Children of divorced parents typically divide their time between each parent’s home. “Nesting,” sometimes called birdnesting, represents a fairly new approach to co-parenting. The child remains in one home (the family “nest”), and the parents take turns rotating in and out of the home.
Would nesting work for you? Nesting requires an enormous amount of trust and respect, a commitment to privacy, and good communication between exes. It’s important to weigh all the pluses and minuses before making it official as part of your Parenting Plan.
Stability: Maintaining a secure and familiar home for the child is the biggest upside of the nesting arrangement. Letting kids stay in the same home, neighborhood and school, near their friends, can reduce stress and help them adjust when parents split up.
Affordability: In an era of high real estate prices, it might not be practical for the spouse who moves out to get a suitable home within a reasonable distance. Or it may not make financial sense to sell the house upon a separation or divorce.
Logistics: Using the original home as the family “nest” cuts down on time spent shuttling the kids between homes, school, playdates and extracurricular activities. Children don’t risk missing out on homework, playtime or piano lessons because they forgot something at the other parent’s home – everything related to the child stays in the same physical location.
Less privacy: Divorced co-parents must be on good terms for the nesting arrangement to work. Both must respect that they lead separate lives aside from their children. Unlike maintaining completely separate households, the adults usually keep some clothes and personal items in the family home. There’s always a risk of accidentally leaving something behind that you’d rather your ex not see.
Domestic Strife: Housekeeping rules are a necessity to keep the shared home running smoothly. This includes mutual responsibility for doing laundry, buying groceries, tidying up, mowing the yard, and so forth. If one former spouse is chronically messy and the other is a neat-freak, hiring a housekeeper may help keep the peace. Divorced couples will also need to work out (in writing) how they will handle the rent or mortgage and shared upkeep on the home in case the roof leaks or the washing machine dies.
Complexity: If co-parents take turns living in the family nest, where do they each reside the rest of the time? For some there’s an easy answer, such as each getting their own apartment or staying with a family member or friend. For others, the cost of maintaining potentially two separate residences while sharing responsibility for upkeep of the nest is too big a burden. Or they may wish to make a fresh start.
Nesting co-parents should keep in mind that the needs and wants for creating the nesting arrangement change over time. Kids grow up, attend new schools, etc. One or both parents could become romantically involved with new partners, change jobs, or face health challenges. Former spouses may simply want more space to lead their own lives. In every nesting arrangement, the day will come where it is no longer necessary or desirable, and each must move on. In our experience, nesting works best when it is a short-term arrangement as the drawbacks typically outweigh the benefits. But, every family is unique and nesting might be the best option for your family.
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