To offset the rising cost of living, more and more single parents are choosing — or weighing — an affordable, living arrangement: home sharing.
This “alternative” may seem like just a euphemism for having a roommate, but actually, it’s not.
Home sharing basically means that two or more families are creating and sharing a home in the same dwelling.
For the many single parents and their children who opt for this living situation, they have found camaraderie with other single moms and dads, who have experienced similar challenges and hardships, and a supportive community for their children.
Some single parents even use house sharing as a means of stabilizing their family after escaping domestic violence.
Home-sharing’s popularity has inspired such euphemisms as “mommunes.” Groups of single mothers and their children in Great Britain chose this clever term — a combination of “mom” and “commune” — to describe their experience living under one roof where they shared expenses, housekeeping and child care duties, and a compassionate understanding of the unique complexity and demands of single parenting.
Because children and single parents are vulnerable, arrangements such as these must be entered into with great care, thoughtfulness and deliberation.
This column presents the views of single mothers and fathers who are considering this option or have experienced home sharing.
An additional post will offer some tips on how to navigate the home-sharing process.
Home sharing vs. cohousing
Even though these terms are used interchangeably, they are distinctly different living situations.
Cohousing, which originated in the 1960s in Denmark, is an intentionally constructed community in which individual houses are clustered around common spaces that encourage interaction among the neighbors.
Home sharing, as alluded to earlier, involves individuals sharing a dwelling and creating a home life. In some instances, home sharing has been associated with short-term occupancy options, such as Airbnb, which was popular in the mid-2010s among college graduates and Americans with large incomes.
For the sake of this column, however, I am discussing home sharing only as it relates to the alternative living situation popularized among single mothers and fathers.
Feedback from single parents on home sharing
Curious about what other single parents thought of home sharing, I reached out to several Facebook groups for single parents and discovered a mix of responses.
Many single moms and dads had never heard of this alternative but were curious while others did not believe it was a good fit for them. Below are a few of their responses:
“I was actually thinking of this for a lot of reasons. But it would need to be with an older mom who’s really chill. I mean it when I say no drama. Someone who has and respects boundaries, has goals and is the salt of the earth type.” — Sylvia
“It sounds good in theory, but I don’t trust many people, so it wouldn’t work for me. This world has gone nuts, and I wouldn’t have total strangers living in the same house as me and my kids.” — Olivia
“I would consider it with the right other mom and kid. My house could handle it if I finished the basement. The other family could have the basement space to themselves; my kiddo and I could have then second floor to ourselves, and the main floor would be common space. But like any other roommate situation, it needs to be the right fit to make sure you don’t drive each other bonkers and are both respectful. It’s nice to think about, though, because it would definitely be nice financially, and it is nice to have a little company around the house sometimes!” — Kristin
“I would totally do this. But there would be a lot of things to address first as far as cleaning, disciplining of kids, etc.” — Rachel
“I thought about doing this with a friend, but her kids are monsters! And I thought about how much we parent differently and how that would affect my kids in the end. … Sharing bills is one thing but … I couldn’t do it. It’s hard enough blending a family of ‘steps.’ I couldn’t imagine trying to do it with a friend.” — Abigail
A few single parents indicated that having a child who is neurodiverse — someone whose brain functions differently because of autism, dyslexia or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, among other concerns — made home sharing more challenging or impossible. One such mother mentioned her reservations about home sharing:
“I’d love to kind of co-parent like people do with close friends. However, my son is atypical, so I worry most people wouldn’t be a good fit. In a perfect world, I’d be all over it.” — Nicole
Several responses vacillated from positive to negative experiences. Following are some of their posts:
“I did it once. The lady rented out rooms in her house to help pay her bills. Rent was super affordable, and I had a private bathroom in our bedroom. I also had a pool in the backyard. It was very nice! She had joint custody, so her son was gone half the time, and she worked a lot when he was gone. She also went to visit her family a lot when she had him. I worked all day, so it was just some evenings that we were all home. We each had our own shelves in the fridge, so we didn’t eat each other’s food, and one shelf was a community shelf. We had our own sections in a deep freezer, so it was organized.” — Megan
“I am currently doing it! I was their nanny before the parents got divorced, and now, I live with the dad. He has his kids about half the time, and I have mine full time.” — Ollie
“I tried it. The biggest issue was constant conflict between the children not sharing toys, bullying, fighting and someone getting hurt. It can work, but it takes extra effort.” — David
“I did this, and it was a terrible idea. I knew she was going through a hard time. I had my kids a couple years before her, so I knew exactly how she felt and what she was going through, and I wanted to do everything to help her. … She told me before she moved in that her kids’ father and her weren’t together, but she had him spending the night constantly. She never cleaned up after herself or her kids; her littlest was always stuck in a playpen in her room. I let her use my flat-screen TV in her room, so she didn’t feel like she had to come out to the living room to watch TV. She lived with me for a month.” — Abi
“I did it with my best friend for almost two years. We both ended up going through a divorce at the same time. She had lost her job, and I had no child care for three kids, but a well-paying job, so we got an apartment. I paid the bills, and she watched all the kids. She eventually got a part-time job for income also. I think it helped us both get back on our feet.” — Amanda
“I have done this, and it was not the best only because it was very one-sided for really no reason. Paying bills was no issue, but bringing two very different parenting styles and ages of children got difficult.” — Lexi
“I would not do it because if something happened, like a fight, and someone needed to move out, then the child would have to go through the separation.” — Rebecca
Based on these experiences, single parents must be honest with themselves about their own limitations and priorities and those of their children before exploring home sharing.
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent.
Instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally. In addition, I share vetted information that can be useful to single parents.