At some point, each and every one of us has shared a living space with someone. For some, it’s their parent, for others, it’s their siblings, aunties, uncles, grandparents, roommates, or a guy named Dave.
But you know why do we share the living space with someone? It’s because of the ever-rising house and rent prices. Most of us are always on a mission to find ways of not camping for the rest of our lives, and sometimes the solution is to find a housemate.
However, housemates can sometimes mean going from one single housemate to four, with children, and that’s when things start getting interesting.
A friend duo of Holly and Herrin, both single moms, came up with the best idea of cohabiting and invited 2 other ladies to join in on their adventure. The ingenious idea has caught our fancy, and thus, here is their story!
Four single mothers decided to buy a house together and form a new way of living for themselves and their kids
Four women in Washington, D.C., completely broke apart their long-standing concepts of family, friendship, and raising children, and have created a new way of living.
Holly Harper and Herrin Hopper always joked that one day they’d live together on a commune in Vermont, letting their spouses visit periodically. Yet after they both got divorced, the joke began to look like the next great idea.
The idea came from Holly, who, after a divorce, was trying to find a new means of living under budget
Holly wrote their story on Insider, saying “I knew it was going to be impossible to find a duplex or condo in Washington, DC, on my self-employed, single-mom budget.”
She’d also known the demands of homeownership, having bought three houses prior. But she wanted to own one again as an investment for her and her kid’s future.
Luckily, her close friend Herrin shared similar views and she had also separated from her husband around the same time as Holly had. Thus, after a bit of a discussion, they agreed to follow in their commune dream. The realtor they called said, “You’re mad, I love it.”
Holly and her friend Herrin found a property and decided to buy it, inviting 2 other single moms to join in
The two friends found two other single ladies, Jen and Leandra, and purchased a four-unit home together. Legally, they are co-investors, as Holly puts it, essentially, living in a condo building with an informal, but legal, an agreement between them.
The choice has provided lots of benefits, allowing for the women to save multiple thousands of dollars per year, as well as support each other emotionally and help out when needed.
We reached out to Holly to ask some questions, one of them being, what was the response from family and the neighboring community she said that her family members were used to her “unconventional approach to everything and have been supportive throughout. When we first moved in, everyone assumed we were renters because our house used to be a rental property, but after almost two years, the neighborhood loves that we are homeowners! We have been able to offer hope to others that homeownership isn’t entirely out of reach even in an expensive area.”
‘The Siren House’ was born and has proved to be one of the best choices the women have made
Holly describes the experience as one where she’s never felt happier. The four women not only share car rides, expenses, favors like babysitting or dog-walking, but also share their emotions, experiences, and unlimited amounts of hugs.
Holly said that they take turns hosting potluck dinners each month, have Christmas gift exchanges each year with games, gifts, and holiday films, and they “almost always have a monthly movie night, porch hangout, or backyard fire”.
They truly see themselves as a family; safe, loved and, surprisingly, free. They have since called the home ‘The Siren House’.
It’s “a kid’s paradise”, full of toys and friends to lean on when things get tough
The move has been incredibly beneficial not only for them but for their children as well, as they call it “a kid’s paradise”.
The combination of multitudes of toys and gadgets to take advantage of is just the tip of the iceberg—they also have each other to lean on. Holly says that the children, aged 9 to 14, relate to each other like cousins that can share each new experience in their lives with one another.
Holly continues to say that the “kids—who can use the buddy system for a walk to get gelato, and who have playmates during the quarantine and homeschool months—are thriving.”
To keep everything under control with 4 families merging into 1, the moms have routine meetings, often accompanied by champagne
Of course, as with everything in life, things don’t always go to plan. And with a lot of kids comes a lot of mess. Holly described the situation as “socks everywhere”. Whose socks are they? Unclear. iPads, dishes, cups, and everything else that can be moved and used by a young teen gets misplaced or exchanged for another in an unplanned manner.
To keep everything in order, they have routine “homeowners’ meetings”, where they discuss repairs and yard work. The meetings often happen over a bottle of champagne. Iconic.
Holly also notes some things to look out for when co-purchasing: “Being careful to understand the financial position of your co-purchasers will ensure that everyone holds up their end of the agreement. Additionally, having a lawyer draft a co-tenancy agreement is critical if things devolve. This means that you have some legal protections in case one party cannot pay or needs to move.”
“Burn the rulebook of life” says Holly, as new, not-yet-explored ideas should be considered, if they make the most sense
It’s not a commune, and it’s not traditional extended family living, but the women say it’s something pretty special. Others have praised the women for being brave enough to go against the standard of what is considered a ‘normal family’.
Holly told TODAY that “she always felt like she had to follow traditional rules in life” but in a lot of cases that is not necessarily the best option for all involved. She continued, saying “the goal of life is not to reach some plane of happiness but to create an environment where we are safe to pursue happiness in every moment.”
Since moving in with her friend, she said “you can do whatever you want. Burn the rulebook of life and just look at it differently.”
The traditional views of what a ‘family’ should look like can fly out window as we embrace more modern arrangements
The concept of ‘family’ has been a topic of debate and discussion, with one question coming forth—what is best for the children?
S. S. Canetto argued that current psychological, sociological, and historical studies do not support the assumption that the ‘traditional’ nuclear family is the most ‘natural’ and/or ‘healthy’ form of family arrangement.
Besides, as said by HealthyChildren.org, what makes for a healthy, functioning family is “love and caring for other family members; providing security and a sense of belonging; open communication; making each person within the family feel important, valued, respected and esteemed.” With these definitions, any sort of arrangement full of love and care can be considered a family.
Holly argues that the ‘traditional family’ “with two adults in a household continues to decline as we live longer. We will need more support from friends, neighbors, and acquaintances as we do not want to rely on our children to care for us in our golden years. Environmentally, our built environment is one of the leading causes of climate change, and 4,000+ square-foot homes housing single families of 3-6 people are simply unsustainable. Additionally, the suburban single-family home model is isolating for many people, perpetuates our reliance on highways and cars, and erodes the interconnectedness of “Main Street USA”. So, living smaller, living closer, and broadening the idea of what our “family support network” looks like are all facilitated by smart co-housing communities.”
‘The Siren House’ is inspiring other moms to look into cohabiting, building a community in the process
“There is almost a spiritual safety net every day here,” Holly said. She can truly be herself throughout life’s turns and tribulations and she’ll have a group of people to support and understand her.
With the way the world is going, maybe we should be getting back into more cohabitation-based living rather than the idealized 2-story house with the white picket fence which is occupied by one.
Holly and the other fellow moms that live in the house get lots of questions from mothers wanting a similar co-housing arrangement and they hope to expand the concept. Holly said that they’re “building a community” with a sort of ‘siren song’ to bring people together. And as they say, “it takes a village to raise a child”.
We asked Holly whether she’d consider going back to single-family living if she won $1M, and she said: “Nope! I would probably invest it in my businesses, our joint business (Main Street Pearl), add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) or home addition for more common space and another bathroom, start another Siren House, and/or buy a vacation home for us!”
Let us know what you thought of this story! Would you ever consider it, what could be the potential downfalls? Comment ‘family panda’ if you’ve read it all and I wish you a happy and lovely day!