Picture a family. There’s a mom, a dad, and two kids – a boy and a girl. They live in a house with a white picket fence that is bordered by daffodils poking their green tips out of the earth. Coming in and out of the house freely is a black lab with a smile in his wag and excitement in his breath. The house is a Victorian with a wide front porch, hardwood floors, and crown molding. Step inside and you will see a room for each of them. The first room on the left is the 4 year old girl’s room, and it sits directly across from her dad’s office. A little farther in is the master bedroom, a large King size bed in the middle of the room and a closet for each spouse on both sides of the room. Walk through the bathroom and you reach the last bedroom with the 1 year old drooling boy grinning out at you from his crib. Everything is in its own place, every person has their own space, and all is harmonious in this family of four.
Now picture the same family two years later. A lifetime of hurts has torn them apart and there is no choice but to divorce. The mother and two children leave the house they had made a home, give away the dog, and let the daffodils die where they grow. The father disappears into his own tragedy – the result of poor choices and resulting circumstances. There is no money. The mother is forced to go on any kind of aid there is just to be able to feed herself and the kids. She moves in with her parents for several years to get back on her feet. They sleep all in one bedroom, but are greatful for the roof over their heads. The kids are 3 and 6. The toddler sleeps with his mother, while the 6 year old sleeps in a bed on the other side of the room.
After some time, the mother is able to find a job that pays well, but not well enough to be able to afford an apartment at today’s rental prices. Luckily she qualifies for low-income housing. She applies for an apartment after searching everywhere for the right fit, and is accepted. The draw?
The apartment has only 2 bedrooms.
At this point the kids are 5 and 8. And the mother knows that her choices are slim. “When they are a little bit older I will surely be able to afford a bigger place so that they can have their own space.” She knows that right now there really isn’t as much of an issue of privacy. They are still young enough that it really doesn’t matter, and truthfully, they are all more thrilled at having their own space than to nitpick over the particulars. She takes the small apartment gladly, proud of the fact that she is able to afford to take care of her kids on her own and that they will now have a new apartment to make into a home. The kids are placed happily in their new room, ecstatic over the new bunkbed they will now sleep in.
3 years later, and the family still lives in this apartment. The mother has since gotten more pay and hours with her job. But all it has allowed her to do is to get off of public assistance. While the mother is happy to not have to accept money from the county to be able to live, she is no better financially. She lives very simply and frugally, and there is still no extra money. Her ex still contributes the same amount as he did before – zilch. Her kids are older now: her daughter is 11 and her son is 8. And they still share the same room, and sleep in the same bunkbed. The room is a disaster – clothes and toys litter the floors since there really is no room in one tiny bedroom for a proper place to put their things. The walls near the top bunk hold posters of the latest movie stars and pop singers. This is where her daughter sleeps. The bottom bunk is decorated with contraptions and Hot Wheels hanging from yo-yos by strings off the top bunk. This is where her son sleeps. The clothes on the floor are mainly the boy’s, as the girl is very careful to put all of her clothes away in her drawers. The top of the dresser is taken up by all the novels her daughter is in the middle of reading. In the morning when they wake, the daughter grabs her clothes from the dresser and quickly dresses on the top of the bunkbed before her brother gets up. If he wakes up, she instructs him to stay where he is so that she can finish dressing. Or she will wait till he gets up to go to the bathroom, and then locks the door behind him. He has no choice but to wait outside the room till she is done so that he can get dressed as well.
The mother tries to apply for a three bedroom in the same complex. When it comes to low-income housing, the choices are slim. Many low-income areas have very poor living conditions and a lot of crime. Her biggest concern is that her kids grow up positively. Despite their thin pockets the mother insists that they will live in a place where they can feel safe. This home, while small, has a high level of comfort and serenity. The neighbors are kind and friendly. The evenings are quiet. The kids have friends that come by every day to see if they can play, and all the parents have formed an alliance with each other to look out for each other’s children. It is a bonded community, and the mother knows that if she were to leave to find a bigger home she could afford, it would not be like this. She knows because she has looked. She knows because she has read the news stories from the same areas that hold the lower income houses. So the mother is forced to be at her manager’s mercy when it comes to getting a bigger apartment.
