‘Burn the rulebook of life’

Building a ‘mom commune’  (buy a home and live together) in Vermont and letting their husbands visit regularly has been a running joke between mom friends Holly Harper and Herrin Hopper. 

But when they both got divorced and were struck with the high costs of living in Washington, D.C.—plus the COVID-19 pandemic—the idea didn’t seem too farfetched.

“Holly and I said, ‘Why not do this?’” Harper recalled.

Herrin Hopper, Holly Harper, Jen, and Leandra

Within a weekend, they found a four-unit home, which they named the “Siren House,” after the mythical creatures that live within the depths of the sea.

Jen and Leandra were single mothers who found Jen and Leandra. Together they bought the house and shared everything, raising their children together. It’s neither a commune nor an extended family living, but the arrangement has benefited every one of them.

The day Herrin Hopper and Holly Harper bought the Siren House

“There is almost a spiritual safety net every day here. I could be my worst self, I could be my best self, and they see me for who I am, and it’s OK,” Hopper said.

Harper has never been one who breaks from tradition. But Harper was fortunate to be able to move in to her friend’s home at a crucial moment in her life. Her marriage had just ended, she’d recently turned 40, and her father had died.

“Just like my life was burned to the ground,” she recalled. “I could turn to Herrin and say, ‘I literally have nothing left. Let’s just do this.’”

Since they started communal living, Harper realized something really freeing: “You can do whatever you want. Burn the rulebook of life and just look at it differently.”

The Siren House residents

The co-housing arrangement has allowed families to save money each month, and even go above their means. The women share everything: food, cars and babysitting. They also share hugs and dog-walking. Harper estimates that co-living helps her save $30,000 per year.

The Siren House is even bigger and cheaper than Harper’s old place. She rented a 750-square-foot apartment with a bedroom for 18 months after her divorce. Her rent, parking and utilities totaled $2550 per month at that time.

They can be a lot of fun, but it can sometimes get messy when there are several people living in the same home.

“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 Siren House residents

The children, aged 9-14, have become close friends and have a cousin-like relationship. They love living in a Siren House because it’s a kid’s paradise—it has a parkour slackline, a garden, a gym, a 15-foot trampoline, a big-screen TV, a craft studio, and an inflatable pool in the summer.

Co-living offers single moms another level of freedom. Because they know that other adults can care for their children, it is possible to leave the house if someone feels the need.

To keep everything in order, the moms hold regular “homeowners meetings” to discuss issues, including yard expenses, roof repair, and the like. The moms often enjoy a glass of champagne to make the event more fun.

The Siren House at night

Many single mothers are interested in trying a similar co-housing arrangement. The four women have received questions from them.

“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.”

Their home isn’t perfect, but it gives these four families the greatest chance to experience the real joys in life.

“The goal of life is not to reach some plane of happiness but to create an environment where we are safe to pursue happiness in every moment,” Harper wrote for Insider.

Click the video below for more information about the Siren House, its residents, and other videos. 

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