Housesharing for single parents: Less is more?
House sharing – it conjures visions of The Young Ones; dubious bathroom habits, filthy kitchens, drugs and drunkenness, all-night parties, arguments about housekeeping and housemates bringing a frightening array of mates or dodgy partners into the house.
Adding a child into the mix hardly sounds like a sensible idea, but rising housing costs and falling salaries and benefits are reducing the number of ways to get a roof over your head, especially when the mention of a child has many landlords shutting the door in your face.
Some of us are making it work by organising to share with other single parents, either with another single mum and dad, or making a community with several families; very 1960s, but flares and tie-die is no longer compulsory.
You’ll lose some of your “me time”, but hooking up with another family can bring many benefits too:
- Unofficial siblings – no more “I’m bored!”
- Flexible and free childcare (but be prepared to return the favour!)
- Support when you’ve given up caring
- Another parent to have adult conversations with and let off steam to
- Shared bills/rent for cheaper living – which means you have more choice over where to live and the kind of home you can afford.
- Bulk buying and sharing your skills – recipe ideas, DIY, shopping, cooking, toys, clothes, playing, trips, etc.
It sounds perfect – what could possibly go wrong?
- If you’re in a tiny flat with drug dealers outside the door, the price of a bit of compromise might mean you can bring up your family in much nicer circumstances:
- Take time to choose the right house-sharers and try to think about how to plan for the kinds of problems you might encounter. You might even want to make some kind of contract to agree to.
- If you’re on benefits, get advice about how the changed circumstances may affect you; your age, the “bedroom tax”, what kind of tenancy agreement you draw up and whether you are working all may have an effect on your benefits. Get more advice from Citizens Advice.
- Involve the children in your decision and make sure they can get on OK.
- Meet socially with the other family and their friends to get more of an idea of what they’re like.
- Stay safe: make sure your new shared home won’t be menaced by stalkers or an abusive partner, and be honest about any relationship complications you may have