[This article originally appeared in Divorce Magazine’s blog on October 20, 2020.]
My ex, Bill, and I have been nesting with our three sons for over six years. Nesting, or “bird-nesting” as it’s sometimes called, means the children stay in the family home after the divorce.
It’s the parents who move in and out to take care of them.
What You Should Know About Nesting Co-Parenting
It’s not just the children who don’t have to move back and forth between two homes. What also does not move back and forth (or need to be duplicated in a second home) are:
- all their beloved personal possessions, toys, and books
- clothing and toiletries
- school books, homework, sports and music equipment
- all the furniture, electronics, food, and supplies needed for their care and upbringing
In nesting, unlike the traditional broken-home, two-household approach, there is just one version of each of these things, in one home. This saves significantly on the cost of duplicating essentials in a second home. Nesting also means less stress to the kids (who don’t have to keep track of their possessions between two homes) and less hassle for the parents (who don’t have to spend time driving back and forth to retrieve whatever has been left at the other parent’s place).
Perhaps most importantly, nesting means your children continue to grow up with the consistency, continuity, and comforts of the home they know.
Divorce is an unsettling time.
Nesting offers a way to lessen the trauma and provide a tangible sense of security.
Nesting is gaining in popularity in all parts of the country. I’ve learned from the interviews I’m conducting for my book on nesting that families of all types are creating their own variations of nesting arrangements – creatively finding what works best for their individual family.
The logistics and where and how my ex and I live and co-parent have evolved some through the years:
Originally, I lived in my parent’s guestroom while Bill was with the boys for half of each week. He would stay with friends or travel for work the other half while I had my parenting time in the house with the boys.
After a few months of this, while we weren’t yet positive that nesting was the long-term solution, we decided to keep the same parenting time arrangement and to rent a reasonably-priced apartment nearby that Bill and I could “share” (neither of us was ever actually in it at the same time). This would relieve our friends and family of the burden of hosting each of us on a weekly basis; and it was certainly less expensive than buying a second house right away.
After about six months of this, we could see that nesting was working really well for our kids, but we both felt the need for space to explore our own lives. The finances of the divorce were settled, and we found that we could afford to keep the original apartment and Bill could rent a studio apartment of his own. The original apartment really began to feel like mine as I decorated it and moved my possessions out of the house and into my own space. When parenting at the house, I would pack a weekend bag of clothes, toiletries, and laptop and decamp to the guest bedroom suite at the house.
Bill found a furnished place downtown, but still a short drive from the boys and the home. He kept most of his possessions at the house (it was officially his, as per our divorce settlement). In reverse of me, he would pack a weekend bag of clothes, toiletries, and his laptop and head to his apartment when I came into the house to parent.
This situation worked really well until Bill began to travel extensively for work and found he was rarely using the studio apartment. We agreed it made sense for him to be based out of the house and give up the lease on the studio. I would keep my apartment. Our parenting-time schedule now was determined by his work-travel schedule as I would be in the house whenever he traveled. When he was in town and living at the house with the boys, I would return to my apartment.
We were able to maintain an evenly shared parenting time each month, but some weeks had different schedules than others. Since the boys’ daily routine didn’t change, they had no problem rolling with this new arrangement (as long as they knew who would be picking them up from school that afternoon!).
And this is basically how we’ve lived for the past seven years, though Bill now travels less for work and spends his non-parenting time at his significant other’s home.
Our sons were fairly young when we decided to divorce (12, 9, and 5). That we could tell them about our pending divorce, but immediately assure them that they weren’t moving out of their home, was a true comfort to them. Our boys are now in college, high school, and middle school. Through all these changes, nesting has remained consistent and none of us can imagine life any other way.
I love nesting for our boys’ sake, but also for how it has benefited Bill and me. The boys’ lives have remained happily consistent while Bill and I have appreciated how our focused parenting time has enriched our relationships with them. Nesting has also allowed us to pursue time away from parenting (and the responsibilities of home-ownership) to explore our new lives as separate individuals.
Nesting has some challenges, of course, and it may not make sense for everyone. But does the traditional “broken home” approach in which the kids have to move between two houses have to be the default scenario? If you are facing divorce and concerned about the impacts on your children, I hope you will consider if nesting could work in your situation – and help you create a post-divorce life that benefits both you and your family. Wishing you all the best!
For more helpful information about the ins and outs of nesting co-parenting, please visit my website www.FamilyNesting.org.
You can also learn more about my experience with family nesting in this video.