Unfortunately, the mother is not the only one in her predicament. There are many families – some with single parents, some with both parents in the home – that have small children and require a bigger home. The mother puts herself on the waiting list for a three bedroom, even as she wonders how she will some up with the extra $300 a month it will cost her. And she waits. And she waits. But the thing is, with the economy the way it is, no family is willing to let go of their apartment, and no family is able to exceed the guidelines for living in such a place. So the mother is forced to endure living in a small apartment where her tween daughter and adolescent son are forced to share a room.
Meanwhile, the daughter and son have grown to hate each other more than anything. They bicker constantly, mostly over the small amount of space made even smaller by the son’s messy habits. The daughter bosses the son around. The son purposely aggravates the daughter. The privacy issue is visited time and again as each complains about having to be locked out of their own room. And it gets tiresome for each to take turns using the room or to have to go in their mom’s room to dress. Their tight quarters cause them to feed off each other, and then cry out to their mom to referee. And the mother finds herself at her wits’ end, unknowing how to resolve this issue once and for all in a situation that seems hopeless, and knowing more than anything else that as the kids get older the need for their own space is getting more vital.
The issue on brothers and sisters sharing a room is never black and white. Sure, it’s ideal if they have their own rooms. But what if the choices are slim and it just isn’t possible? What then? Leave your thoughts in the comments, or join the discussion in the forums at SantaRosaMom.com.
What can one do? Pray have a clear mental picture of exactly what you want. Trust that the resources to make it a reality fall into place. To be in the same complex would be an ideal solution provided it was affordable. Other options will naturally present themselves -maybe a home that was recently inherited by an out of area family who don’t want to sell yet bit want $1100 in rental income – one closer to the kids’ school? Who knows what will be provided when you have a clear idea, pray and let it go.
A few ideas come to mind:
1) Discipline the kids. First off, make them clean their room. Messy rooms make for even less space, and when space is cramped, mess makes movement even harder. Set rules, and make them stick to them. Sounds from the description above that Mom’s letting the kids dictate the rules and letting them get away with it.
2) Have mom and the daughter share a room; give the son his own room. Sure, the daughter may not like it (and no, it’s not ideal) but at least they’re not in close quarters together and mom will have less refereeing to do. If Mom and the daughter can bond over shared space (see #4 below, too), even better.
3) Put one on the couch to sleep. Worse case have Mom sleep on the couch and give up her room. Make sure the kids know the cost, and make the kids give up something (especially the attitude) to gain the ability to have their own rooms. (Chores, helping mom, keeping house clean, etc.). It’s tough on everyone, especially Mom who’s keeping a roof over their heads, and everyone should be contributing to the family.
4) Use divider screens (or hanging sheets, or duct tape) to divide the room so each has their own space.
5) Use your imagination.
I have no long ramble to contribute (yay!) but simply want to say, wow…that is super harsh, and my fingers are crossed for the family finding a roomier space.
Well, I’m kind of in the same boat, although my predicament involves a new birth (a girl) and the absolute fact that two boys cannot share a room with a crying infant in the throes of teething and central nervous system development. We managed, my wife and I, to find a three-bedroom, but not without a lot of looking, even some discrimination on the part of some owners against folks with children! I know, shocking, but true. Even still, the place we found is NOT cheap. We’ll be barely scraping by as it is (like we don’t already) But I do wonder about a couple of things; number one, your ex. I’m assuming you have a 50/50 custody split otherwise the court would require whichever parent has greater custody to pay support. There are agencies like the Child Support Enforcment Division, who can assist you if your ex isn’t fullfilling his requirements. No recommendations on that either way, I’m sure you know the score there. As you know, I myself am tethered to an uneven custody split, one that I’ll have to go to court to change one day, I’m sure, and am forever behind the eight-ball, money-wise because of it. That being said, I don’t see fit to short my children’s needs, I just think it should be fair, that’s all. Number two; you speak of your boyfriend in your bio. Maybe this isn’t a leap you want to take yet, and I certainly understand that. But I know I wouldn’t have been able to stay afloat financially, provide the kind of stable home enviroment I want for my boys, and do much more than barely survive without her contribution. As a stepmom she is a CHAMPION when it comes to claiming my kids, and consequently, my hardships as her own. I would be lost without her, bottom line. Perhaps it’s time the two of you “joined forces.” Just an idea. Good luck, take care, and I do hope everything works out for all of you 🙂