In lieu of wedding gifts/Single moms double up - 4/18/02

Smartmarriages ® cmfce at
Fri Apr 19 12:47:40 EDT 2002

subject: In lieu of wedding gifts/Single moms double up - 4/18/02

from: Smart Marriages

Hi Diane,
A couple who is getting married in our church is so grateful for the hours
of coaching they received from the Marriage and Family Education and Skills
Training Ministry (MFEST) at our church that in lieu of gifts they are
requesting wedding guest to make donations to the Marriage and Family
I was floored.
Edward Santana Grace

I know you'll all have lots to say about this one, but it is interesting and
a definite sign of the times.  Maybe more of the wedding preparation like
that above will prevent the need for these single mom match-ups. The best
roommate in the world does not a co-parent make....  - diane

April 18, 2002 

Single moms double up to establish new lives Joining households eases the
load -- and loneliness

By Patty Rhule Special for USA TODAY

Audrey Arkins was a single mother of two young girls moving to Southern
California to pursue her career as a screenwriter. She targeted a specific
neighborhood for its schools but felt priced out of the area.

''I thought the best way I could maintain the lifestyle I had for myself and
my children was to team up with someone in the same boat,'' says Arkins, 38,
whose income as a writer of independent films is erratic. She placed an ad
in trade papers but got no response. Then she tried, a Web site
that acts as matchmaker for single mothers seeking other moms as housemates.

After paying $29.95 for a six-month listing and completing an exhaustive
questionnaire -- questions range from ''What are your religious beliefs?''
and ''How much do you drink?'' to ''How does your child express anger?'' --
she posted her profile and waited. After a few months, she saw Natalie
Johnson's application and knew immediately she was the one.

''Everything about the woman . . . appealed to me: her age, her educational
background, her philosophy about parenting and lifestyle,'' Arkins says.
''I'm a writer, she's also a writer. She had just rented a big house in the
school district'' that Arkins wanted her kids to attend.

Last November, Arkins moved into the four-bedroom apartment Johnson rented
with her 12-year-old son, Davis. Although there have been adjustments to be
made -- mostly for the children -- both women seem happy to be sharing a

''As a single mom doing it all on my own, I felt desperate,'' Johnson says.
''There was never enough money. I didn't feel like I could buy my son an ice
cream. Now I feel like I have support. I don't feel I have to go find a
relationship quickly or build a family. When you take away the family and
double your expenses . . . it's so daunting, it definitely wears on the

Long after the Friends years, adults have sought non-romantic housemates to
help pay the bills, do the chores and provide companionship. Now, single
mothers are coming together to bridge the parenting, child care and chores
gap, improve their standard of living and connect with someone who is going
through a similar struggle.

Companionship has long been touted as a tonic to health and well-being. The
women who have combined their children and their lives after divorce say
they have found comfort in their common bond.

''For a long time, every night we'd sit outside on the deck and laugh about
how horrible our lives have been,'' says Heather Montgomery, 28, of
Deerfield Beach, Fla., who also met housemate Carrie Westergren, 34, through ''It really is a big stress reliever, and you can vent that,
talk about it and laugh about it.''

Carmel Sullivan was a recently divorced painter and mother moving from
Colorado to California in early 2001. She placed an ad for a single-mom
roommate and got 18 responses. She liked them all, so she tried to connect
the women who didn't become her roommate with the others. ''They were so
incredibly grateful,'' she says.

Sullivan figured there were more women in her situation who wanted to share
living space with another mother, and in April 2001, was born.
At the end of last year, it went nationwide, and matches have been made in
Detroit, Boston and Chicago as well as Southern California. About 1,500
women are members.

Sullivan figured finances were the key factor in prompting single parents to
pair up households, but ''the isolation and loneliness is a lot bigger
problem.'' She added Circle of Friends, a chat site and resource center on
Co-Abode that helps women converse about their lives.

Montgomery confesses she and Westergren didn't even fill out the
questionnaire. (''We were so shocked. When we met in the park, we showed up
wearing the same outfit, Keds tennis shoes. I'm an instinctual person
anyway.'') But others say the pointed questions helped to make the decision
about a roommate clear-cut.

