Mom friends Holly Harper and Herrin Hopper used to joke about creating a mom commune in Vermont and letting their spouses visit periodically.
Then they both got divorced. And the logistics of being a single parent, plus the costs of living in the Washington, D.C. area, hit them along with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Holly and I said, 'Why not do this?'" Hopper recalled in an interview with TODAY's Sheinelle Jones. "Within a weekend we found this house."
The two single moms found another two women, and they all moved in to the four-unit house, sharing the ups and downs of life while also raising their children together. It's not a commune, and it's not traditional extended family living, but the women say it's something pretty special.
"There is almost a spiritual safety net every day here," Hopper said. "I could be my worst self, I could be my best self, and they see me for who I am, and it's OK."
Harper said she always felt like she had to follow traditional rules in life. The opportunity to move in with her friend came at a time when she'd just gotten divorced, she'd recently turned 40 and her dad had died.
"Just like my life was burned to the ground," she recalled feeling. "I could turn to Herrin and say, 'I literally have nothing left. Let’s just do this.'"
Since moving in with her friend, she said she's realized: "You can do whatever you want. Burn the rulebook of life and just look at it differently."
Of course, things sometimes get messy.
“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 kids, ages 9 through 14, have built-in friends: They have a cousin-like relationship with each other, Harper said.
“There’s always someone to play a game with,” for the kids, Harper said. “It’s just the most fun.”
And for single moms, the co-housing arrangement offers an usual level of freedom. If someone wants to go for a run, they can do so knowing there are other adults around for their children.
On a practical level, they have regular “homeowners meetings” where they discuss issues like roof repair and yard work expenses, often over a bottle of champagne.
They call their house the "Siren House," named after the mythical creatures who would lure sailors to their deaths with beautiful songs. Same vibe, just without the whole "luring people to their death" thing.
They field questions all the time from single moms who want a similar co-housing arrangement. They hope to expand the concept to other moms.
"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."
Read about more New American Families redefining the way we live and raise children at today.com/parents.