Soon after Ashley Simpo moved to New York City from California a dozen years ago, she formed a sister-like bond with Tia, a bubbly, friendly New Yorker who showed her the ropes of city living. The friendship followed them through plenty of ups and downs, including in 2018 when Simpo broke up with her live-in partner and Tia was in the beginning stages of a divorce. By then, they were no longer just close friends having fun just exploring the city, but also single mothers worried about housing and finances.
Simpo, whose son was 5 at the time, was losing her home in her high-priced Brooklyn neighborhood. Tia, whose boys were 3 and 13, remained in her apartment, but no longer had two incomes to cover rent. As they talked, wondering how they'd find affordable housing without moving their children away from their neighborhood and schools, the solution became obvious—Simpo would move into Tia's apartment. They'd become mom-mates. "It made sense," says Simpo.
A Built-In Safety Net
Within a month, the boys were sharing the master in Tia's three-bedroom apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and Simpo and Tia each had their own room. Rents for one or two-bedroom apartments in the area hover around $2,100 a month, which was out of reach for Simpo, who earned about $65,000 at the time. Together at Tia's, each spent about $1,200 a month on rent, utilities, and incidentals.
They split every household cost, ordered supplies from Amazon in bulk to save money, and carefully tracked expenses. "We were using Google Drive as if we were a small business," says Simpo.
Child care was shared, too. Single moms often have little safety net, but the friends could cover for each other when work went late for one or the other had an appointment. And, at the end of the day, they had an adult to hang out with. They'd often pop in a movie for the kids and sit outside with a beer to talk about their day. "That was the best part of it," says Simpo.
- RELATED: 6 Tips for Living on One Income
3 Tips Learned Along the Way
For Simpo, a writer, content strategist, and author of A Kids Book About Divorce, the arrangement allowed her to stay in New York near her son's father. She built a small savings fund and paid off some debt. And after writing a viral account of her mom-mate experience with Tia, she found a new focus for her own creative work: writing and talking about motherhood. With another friend, she later launched Livingwomb, a monthly gathering where moms can unload their burdens.
But the mom-mate arrangement wasn't without its drawbacks for Simpo. Moving in with your friend isn't something to do lightly, she says. "Take it very seriously."
Consider all the logistics.
Some details seem obvious when moving in together—like how to split rent and utilities and who eats what in the refrigerator. But it gets more complicated when children are in the mix.
Simpo says they had ironed out a lot of items upfront, but child-rearing and discipline weren't among them, and they each had different parenting styles.
"One of us maybe is more lenient, the other one's a little more strict," says Simpo. "If there was a disagreement with the kids, we would kind of have to huddle and figure out what makes sense and how are we going to handle this and who's going to address it."
"Figuring it out in real-time was not the best way to do it," she adds. "It was a challenge."
Build a community beyond your roommate.
You may be living with another adult, but that doesn't mean you won't need a community around you, too. Friends and family, says Simpo, were supportive of their living situation, donating items or offering to help paint a wall, and that was critical. "My philosophy, in general, when it comes to motherhood is to reach out to a community and ask for help," says Simpo. "And not just saying, 'I've got a co-mother, so I don't need any extra help.' Don't spread yourself too thin."
Prepare for relationship changes.
Just like in a romantic relationship, living with your BFF will expose habits and quirks that you each may never have known about despite a years-long friendship. Communication is key. "Make sure that you are both in a position where you can talk about things openly," says Simpo. "The relationship is going to change when you're living under the same roof, especially when there are kids involved."
In Simpo's case, after seven months, she and Tia mutually agreed to move apart. "The friendship suffered, and we had to take a step from each other," says Simpo. Luckily, the savings that Simpo accumulated while living with Tia helped her afford to live on her own. And despite the strained relationship, Simpo is thankful for the experience. "My best advice," says Simpo to others considering a mom-mate situation, "is to be as conscious and intentional as you possibly can."