Building a ‘mom commune’ (buy a home and live together) in Vermont and letting their husbands visit regularly has been a running joke between mom friends Holly Harper and Herrin Hopper.
But when they both got divorced and were struck with the high costs of living in Washington, D.C.—plus the COVID-19 pandemic—the idea didn’t seem too farfetched.
“Holly and I said, ‘Why not do this?'” Harper recalled.
Within a weekend, they found a four-unit home, which they named the “Siren House,” after the mythical creatures that live within the depths of the sea.
The two single mothers found two other single women, Jen and Leandra, and they all bought the house and moved in together, sharing everything and raising their kids collectively. It’s neither a commune nor an extended family living, but the arrangement has benefited every one of them.
“There is almost a spiritual safety net every day here. I could be my worst self, I could be my best self, and they see me for who I am, and it’s OK,” Hopper said.
Harper has never been one to deviate from tradition, but the opportunity to move in with her friend came at a critical time in her life. Her marriage had just ended, she’d recently turned 40, and her father had died.
“Just like my life was burned to the ground,” she recalled. “I could turn to Herrin and say, ‘I literally have nothing left. Let’s just do this.'”
Since they started communal living, Harper realized something really freeing: “You can do whatever you want. Burn the rulebook of life and just look at it differently.”
The co-housing arrangement has allowed the families to save money every month and even live beyond their means. The women share everything from food, cars, babysitting duties to dog-walking and hugs. According to Harper, co-living saves her $30,000 a year.
The Siren House is even bigger and cheaper than Harper’s old place. Post-divorce, she rented a 750 square feet one-bedroom apartment for 18 months. At the time, her rent, parking, and utilities totaled $2,550 a month.
Although they have plenty of fun, having several people in a home can get messy sometimes.
“We don’t know whose socks are whose … socks everywhere,” Hopper said. “iPads, dishes, cups. There’s a lot of exchanging that occurs. Usually not planned.”
The children, ages 9 through 14, have become friends and developed a cousin-like relationship with one other. They love living in a Siren House because it’s a kid’s paradise—it has a parkour slackline, a garden, a gym, a 15-foot trampoline, a big-screen TV, a craft studio, and an inflatable pool in the summer.
And as for the single moms, co-living has given them another level of freedom. If someone needs to leave the house, they can do so without worrying because they know other adults in the home can look after their children.
To keep everything in order, the moms hold regular “homeowners meetings” to discuss issues, including yard expenses, roof repair, and the like. And to add fun to the affair, they often do it over a bottle of champagne.
Many single moms who want to try a similar co-housing arrangement have sent them questions, and the four women only hope to expand the concept to others like them.
“Siren is a form of sort of feminist power, right?” Hopper said. “We’re building a community, we sort of have the siren song so we bring people together.”
Their home isn’t perfect, but it gives these four families the greatest chance to experience the real joys in life.
“The goal of life is not to reach some plane of happiness but to create an environment where we are safe to pursue happiness in every moment,” Harper wrote for Insider.
Click on the video below to learn more about the Siren House and its residents.
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