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

We share a rental house with my in-laws which has certain benefits (shared costs, childcare for us, pet-minding for them). The main points of conflict tend to be around division of labour on shared duties (cleaning mainly) and 'parenting' where they have some different ideas about raising kids than we do - normal for grandparents, but when they are there every day it becomes more complex.

But overall it works pretty well - we're actually going to all move to another house soon, with much more separate living spaces, which should help ease tension.

The other thing that occured to me about this situation was that people would assume you were a couple. With older children I'd also consider how this would impact on them, but with pre-school kids I don't see it being an issue as long are you aren't to worried about the assumptions that some people may make.

The other big issue with sharing a living environment with other people is always about socialising I think - will you still both feel comfortable having your friends around? What about their friends? And of course the issue of romance...

Otherwise it seems like a pretty viable option.
posted by sycophant at 2:25 AM on May 17, 2010

If for any reason my husband stopped living with me, I would SO do it. I would definitely move in with my sister, who is also my best friend. I think it depends on how close you are to that person.

I say give it a try, definitely. It could end up in happiness, or in the normal situation of living alone!
posted by Tarumba at 7:24 AM on May 17, 2010

It's a great idea. Think ahead to how you will handle conflict. Talk about housekeeping; a major point of contention among roomies. There will be conflict about all sorts of stuff; it can't be avoided, but it can be managed. And if people think you're a couple, remind them of Kate & Allie.
posted by theora55 at 7:29 AM on May 17, 2010

I'm a single parent and I'd considered the same as you, but after re-reading, I was struck by this:

I don't really think it's natural or safe to live alone, or for one adult to be in charge of a child.

If I'm reading this right, you think it's unnatural, then, for a single parent to raise kids? Can you explain that a little? Because frankly, you're a single mother now and you need to be able to accept this responsibility.

If you're looking for a roommate because you don't trust your own parenting skills, you're asking the wrong question here.
posted by dzaz at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2010

I think it's a wonderful idea. In my experience, women support each other in many different ways and it sounds like you would benefit from emotional, financial and practical support.

I HIGHLY recommend (as others have done) writing up a contract before you move in that spells out household rules - and be open to revisiting it as conflict arises.

In terms of babysitting each other's children... you may want to borrow an idea that my mum and her friends used: have small "tokens" that represent certain periods of babysitting time (half hour, 1 hour, 2 hour) and trade back and forth. That way, no one takes advantage of the other one and it's easy to see whether the childminding duties are fair over time.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:35 AM on May 17, 2010

Sounds sensible to me. Many of the parents I know have chosen to share large houses with other families, or with other couples who are intending to have children of their own. There's more communication and negotiation involved than if they were living in separate houses, but so far they all seem to feel the social and material benefits are well worth it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:14 AM on May 17, 2010

Sounds like a superb idea...except for the fact that you might "break up" over one of two of you meeting a romantic partner with whom you would want to actually share a life with (i.e., have sex, cohabitate, marry, or even have more children). With that said, everything you state is super-practical particularly the issues of $$ and safety of your children. I say you go for it.
posted by teg4rvn at 12:37 PM on May 17, 2010

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