With the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau announcing that he is divorcing his wife but intends to remain in the family home to adopt a “birds nest” parenting approach, I thought it would be useful to take a look at what birds nest parenting means, and look at the pros and cons of this approach – for both the parents and the children involved. We know that parenting styles have evolved over time, and one approach that has gained a lot of attention recently is “Bird’s Nest Parenting”. This unconventional method involves parents maintaining a stable home, and rotate in and out of it, rather than the traditional model where children move between two separate homes during co-parenting. In this article, we will delve into what Bird’s Nest Parenting is, its potential benefits, and the challenges it presents.
What is Bird's Nest Parenting?
Bird’s Nest Parenting, also known as Nesting or Bird Nest Custody, is a co-parenting arrangement designed to minimise disruption in a child’s life after a divorce or separation. Instead of the children shuttling between two different households, the parents do the moving while the children remain in the family home. In this setup, the parents typically rent or maintain a separate living space, referred to as the “nest.” They take turns living in the nest and providing care for their children at agreed-upon intervals. This approach aims to create a stable environment for the children, allowing them to potentially maintain a consistent routine and familiar surroundings.
The Potential Pros of Bird's Nest Parenting
- Stability and Consistency:
One of the most significant advantages of this parenting approach is the continuity it provides for the children. They don’t have to experience the emotional strain of frequent moves between homes and needing to know which week or day it is to keep up with the routine in place, allowing them to adapt better to the new family dynamic.
School catchment, friends who visit, bedrooms and neighbours all remain. So the stability of the familiar can help with the transition to the new arrangement. Even household rules remain so boundaries feel familiar and safe.
- Minimal Disruption:
Bird’s Nest Parenting can help ease the transition for children after a separation. It gives them time to adjust to the changes without immediately having to adapt to different living arrangements. Their toys, bikes and clothes all remain where they always were.
Dependent on the family routine prior to the separation, it may be that the children were used to one parent working away from their home city for periods of time; this means that the impact of the change is reduced and doesn’t feel alien to all concerned. Even the neighbours wouldn’t necessarily know about the new arrangement, so if the child was feeling that they didn’t want to talk about the new change, there would less chance of comments being made or overheard.
- Eases the emotional burden on children
When big changes like home moves happen in a child’s life, some parts can feel exciting and some parts can feel scary. If a child is having to experience two new family homes at the same time this can be disorientating and it would take a great deal of emotional awareness for them to pick through the parts that were making them feel upset. It could be the changes in their bedroom, missing out on playing with certain friends, or even which deli they pop into on the way home from school. By keeping the family home and the routine of the family home in place, it reduces the emotional burden and means as parents you can be more assured that you are dealing directly with the emotions concerned with the separation rather than the unintended consequences of the home moves.
Children also do not then need to feel like their loyalties are divided by preferring one home or another, which may have nothing at all to do with their feelings for their parents.
- Emphasis on Communication:
This co-parenting model often requires enhanced communication between parents. Since they have to coordinate their schedules and responsibilities, it can foster better communication and cooperation, which is beneficial for both the parents and the children. It can also help parents to focus on their shared values for their children.
The Potential Cons of Bird's Nest Parenting
- Financial Burden: Maintaining three separate living spaces (the family home and individual nests for each parent) can be financially demanding. It may not be feasible for some families to afford the additional costs of renting or maintaining a separate residence. This can raise stress levels and feelings of resentment. Always seek independent financial and legal advice for any concerns you may have about how this set up could impact you so you are aware of all the implications before making a long term decision.
- Limited Privacy:
Living in the family home on a rotating basis may lead to a lack of personal space and privacy for the parents. It can also become emotionally challenging for them to keep returning to the same space they once shared as a family, and experienced the decline of their relationship.
- Uneven Power Dynamics:
Bird’s Nest Parenting can sometimes lead to imbalanced power dynamics between the parents. The parent living in the family home might feel more in control or hold more responsibility for the emotional and mental load of running the home, which can create tension and conflicts between them and the visiting parent.
- Complex Logistics:
Coordinating schedules, transitions, and shared responsibilities can be logistically challenging, especially if the parents have different work or travel commitments. Clear understanding of when the responsibility ends and who bears the burden of childcare arrangement or paying for services when your work trip over runs, needs to be set before embarking on this style of separation.
- Jealousy of the other space:
Children may feel that their parents are not including them fully in their lives away from the family home. This is especially pertinent when either of the parents meet a new partner. If the arrangement is that new partners are not to stay over at the family home, then the chance to develop that relationship when also with the children may be limited, and the children may see their parents have lots of fun away from them when they cannot be included.
Is Birds Nest Parenting A Good Idea?
Bird’s nest parenting is an innovative approach to co-parenting that seeks to prioritise stability and consistency for children during difficult family transitions. While it offers several potential benefits such as stability and minimised disruptions, it also comes with its share of challenges, including financial burdens and potential emotional strain. Ultimately, whether bird’s nest parenting is the right approach for a family depends on their unique circumstances, financial capabilities, and the willingness of parents to communicate and cooperate effectively. Open communication, respect, and flexibility are essential ingredients in making this parenting approach successful for the well-being of the children involved.