Being a single mother is hard. Finding an affordable place to live in New York City is hard. With these two issues together, it’s even harder to find a roommate who’s open to living with kids. Ashley Simpo faced this problem when she and her live-in boyfriend needed to take a step back to work on some conflicts in their relationship. She had to find a new place to live with her five-year-old son.
Ashley vented her concerns to her friend Tia who happened to be going through a similar situation. Tia is the mother of two boys, one is three and one is thirteen and was going through a divorce. Tia and Ashley have been best friends for 10 years and have supported each other through career changes, marriages, and motherhood.
The BFFs were hit with the bold idea to merge households. So Ashley moved into Tia’s three-bedroom apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant with her son.
Making It Work
The friends set the move-in date for in one month and began working out the logistics. Their goals went beyond those of a typical roommate situation where the benefits stop at room and board and splitting the costs. Tia and Ashley wanted to help each other make their lives easier.
Ashley packed up and ordered movers while Tia cleared Ashley’s-to-be bedroom. The master bedroom became the boys’ room, and they arranged the beds so that the eldest would have more space, a vital need for any adolescent. Ashley describes organizing the beds like a game of Tetris with a Hot Wheels bed and a Batmobile one. When they finished, the mothers left the boys to wrestle in their huge bedroom to enjoy some celebratory tequila in the backyard.
Tia and Ashley took the two smaller bedrooms. They shared all of the expenses, such as groceries, rent, utilities, and Netflix, as well as all of the conflicts and joys that come with being a parent.
Having Each Other’s Backs
“Our arrangement goes beyond that of roommates,” writes Ashley on HuffPost. “We’re genuinely leaning on each other; when one of us has more capacity than the other, she tags in.”
The BFFs don’t need babysitters or strangers to watch their children since they always have each other’s backs.
All single mothers can relate to the 5–8 p.m. weekday grind, where the kids need to be fed, bathed and put to bed while unfinished work and emails must be attended to. For Tia and Ashley, there’s always one mother ready to take charge of the kids while the other finishes urgent work.
For example, Ashley had to find me kind of childcare for her son for the two weeks between the last day of kindergarten and the first of camp. Tia offered to take him to work for a few hours so Ashley could finish her own work. When Tia is exhausted from a long night, Ashley wakes up early to cook breakfast. When Ashley is running late, Tia offers her car for Ashley to take her son to school.
“Our home has two parents in it,” writes Ashley. “Two parents who have agreed to be each other’s backup before deploying more expensive or inconvenient options. This is a godsend in a city like New York, where work never sleeps and kids hardly ever settle down.”
Tia was going through a difficult time with the divorce as ongoing arguments about when the boys will be picked up and who wasn’t being supportive enough drained her. Ashley meanwhile was dealing with issues with her career and relationship.
During this time, they became each other’s saviors when the going got rough. Ashley described being able to find herself, taking alone time, and creating a more balanced schedule.
One of the things the women appreciate most about their relationship is that their sons are creating a brotherly bond, and are learning to share, compromise, and take care of chores.
Single mothers are stereotyped to be stressed, tired, and cranky, and perhaps part of the reason for that is because of society’s pressure to be the acceptable nuclear family. Therefore, single moms take on more than they could chew, which women tend to do already. It’s like asking for help is the admission of failing to achieve the acceptable picture of family life. It’s an unhealthy and unfair burden.
Mothers, single or not, have a deeper understanding of each other, and that is part of the reason Tia and Ashley’s arrangement works so well.
“My co-mother doesn’t have to explain why she propped up her son on the couch to watch PJ Mask for 30 minutes while she sat in her room in silence,” Ashley writes. “I don’t have to explain to her why I needed to spend the night at my boyfriend’s place just to feel emotionally catered to by someone who didn’t ask for a peanut butter sandwich as soon as I sat down.” 
The ‘Mummune’ Movement
Tia and Ashley’s story is one of many as single mums band to help each other out. There were about 15 million single mothers in the U.S. alone in 2018 in an economy where it’s too expensive for many of them to live alone. Organizations like Roommates with Kids have sprung up to help single parents looking for fellow parental roommates.
The biggest difficulty with co-living is finding someone who’s on a similar page when it comes to parenting style, household upkeep, and schedule, but like any other relationship, it comes with making compromises. But with the right family, the home could become a relaxed, nurturing, and warm environment. “It’s about respecting each other’s contribution and experience in motherhood and womanhood,” concludes Ashley. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without Tia, and I am so grateful for the life I share with her right now.”
- Ashley Simpo. Why My Best Friend And I Decided To Move In Together And Co-Mother Our Children. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-my-best-friend-and-i-decided-to-move-in-together-and-co-mother-our-children_n_5b26806ae4b0f9178a9e0322 June 19, 2018
- Summer Eldemire. The single mums who live together on ‘mommunes’. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190827-the-single-mums-who-live-together-on-mommunes September 10, 2019