"Accommodating one’s life in the interest of their children is a role that parents are not unfamiliar with."
In an institution like divorce, it is very difficult to pinpoint trends or current behaviors as new or unique occurrences in the process, but there is one that is gaining steam and turning the separated family dynamic on its head: nesting. Currently being popularized on Amazon’s “Transparent” and Showtime’s “The Affair,” this trend is starting a discussion in co-parenting communities about the importance of being present in a child’s life, even through the most difficult of circumstances.
Sometimes referred to as “bird-nesting”, this concept is put into practice while experiencing a separation or divorce and refers to a transitional arrangement where parents continue to share the family home and take turns being “on duty” with their children, according to Collaborative Practice Marin.
Breaking it down
This shift takes place when couples either live in separate areas of the home or while the couple is in possession of an off-site residence that they alternate while the other spouse is “on duty.” It is a form of parenting and can be a shared-custody arrangement for divorced and separated couples. It originated in 2000 in the case, Lamont v. Lamont. In the case, a Virginia court suggested that the best solution for the two young children involves was them staying in their family home.
In the case, the mother was designated to live with them during the week, while the dad moved in during the weekends. This opened the floodgates for exes that were communicative enough to put the needs of the children above their own and create a stable and effective way to parent. The arrangement is centered around the child and their needs, which does not necessarily factor into the logistics of making this style function.
There is a financial commitment to be made when co-parents agree to the nesting arrangement. Paying for and maintaining a home away from the family home is not cheap. Additionally, distance between the two residences could be a factor, adding in the need for travel expenses.
Sometimes, co-parents will use nesting as a way to build up individual funds, until one of the co-parents has the money to afford a house for themselves. In those circumstances, communication and amicability are not only for the sake of the children, but they are for the sake of the ex-spouse and their previous relationship.
However, if the separate residence away from the family home is modest enough, the expenses for the additional residence will not be that substantial, and adding that residence could provide the needed privacy, in instances where one co-parent begins to date a new partner. Nesting also eliminates the need to purchase things like an extra set of clothes and new toys for one parent’s residence. The children don’t need these things because they have their home.
The importance of communication
The only way that nesting works is when co-parents are able to separate their co-parenting responsibilities from their previous marital conflicts and remain amicable and cooperative with continuous communication regarding the household arrangement to meet the needs of the children, according to Psychology Today.
The co-parents are not leaving each others’ lives. They’re still going to have the children in common, so for their sake, it can be considered beneficial to encourage clear and peaceful communication when engaging in a continuous dialogue regarding the nesting household arrangement.
It won’t be easy. Special needs children often have issues with the arrangement, due to interruptions in their routine, and explaining the nesting arrangement to them can be difficult. That’s not even accounting for the relationship between the co-parents.
Given individual history and conflict within a relationship varies between couples, there are perfectly justified reasons to be upset or hostile toward an ex-spouse, so nesting isn’t for everyone. Staying amicable with an ex can often cause problems in newer relationships, which can surface in co-parenting relationships as a result.
For those entering nesting without purchasing a new residence, it can be incredibly challenging. The differences in bedroom quality alone can keep ex-spouses at each others’ throats. For those that choose to enter nesting with one spouse staying at a family member’s house or a friend’s house, you can often be allowing other people to enter into the equation.
This gives people outside of the established agreement and arrangement the ability to weigh in on the various facets of your life and the life of your children, including nesting and parenting. That is not something that everyone is willing to compromise with, given its invasive nature.
Furthermore, it also requires each co-parent to strictly stick with the established schedule, which has all of the potential to lead to conflict. Life happens, and schedules often need to be flexible to its changes, which can cause additional discord between the two co-parents. Holidays, birthdays, and special events all need to be considered and scheduled accordingly between the two co-parents. Given how accommodating co-parents, who enter into a nesting arrangement, are for their children’s sake, this is of the same vein in accommodation. The focus is on the children.
Accommodating one’s life in the interest of their children is a role that parents are not unfamiliar with. Creating a safe and familiar space for as long as possible is the goal of nesting, and it’s something that co-parents can consider, as the trend continues to grow.