2 single moms sharing a house – a living experiment

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For the last 4 weeks and till May, I´m sharing a house with another single mom, her kid is one of my 4 year old´s best friends from kindergarten.

The help you get living with someone else is pretty obvious. And there are also the challenges of putting two single children of single moms living together with now two parents.

Sure enough, both mamas can go out at night more often, which we´ve been doing at least once a week each. The girls are always busy playing together and we can share a lot of living costs. Like the 300 dollars rent: nice.

The house is by a river. The girls are free to come and go to the river at any time, usually naked, since the river is very shallow and not dangerous at all. One might say it´s still dangerous because it´s in the jungle and so all sorts of poisonous animals live nearby, like the eye lash pitviper that was found at their school one of these days, but screw that, the girls have a blast and we can watch and hear them from the house.

Change, if you want the other to do it, do it yourself first

I´ve been learning a lot to adapt myself, more than I expected. First adaptation for me was to put up with all the animals the other duo has: it started with 3 cats and 3 dogs. Now the cats are gone and ¨we¨ have 4 dogs. I like dogs better (here are the 2 we left in Brazil ), although I myself would keep them outside, but since it´s temporary, I don´t want to impose my way of being. I can clean some dog shit every once in a while (like the other morning in my room).

The other mom is very relaxed about time and routine, actually she doesn´t have much of a routine. I´m coming from a more strict meal and bed time with Luísa.

I was very happy when I started using candle light in my house alone with Luísa at bed time. We would light the candles at dinner time (around 6pm) and be in bed before 8pm. If around 7.30 pm Luísa wasn´t into a slower pace for the night, I´d turn off the lights and keep just the candles. I really recommend the candle light at night, it brings instant peace and when I forgot about it, Luísa would remind me.

At the new place I had to say ciao to my lovely candle light routine, I can´t impose that on our extended family. I was very uncomfortable in our first week because we were far from having a set bed time and so in the morning I would be rushing us out of the bed and out of the house on time for kindergarten and my alone time.

This was pissing me off. Having an early bedtime is the key to getting out of bed and the house early.

Then I figured that I was the only one disturbed by this. If I would ask Luísa, if she preferred to cut her sleep in one hour a day but have her friend living in the same house, or if she would prefer to live alone with mommy and have her full needed sleep, I figured she would answer to keep the friend and screw my bed time shit.

And even if sleeping enough is really necessary, it won´t matter that much for only 3 months, given the advantage of having a temporary sister.

So, I let go a bit of my night stress.

I prevent mine and Luísa´s tiredness at the end of the day to turn into bad behavior and bad reactions by making sure we have dinner and showers and pajamas on by a more or less intermediate time between our old routine and the new spontaneous-play flow we found ourselves in.

It´s safer for my kid that we live with more people now

By the end of last year, I was getting pissed off with Luísa a lot. I was getting impatient really quick and it´s not comfortable to say this, but I was reacting very badly to her acting out with me alone. I remember screaming from the top of my lungs and hitting the table with my fist (which the child knows the intention behind is to hit her instead). And I had the clear idea that living alone with my daughter was simply not safe.

Not unsafe as in ¨I can kill her¨, but more as in our relationship was getting damaged from my outbursts. I needed someone else to be around us.

So, when my friend invited me to share a house, something I was thinking already, I thought this would keep me from going off. It´s sad to admit this, but when there´s a witness, I control my angry impulses a lot more.

In our new house-family, I only screamed a couple of times, so far :) .

Sibling’s rivalry

The girls play a lot and fight a lot too. I´m really happy I only have one child. I can´t imagine watching siblings fight every day for years on end. And I remember an unschooler mom telling me how single children get all their needs met, which is not bad, although people like to label single children as spoiled.

So, for me when they are not getting along for the whole morning, or bedtime, it´s a pain in the ass.

Also, we don´t have clear rules about everything that apply to both kids. For instance, the other girl has a puppy and she sleeps with the puppy in her bed. Luísa has to watch this and deal with her desire to do the same, sometimes acting it out (I´m alert to this now and I´ve been good at preventing violence…).

They always fight over this princess glass the other girl has. If they were real sisters, they would probably have gotten two identical or similar glasses, but since they owned different things before, they have to deal with some unfairness intrinsic to our situation.

When I´m in charge of both girls, I prefer to take them to the beach or to the river and that avoids a lot of fighting. In my personal experience, it looks like stuff is what triggers 99% of the fights, or rather, ownership.

My way to deal with jealousy about stuff is to simply leave the house. And now I´m aware that I also use this as an escape to deal with a problem. For instance, the girls start fighting on Sunday morning and I get ready to take Luísa to the beach and leave, because I don´t want to take the time to conciliate.

Well, when I catch myself doing it, I stop. I wait for a resolution of conflict before we leave the house, so I´m modeling let´s solve things before we move on to something else instead of running away from our problems.

But hey, sometimes I simply cannot do it, I cannot wait and be patient and model the best behavior, so I get out of the house.

Other ups and downs of us living together are:

Italian practice: the other duo is from Italy. The girls speak in Spanish, but the other mom and I speak mostly in Italian in the house and the other mom reads to them in Italian. We also borrow Italian books to read in our room. The other mom happens to also speak some Portuguese and so we sing Brazilian songs and everybody learns a bit of everything.

Food making: my friend cooks more than I do. I guess anyone in the world cooks more than I do. She cooks healthy stuff for us all. We are working together on improving our nutrition.

Cleaning the house: my friend apparently hates doing the dishes (who doesn´t?). She always leaves it for later. Later never being before I want to use the kitchen. I´m the use-and-clean immediately type of freak, but she mops sometimes, I never mop.

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on February 28, 2012. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.


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