Co-living is on the rise, and the demographic of those who choose to share their homes is expanding — roommates aren’t just for college kids and young professionals. Apps like Roomi allow people a safer, more transparent way to find housemates with whom they’ll vibe. Where once a struggling single parent‘s only alternative to living alone was to move back in with family. Choosing to co-live with other single parents is becoming an increasingly popular option. And why not? The benefits of co-living with other single parents are abundant: splitting costs for childcare, more playmates for only-child kids, and the freedom to parent with like-minded people. With 9.9 million single moms in America raising kids younger than 18 (and the percentage of single fathers on the rise), single parents are catching on to the co-living trend. We can’t say we’re too surprised.
What is Co-Living?
Co-living is more than a fancy term for having roommates or housemates — it’s a conscious decision to share your home with people who enrich your day-to-day life. Traditionally, co-living has been considered the temporary solution for young professionals trying to cut living expenses. But today it’s a way of life that more people are opting in for. And for some unexpected roommates — from seniors to single parents — they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Author and single mother of four Angie Fenimore falls into the latter category. She currently has 10 people living in her house, all of whom split the bills and household chores, but this wasn’t always her normal lifestyle. Fenimore chose this setup after an unexpected co-living experience changed her life.
“When I fled an abusive marriage eight years ago, I lost my house and my car. I was also without a job and had four children at home, all younger than 17, so we moved into one bedroom in a friend’s small home, when she and her husband took a temporary job out of state.” Fenimore says.
“Three days after I moved in, my friend’s father-in-law passed away. She and her husband moved back with their daughter, and we sat around the living room wondering how we were going to make this new arrangement work.
“My friend was raised in a polygamist community, and though she left that lifestyle in her early 20s, it influenced how she approached shared responsibilities and how she treated everyone who stepped foot in her home as family. It introduced me not only to a far more economical, but also a more rewarding lifestyle. We all shared the home for seven months, and the experience completely altered my view of communal living.”
Once she got back on her feet, Fenimore opened the doors for others.
What Are the Benefits?
“I’ve exchanged everything from homework tutoring and cooking for room and board and some babysitting on my part to splitting costs equally,” says Fenimore, who has now lived with dozens of single parents.
Splitting the Bills
A common driving factor for many roommates, splitting the bills on housing and utilities can be really helpful for single parents. Especially for those of young children, who have hundreds of dollars in additional expenses for things like formula and diapers.
Splitting the Housework
It’s hard enough keeping a house clean, and throwing toddlers into the mix does not help. It can be nice for single parents just to have other adults around to make sure the trash gets taken out and the dishes get done.
“Sometimes we share food, sometimes we divide up shelves. We have laundry days, and we create a map for how everything is managed and who is responsible,” says Fenimore.
More Access to Childcare
The average cost of childcare is $972 a month per child. For a mother of four, that’s $46,656 a year. Having a roommate who helps out by watching the kids can significantly alleviate this burden.
Having Playmates and Companionship
If childcare isn’t a viable option and you’re the parent of an only child, it can be tough knowing your child is missing out on important social interaction. Having a roommate who also has kids provides an only-child with a playmate or two.
Plus, being holed up with a tiny person who yells incessantly and watches “Yo Gabba Gabba” for hours until they fly into a sleep-deprived, sugar-induced tantrum isn’t exactly healthy for your sanity either. The added benefit of having another adult to talk about grownup stuff cannot be undervalued for the single parent.
“After Jordana moved out, Angelina moved in,” Fenimore says of her first and second housemates. “She was living in her car and was a mother of three children who were in her ex-husband’s custody. Angelina really just needed support and a loving, safe environment. She was able to get on her feet and move into an apartment with other roommates. We’ve remained friends and still see each other from time to time.”
A lot of parents will agree that the only downtime they enjoy is when their kids are asleep — and even that isn’t a guarantee. For single parents who don’t have a partner to split up the duties, co-living means downtime becomes an option again.
“Miranda had a one-year-old little girl when she moved in,” Angie says, speaking of one of her many single-parent roommates. “I watched her daughter on occasion so she could date, run errands, and have some down time.”
Maybe Danny Tanner Was Onto Something
While it may seem that co-living is a relatively new concept among single parents, folks like lovable father of three and clean freak Danny Tanner were showing us how awesome this setup could be way back in the late ’80s. Like the “Full House” gang, Fenimore says she fully agrees that co-living can introduce people to meaningful connections and lifelong relationships.
“Family has little to do with DNA. I’ve assisted so many other parents and benefited from the support of so many others that I’ve lost count. I’ve found that we quickly get over the awkward experience of not being related and simply create a family.”