Why bird's nest parenting is the best solution for separated parents.


Bird’s nest parenting is the new trend when it comes to separating parents.

In fact, it’s become so popular that courts are now accepting bird’s nest households as appropriate and preferable custody arrangements for children.

But what exactly is a bird’s nest arrangement?

Rather than the traditional model of separation which sees one parent move out of the family home (or both parents, which each party seeking new accommodation), the bird’s nest model of separation (or satellite parenting as it is also known) keeps the focus on the wellbeing of the children. The kids stay put, it is the mother and father who do the moving, rotating in and out which prevents kids from becoming frisbees in a new family set up.

Hear Holly and Andrew explain it on the latest episode of This Glorious Mess:

Typically, the children remain in the family home, and mum and dad come and go, using another location as their second home for when it’s the other parent’s turn with the children. It places the inconvenience and discomfort of shifting between homes on the parents, rather than the kids – which has typically been the case.

Obviously, this can have huge benefits for the kids of separated parents. No longer do they need to worry about the disruption of moving from one place to another, dealing with all the stresses that come with it, but a certain level of stability is maintained during what can be a very tumultuous time. Kids of divorced parents often cite frustration at leaving sports gear, assignments or special teddies at one house and then dealing with the consequences until the next visit. Then you have the situation of needing ‘two lives’ in some cases; two sets of clothes, two sets of toys, two different bedrooms. Both of these issues are eliminated in bird’s nest households. Children in these situations are also guaranteed frequent contact with both parents and normality is preserved as much as possible.


Watch – The Motherish Confessions: When you knew it was time for a divorce.

But it’s not for everyone and experts warn that it is usually only successful for amicable splits. There needs to be open communication about parenting rules, payment of bills, privacy and respect for the other person’s new life, which can be tricky when you’ve got a history together.

There are unique challenges, no doubt. Who’s responsibility is it to do the shopping, to mow the lawn. Do you do all the washing for the family, or just yours and the children’s clothes? While these things may seem simple, having clear rules on who does what, and when can mean the difference between the situation working, or failing miserably.


A recent Reddit thread explored the real life workings of birds nest households.

“My husband and I have decided to move into separate apartments but are not ready to divorce. We want to maintain a strong, cohesive parenting style and I found this bird’s nest thing online. Although we would be using 2 apartments, I like the concept of centring around the child’s needs. Has anyone got experience using birds nest parenting?” one commentator asked.

The answers were varied, and many users expressed concerns about whether or not the situation would work in real life.


Image: istock

"It sounds like one of those things good on paper but human nature would make it impossible," said one respondent.

Others had friends who had trialled the setup. "I know someone who did it for a year. Each parent alternated weeks in the family home with the children. All kinds of issues about who was supposed to buy groceries, clean, do laundry, take care of the yard, etc. The non-week parent also felt pretty entitled to drop by the house whenever."

"The best solution I have ever seen is divorced parents who bought a twin home, and each lived in one-half. Of course, they also got along very well."

Some comments then raised the question about what happens when parents start seeing other people.

"I know of two families that did this. In both instances, nobody was interested in dating and I think that's important...If both are committed, I think it works really, really well.

"Family #1 had an infant and this way they didn't have two of everything. They were able to switch off and stay reasonably amicable. Funny note, the house was so much cleaner because nobody felt the stress of the other person's mess. They did not sleep in the same bedroom in the kid house.


"Family #2 was a little stickier situation. They didn't tell the young children but after about a month they kind of caught on. There was also LOADS more hostility b/c one parent had an affair already. But, really, even with that, it took a month before the eldest (4) noticed something was up. Fam #2 did not also share the non-kid house. Really, if the kids are young and you can swing it, I think it's awesome.

"It really helps the kids stay stable, and I think mentally it helps keep you organised. The pressure of instantly making a home for your child while separating from your spouse has got to be hard. Edit: just for reference, I worked as a nanny for both families thru the transition. It wasn't a cake walk, but it did seem to help the families really be 'family' when it was their turn."

One poster then shared this story, proving that each family has its own set of unique circumstances meaning there's no one size fits all approach when it comes to raising children.

"I have a friend who is still doing this sort of, but in one apartment. She was always the better earner whilst he is a freelance designer and just survives from job to job. They split up about a year after the baby was born and he moved out. Shortly after she went back to work and she realised that it was more cost efficient for her if she asked him to move back in so someone could be with the child. For him, it was better too because he had to move back to a co-hab/ house mate situation and the place wasn't as nice."


"She figured that this way she wouldn't have to pay for spousal support, a nanny and the kid wouldn't need everything double (which is of course super expensive)." she explained.

"Their living arrangement is quite unique: They have one bedroom which eventually was transformed into the kid's room, a living room which is also his work space, big kitchen and one guest room with a closed off balcony that she uses as her home office. They swap sleeping in the kid's room depending on who is home earlier. She pays everything and he chips in as he can.

"She gets as many nights off to as she likes, both are there for school meetings, birthdays etc. New partners don't visit their home until the relationship is solid to not confuse the kid. All in all they keep it very flexible and they have a great and relaxed atmosphere at home.Both are in their early 40s now, have new partners and the kid is 10 today and I'd say he's a pretty fun and well-mannered  kid.

"Her current partner was daydreaming about them moving in together but she simply puts down her rules early, that whilst she's happy to stay over at his place a few times a week, her kid is her priority."