Why My Ex, My Husband and I Are Raising Our Kids Under One Roof
“Nicky, wake your father up!” I holler down from the upstairs landing. “You have to leave for school in 20 minutes!”
I know this communication is wasted breath, that I will be the one to march downstairs in five minutes’ time, enter my ex-husband’s side of our house, and gently (or not so gently) remind him that he needs to drive our 8-year-old son to school while I head out of the door to my own work day.
Our weekly schedule hasn’t shifted in the year and a half that we have been sharing a household and similarly, neither has my ex’s need for an alarm clock. If we were operating under a more traditional co-parenting arrangement, I might have purchased one for him this past Christmas so he could ensure being on time for our son’s morning pickup. But my ex-husband, my husband and I all live together part-time—which means I’m still, to some degree and on certain days, his living alarm clock.
I never set out to share a home with two men and two children, yet here I find myself. While my ex and I mutually ended our marriage back in 2014 with verbal commitments to remain friends, maintaining a shared home was not in my vision of how we would co-parent our young son. I had hopes for holidays together and maybe even some tropical vacations, but sharing a home, weekly dinners and even sometimes the same stick of deodorant (I know, I know) has taken my concept of what it means to be a “modern co-parent” to a whole other level.
But the truth is, the idea of my ex-husband living with me, our son, my second husband and the toddler-aged daughter we have together didn’t seem all that crazy when I discovered the details of a stately yellow farmhouse that was for rent in our ideal location. In fact, I drove past the house for several weeks, pushing down the desire to punch in the number on the “For Rent” sign posted out front because I was positive it would be out of our budget.
I wasn’t wrong. As expected, the kind homeowner on the other end told me a monthly rent that was double what we could afford. But, the kind woman also told me some unexpected news: The house had a one-bedroom in-law suite, complete with a separate entrance, mini-kitchen and full bathroom.
I thanked her for the information but hung up the phone with my thoughts working on overdrive. While the “Negative Nancies” in my mind were clucking their tongues in an “I told you so” kind of manner, the curiosity that had propelled my inquiry was now morphing into an idea.
What if? What if we joined forces—and resources—to raise our family in a different kind of environment?
The concept didn’t seem illogical. In fact, it made too much sense. At least to me. You see, about a year and a half after our divorce was finalized, my ex moved full-time into a shared loft apartment in nearby New York City. With this living arrangement and his frequent business trips to LA, we didn’t really ever split nights and weekends. My ex’s visitations with our child typically took place in my house, and when my current husband and I married in 2016, this meant that all three of us would share meals, activities and other parenting duties on the days when my ex was in town.
I was extremely nervous to ask both my husband and my ex if they would be open to the possibility of living together part-time, but the logical side of my brain felt like we were practically doing it already. My ex having his own suite in a house where he could be a part of our son’s daily life felt like the ideal solution—if we could all handle it.
To my surprise, both fathers individually agreed that the arrangement could work for our family. With just the tiniest bit of trepidation, we excitedly moved into our “modern co-parenting” home in December of 2018.
Since then, we have experienced great days, terrible days and mostly (thankfully) pretty mundane days. The advantages to having three parents in-house are evident; there are three pairs of hands to help care for children, three cars with which to run errands, three able-bodied adults that outnumber the amount of children in the house. It’s an awesome day when the five of us can sit down together, share stories over dinner and then tackle the kids’ respective bath and bedtime routines.
It’s those kinds of sparkly times that make me feel at peace with our decision to live together, albeit a few days out of the week. I can see the joy and peace in my son’s expression when we sit down to play a card game together and it makes my heart warm to see my toddler reaching up to her “uncle” (aka my ex-husband) for a hug. These are the moments that reassure me when strangers incredulously scoff at my living situation.
“I could never!” they nervously laugh. “But good for you guys.”
It’s not that I don’t understand their perspective; there are many good reasons why getting divorced means living in separate homes and maintaining distanced lives. And to be certain, there are some days that remind us why we are divorced and some days where one or all of us question if living together is the best choice.
Without a dedicated amount of planning (and what feels like an excessive amount of communication), our daily lives and schedules can quickly overtake our best intentions. When this happens, I feel like I’m often the one left with a sink full of dishes, piles of laundry to wash and fold and an ex to wake up in the morning. It can be difficult to manage two parents and their conflicting work and sleep schedules; we’re wading through largely uncharted territory in our household of three.
As we continue to journey through our second year of living together, we’re continually tackling issues like the assignment of household roles, establishing healthy boundaries and maintaining open communication. We’re not pulling it off perfectly, but our living situation has provided us with the opportunity to continue to grow and develop—as individuals, friends, parents and life partners. For better or worse, we’re all in this co-parenting gig and so far, I think we’re doing it better together.
Published February 2020
Kristin Accorsi Alvarez is a high school English teacher, writer and sometimes poet. She is remarried, has two children and currently chronicles her family’s “modern co-parenting” approach over on her blog themoderncoparent.com. She is addicted to chocolate, unintentional ASMR content and lively book discussions over coffee. Follow her on Instagram @themoderncoparent.