Whenever I try to explain the term “nesting” to people they end up with this confused, dumbfounded look on their faces. That or they think we are crazy. In the end, it all comes down to doing what is best for our child, and suddenly the light bulb comes on and they think it’s the best thing ever.
Let’s start with the options you have once you and your spouse have decided to separate or divorce:
Option 1: Sell your house and split what little equity you have in it. One of you has to find a crappy little apartment in the same school district (because the rent is too damn high!) while the other does the same, or maybe finds a crappy house in the city. Then your child gets to spend their time shuttling between two miserable places and, most likely, miserable parents.
Option 2: One of you buys out the house from the other and then assumes the full mortgage (who has that kind of money??). The other finds a crappy apartment. However, the child still has to shuffle back and forth from their childhood home to a new place, with a new schedule on top of that. The idea of asking a child to determine which toys stay at “home” and which ones move out to the apartment is a scary proposition.
Option 3: You decide to nest. Both parents come to the mutual agreement that it’s best for their child to stay in the house they’ve grown up in. That means the parents end up shuffling back and forth between the child’s home and a second house or apartment. We decided to purchase a multi-family home in a hip part of the city, where the rent we collect pays for the vast majority of the mortgage.
This is usually where people stare at me while they formulate questions. Here’s how it works: whichever one of us has our son stays at the house with him. The other spends their time at an apartment within our multi-family property. Our son always stays at “his” house. My ex and I both have our own bedrooms at the family house and at our apartment. On holidays and on certain occasions we all will sleep at the house. The apartment is adults only and we are never both at the apartment at the same time. Our son has been to the apartment to check it out and so he knows where we are when we say, “mom is at the apartment”.
The fact is, there are not a lot of win-win-win outcomes in divorce but I am here to tell you I have found one that works for us and our son. It comes down to providing a consistent, comfortable living situation for our son. Why should he have to move or be shuffled around because mom and dad couldn’t make it work? I am a child of divorce and I remember all too well having to gather everything I thought I would need for a weekend at my dad’s dumpy little one bedroom apartment above a lady’s garage. I have flashbacks of doing just that every Monday night as I do laundry and gather everything I will need for the next few days. The relief I feel is because my son won’t ever have to know what that feels like.
Think we are crazy? I know a lot of people can’t believe we would risk buying another house together. What happens if one of us wants to remarry or move in with another person you ask? Well, we either sell the multifamily house or we rent out our apartment in the multifamily house. It’s an investment, and real estate is still one of the best investments a person can make. We purchased the multi-family house in a great, up and coming neighborhood in the city right down the street from my brother-in-law. Property values and assessments rose even before we put our finishing touches on it. We can walk to nightlife and have amazing neighbors. The only real problem is that I can’t grow a hipster beard and I don’t yet own any flannel shirts.
The other question I get asked is how we manage it personally. We put our son first. It’s that simple. We are lucky that we still have a fantastic relationship and are beyond amicable. We are family: we share a son, a dog, a house, and an apartment. Can it be confusing? Sure, but we do our best to be clear and communicate on a daily basis. What other option is there?
This blog post is part of HuffPost’s When Men Divorce series