The week after Billy and I told the children we were divorcing, we both moved out. Or neither of us did, depending on your perspective.
For the first several months of our separation, Billy and I cared for our sweeties in a custody arrangement called bird-nesting. From the start, we both committed to putting the children first and coparenting equally, and bird-nesting, an option recommended by our therapist, helped us achieve that goal. When bird-nesting, the children remain in the home and the parents rotate in and out, rather than the more traditional shared custody arrangement where each adult sets up a household and the children rotate between homes.
Billy and I bird-nested as a temporary solution: for six months, rotating every two days.When it was my time with the kids, Billy moved out and stayed with a friend in our neighborhood and when it was Billy’s turn to move in, I camped at my sister’s place. We told the children clearly that this was the first step in our new family arrangement, and in the future we would each have a home with them.
Bird-nesting is not ideal for adults. You continue to share a physical space with someone from whom you are separating. The management of that household: bills, groceries, yard work still falls to you as a team at a time when communication on any topic is difficult. Each of you is no longer motivated by making your partner happy, and on the darkest days, looks for ways to stick it to the other person. Translation? The dishes pile in the sink and no one ever takes out the trash.
It’s hard to move forward when bird-nesting. How do you start over when the trappings of your old life surround you? Pictures of our wedding still hung on the walls, old love notes surfaced aggressively in my drawers and half-finished projects, started hopefully in a time long past, still littered my garage. Our life as I’d imagined it surrounded me, even as it fell apart.
After making the decision to separate, Billy and I were eager to start new lives, and bird-nesting made that difficult. The end of my marriage was made more painful by the fact that I was still sleeping in a bed my ex had occupied the night before. His toothbrush was still at the sink, his clothes hanging in the closet. I couldn’t escape him.
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