Emma thought 'birdnesting' was the solution to her divorce. Until she found someone else in the 'nest.'


Emma and her partner never had the big bombshell conversation about their split. There was no big blowup or declaration that their 15-year relationship was over.

Instead, she and her partner decided on an interim step for the sake of their children, then aged three and six. Acknowledging things were “rocky”, they agreed to simply spend some time apart.

“We were in a financial position that we sort of came up with the idea, ‘OK, let’s rent something for six months and the kids basically won’t know what’s going on,'” the Australian mother told Mamamia’s The Split podcast. “That’s pretty arrogant in itself, because kids are so bloody smart. But [we thought] ‘we’ll rent this, and the kids will stay in the one spot. And then whilst you’re with the kids, I’ll be in the apartment, and vice versa.'”

It wasn’t until she shared her plan with friends that Emma (who requested her full name be withheld) realised they’d adopted an increasingly popular co-parenting tactic called ‘birdnesting’.

Listen to Emma’s full story on The Split. (Post continues below.)

Birdnesting involves separated parents alternating between the family home, where the kids remain, and another property. It’s a way of ensuring the children’s lives are disrupted as little as possible during the separation.

Emma said her children “rolled with” the setup, largely by virtue of their ages but also because she and her partner had already been living pretty separate lives.

“He’d sort of sleep somewhere else, because I was sleeping with the babies,” she said.

“It was a bit easier to get away with, because it was like, ‘Oh Mum is having a sleepover’ or ‘Pa is away for work’, and if they were older, obviously, you probably couldn’t pull the wool over their eyes.”

But as Emma found out, the arrangement has its drawbacks. Especially, when the secondary home is used by both of you… and one has found a new partner.


“I actually found out about him moving on because of the nest, which was a terrible Wendy Matthews-type moment,” she said, “Then I kind of got all hot and then I vomited, and it was all very dramatic.”

Video by Mamamia

The key to birdnesting.

She argues that birdnesting only works if a couple is in a financial situation to afford two nests, otherwise each person gets stuck in a holding pattern, unable to move on.

“It was like an Airbnb; it was that type of scenario, and then obviously there’s the privacy issues,” she said.

“You find yourself doing crazy things, like like checking the dishwasher and going, ‘Two wine glasses. Very interesting.'”

Emma acknowledges that the relationship broke down long before they tried birdnesting – “We were both so dedicated to our kids individually we left no space for our marriage,” she said. But the discovery that someone else was in their ‘nest’, and the resulting fallout, still weighs heavily on her.

“I’m still not done with that. I’ve re-partnered, but some days I wake up crying and I’ll just have to explain to him that this is the biggest grief of my life. [Even if we] just assume that we both wanted the relationship over, way we barely communicate,” she said.

“I met him very young; I was married at 21. And that person is just gone from my life. I’ve just come to accept that maybe you just never reconcile that.”

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