Remember “Kate and Allie” from 1980s TV? Two divorced moms move in together in New York City to share expenses and help raise their kids. Well thanks to a terrible economy and women realizing the benefits of having another mom in the house, the trend of single moms moving in together seems to be growing.
“Communal living might be experiencing growth because of the anemic economy, but it’s not exactly new. Between the American communes of the 1960s, kibbutzes, and the oft-quoted “it takes a village,” sentiment, Americans aren’t exactly in the dark about the idea. But with the dramatic rise in unmarried mothers giving birth (from 18 percent in 1980 to 41 percent in 2008), as well as a rise in the likelihood of single mother households falling below the poverty line (a scenario 9 times as likely to happen in 2009 as it was in 1990) single moms are facing persuasive — if stark — reasons to cohabitate. Add to that the reality that the average single mom makes just over $25,000 and the average cost of raising a child per year weighs in at $13,860, and it’s easy to see why a “mommune” makes good financial sense.”
“And women are turning to communal families for more than just financial support. Back in 1999, Carmel Boss says that her motivation for moving in with another single mom wasn’t all about money or childcare but her own emotional needs. “I was coming out of a 17-year-marriage and moved to a town where I didn’t know anyone and was shy and introverted. Up until that time I had home-schooled my [then 10-year-old] son, and he was now in school.” She started interviewing women with whom she could share the extra floor in her home, and realized there were a lot of women in need in her Los Angeles neighborhood. “One woman was living in a garage with two kids. Others were feeling trapped at their parent’s homes. I was shocked,” says Boss. This realization lead her to launch Co-Abode [Co-Abode.org], a growing organization that helps match single moms with other single moms in their area for shared housing, through a secure and anonymous email system. She says she thinks the economy has boosted that growth, and other experts agree. “There are quite a lot of people who are realizing that they have space in their houses and they can get help with their mortgage, or they simply can’t afford the rents required for a 1-bedroom apartment, but when they think about sharing a 2-bedroom, they think ‘I can do that,’” says Annamarie Pluhar, author of Shared Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates.”
“Co-Abode’s mission statement includes the view that “two single moms raising children together can achieve more than one struggling alone.” And there are certainly many reasons for single moms to make it an option for their families. First, there’s the free childcare (something that married or partnered moms, hopefully, have from their partner). And knowing that another mom is in charge, not just a paid babysitter, can help calm anxious nerves of both mother and child. “My son called [my housemate] Mama Judy and her daughter called me Mama Ramona. It was okay [to my son] for her to read them both bedtime stories. [Judy] had to be up before her daughter was up two days a week and I dropped them off at school,” says Perez.”
The moms not only find financial support, they also find emotional support in a shared household. They can split chores and childcare. They also can create a new sense of family – someone to share Christmas morning with and fun Friday nights.
We have a divorced dad friend who actually moved in with the second husband his wife divorced. The kids from the first marriage and second marriage had grown up as siblings. The dads had bonded over how crazy the ex-wife was and they decided it made sense for them to move in together. They share household duties, carpool duties, sports coaching and they even hold spent-the-night parties. He says it’s a great relationship that really works out for both dads and the kids.
And what about the ex-wife? She’s furious that they have each other to depend on. She says it’s not like their single and she’s handling it all on her own.
I think this type of relationship really makes sense and all sounds great IF you can find the right mom (or dad) to share with. We all remember from college how bad it was if you got stuck with a crappy roommate that didn’t respect your boundaries or carry their weight and now you’re talking about involving your kids.
I think it would be challenging to find someone who would want to run the household the same, had the same standards for cleanliness, homework and discipline.
What do you think? If you got divorced would you want to share the household and childcare duties and home expenses with another divorced mom or dad? Are you currently living in this type of situation? Do you think it would be tough to find just the right family to co-habitate with?