''It took almost a day and required me to be very revealing about myself,''
Arkins says. ''My roommate was very honest in hers, and I was honest in
mine. I would recommend this questionnaire to people taking personal
relationships to the next level.''

Sullivan talked to other moms sharing homes when designing her

Hot-button topics she found were ''discipline, religion, politics -- the
things you're not supposed to talk about.'' Other key issues in the

* Eating and health styles. Meat-eaters vs. vegans, couch potatoes vs.
fitness fans.

* Discipline styles, child-care needs and bedtimes for children.

* TV and musical tastes as well as décor.

* Phone use. Most women chose to avoid conflict and get separate lines.

* Housekeeping. ''Do you leave your dishes in the sink all day?''

* Dating, overnight guests and bringing romantic partners home.

Memo to Friends expectant mother Rachel: Real single moms don't recommend
rooming with a singleton.

''I would never consider sharing with a single person, for their sake as
much as mine,'' Arkins says. ''You have to have different priorities if
you're parenting a child alone. I wouldn't expect a single person to put up
with my kids.''

Adds Jessaca Sanchez, 19, a nursing student and the mother of 2-year-old
C.J.: ''I love my girlfriends . . . but it's better to have another parent.
They understand if you've been up all night with an ear infection, and they
just walked in at 3.''

Sanchez was living with her mother in Novi, Mich., but wanted to be closer
to school and her son's babysitter. She had filled out Co-Abode's
questionnaire but abandoned the idea until one day when she was talking with
her dean at the University of Detroit Mercy and another dean, Sue Yowell,
approached to ask, ''Are you Jessaca Sanchez?''

Turned out that Yowell, a single mother of boys ages 7 and 8, had seen
Sanchez's application on Co-Abode and sent her an e-mail, which Sanchez
hadn't seen. Frequently on call for work, she often had to haul her boys out
of bed to return to the university. Three weeks after they met, Sanchez
moved into the home Yowell had rented just seven miles from campus.

About the only conflict Sanchez can name has been a difference over
housekeeping; she says she is ''anal'' about a clean house, and Yowell is
less so. Yowell's boys have accepted Sanchez's ''my way or the highway''
approach to discipline, and she encourages them to help her keep C.J. in
line. She tells them, ''This is your house; if you don't want him doing
something, you need to teach him. Not disciplining him is not helping him.
If he's in the Legos, you remove him from the Legos.''

Yowell loves it that her boys don't have to go to before- and after-care at
school every day, and she's saving about $300 a month. Her sons are adopted;
''I've only been a mom for 3 years, so we're both new moms. We talk as moms,
and it's neat for my kids to have someone else there.''

For Johnson and Arkins, the biggest adjustments have been for the children,
especially Johnson's son, Davis. When he first met Arkins' daughters, who
are 6 and 8, the children played hide-and-eek for hours. But at age 12, he
has gone from being an only child to living in a house with two young girls
and another parent.

''There has been quite a bit of difficulty,'' says Arkins, who adds that
they are through the toughest times. ''But I don't think that's unusual. I
don't think that difficulty wouldn't be there in any other (new family)

Davis ''was just missing us being alone,'' says Johnson.

Even for well-suited adults, co-housing is an adjustment. ''You concede your
privacy, and you concede your space,'' Arkins says. ''I would recommend this
for single mothers who feel isolated and overwhelmed, but they have to know
that they are taking on obligations they need to fulfill.''

Both women's exes have checked out the situation and ''feel a little more
secure knowing there's a second level-headed parent around to support their
child,'' Arkins says.

As to dating, ''We talked about boyfriends in very great detail,'' Arkins
says. ''Would that entail a boyfriend around the house? We made clear that
we wouldn't be agreeable to that. We stress the importance of keeping our
personal relationships outside the home.''

Arkins says she and Johnson both probably would like to own their own homes
one day, and if either woman finds another mate, the roommates are prepared.
They even credit their commitment with saving them from rushing into new

''If you get into another relationship so you can have support in all areas
. . . anytime you're doing something from desperation you stand a good
chance of getting in a bad situation,'' Johnson says.

Says Co-Abode founder Sullivan: ''I'm hoping these women go on and find
another husband. But there are women out there who feel they're through. I
would hope (a Co-Abode matchup) was just a step to getting your feet back on
the ground.''

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