Moving house after my divorce was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made, and certainly has made life very difficult for me and my children. After initially moving country, and re-establishing ourselves in a new area and a new school, we then moved again, half an hour away from everything the girls had just painfully got to know.
Well, it’s done now (or was done five years ago) and to some extent we’ve all got used to it. But a recent report about a new way of handling divorce caught my eye, because of our circumstances. It’s called bird’s nest parenting, and involves the children staying put in the former marital home, while the parents do the moving instead.
In a way, it’s a perfect solution. After all it’s never (or very rarely) the children who decide ‘it’s not me, it’s you.’ Why should they have to suffer the huge inconvenience of packing up their stuff every weekend, every other weekend, every five days out of 14 or whatever the custody arrangement is? All this living in suitcases gets more and more complicated as they get older and have heavier and heavier bags – all that coursework, plus innumerable shoes and outfits for parties in this place or that place. Keeping track of all the stuff needed in two places would baffle most adults. Even the fact that the cornflakes are kept in one place at one parent’s, and somewhere entirely different at the other’s, is disconcerting. I keep jam in the fridge. My ex doesn’t. Multiply that little complication by a thousand other little things and you can see that it’s hard work learning two different sets of rules. And we were lucky – we had roughly similar ideas on childcare/bedtimes/discipline. If you and your former partner are at odds about how to bring the children up, the confusion goes way beyond who puts the loo paper where.
Not that everything is solved if the children stay put. There are still, I’m certain, many struggles to negotiate. But at least the children have the security of knowing that all their favourite toys, and their homework, is always exactly where they left it.
The disadvantage of bird’s nesting is that the parents have to find somewhere to stay when their ex moves in for their stint in charge. Maybe, if they are in new relationships, they can simply gravitate to their new partner. Otherwise, there are hotel bills/rent costs to consider. Possibly, both parents could share the same flat, alternating between living there and living with the children so that they never have to be under the same roof at the same time.
The former marital home is likely to be both partners’ biggest financial asset, which means the urge to sell it, split the proceeds and move on is strong. But if this can be done in the long term, rather than immediately after the split, the house will continue to grow in value and can eventually be divided up, after the children have grown up in it.
I’m sure it doesn’t work for everyone – and it never crossed my mind at the time – but I think bird’s nesting does put the needs of the children first. And that has to be a good thing.