By: RONALD J. BAVERO*
We are all familiar with the phrase that "sometimes it takes a village to raise a child." However, some single and divorced women are finding that a "mommune" (no that is not a typo and I did not mean to write "commune") may be something to consider.
The word commune is generally defined as a group of people living together and sharing possessions, finances and responsibilities. Similarly, its updated version, a mommune, is one or more mothers who have chosen to live together, not only for its economic benefits, but also for its obvious social benefits, including built-in childcare, companionship and socialization for the parents and any children residing within the household.
While these types of living arrangements are nothing new in various ethnic, racial and cultural communities, the combination of a spiking divorce rate, during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, and the daunting record of the economic fall-out visited upon women, post-divorce, has caused many moms to consider alternate living arrangements.
The scope of the underlying problem is enormous. The United States has the world's highest rate of children living in single-parent households. 14.7 million children (one in five of all children in the US) live in households receiving child support, or rather who should be receiving child support. $33.7 billion dollars in child support was owed during the year 2015.
Further highlighting the problem, the US Census Bureau also reported that single parents received some of the child support money, but far less than what was actually owed. Less than half of all child support that was due was paid. 30% of the custodial parents received no child support and almost 26% received only a fraction of the support due. The average amount actually paid in child support was $287 per month. Many children live at or below the federally recognized poverty line. Children living only with their mothers were more than twice as likely to live in poverty than those living only with their fathers (35% vs 17.4%). Alarmingly, most of these statistics are pre-Covid and are not expected to improve any time in the near future.
Given the disruption which divorce visits upon all of the participants and the fragile economic reality of life after divorce, it is not surprising the many custodial mothers are seeking out the company and support of other similarly situated moms.
Take for example, the dire situation faced by Kristin Batykefer who moved into her family friends' 4- bedroom Florida home, with Kristin's four-year old daughter, when she lost her job and her marriage fell apart. Several months later Kristin's best friend, Tessa Gilder, also went through a divorce. Tessa had two children of her own, including a daughter the same age as Kristin's. Kristin then invited Gilder to join her, and Tessa moved from Colorado to live with her former college roommate and all of their children in Batykefer's Florida home.
As Kristin explained it: "When I had to leave my husband, all I could think about was how I now had to figure out how to do everything on my own - buy a house on my own, pay my bills on my own and raise my child on my own." Kristin went on to admit that she never thought about finding another single mom to live with. "We just fell into it." But now they wonder why more people have not considered joining forces like this.
Indeed, the whole idea of a "mommune" is catching on quickly, thanks in no small part to Batykefer. When she posted on Tik Tok about the benefits of a mommune she garnered not only 1.2 million views but also requests to learn more about the arrangement, as well as offers of food, freshly baked cookies and other forms of direct and indirect support. In one of her recent posts, Kristin extolled its obvious benefits for children who now have built in playmates and an emotional support system.
As for the moms' side benefits, Batykefer explained that now she and her new roommate also get to experience concerts, movie nights, home salon days and weekends together when the children are with their ex-spouses. In the final analysis it seems to work well for these moms and children. Food for thought?
*Ronald Bavero, Esq. is a nationally recognized Divorce Attorney with almost 40 years of experience in the field of Divorce and Family Law. He also is an esteemed author, whose most recently published book is entitled, "An Elephant Doesn't Marry A Giraffe - Everything I Learned As A Divorce Attorney. This book is available on Amazon Books, Barnes & Noble and Draft2Digital, and has garnered effusive, five-star reviews from fellow divorce attorneys, judges, mediators, divorce coaches, mental health professionals, former clients and a host of readers who are about to, are, or have been involved in the process of separation and divorce. Mr. Bavero also maintains a website, www.divorcedeverafter.com where he continues to post informative and interesting articles such as this one.