So what is birdnesting? Birdnesting is like nesting. Parents take turns going back to the nest to care for their little ones. Separated parents rotate in and out of the family homes so the children do not have to bounce back and forth from one parent to the other. Exes may stay in a spare bedroom, built in apartment, or some other way that the house is converted for nesting.
Many millennials believe this is the best way to raise stable children. Others disagree. Malin Bergström, a scientist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and a child psychologists disagrees that birdnesting parents are doing the right thing for their children. “This is a type of protecting children and sheltering them from reality, basically. I think that is a threat to mental health.” Instead she thinks that moving the children about makes them resilient and gives them the “tools they need”.
A health equity study Malin Bergström was involved in shows little difference in the mental health of children who lived in a traditional nuclear family with two parents and children that live with typical joint custody arrangements. Nonetheless. Divorce can be unsettling for children as well as for the rest of the family and many parents are choosing to birdnest as a way to keep family stability.
Lawyers say that birdnesting is on the rise in family courts. A study by Coop Legal Services out of the United Kingdom says that 11% of divorced or separated parents have tried it. In Sweden, divorced parents have rotated homes since the 1970s. Recently westerners are picking up on the idea and it is showing through pop culture. Mad Men’s Anne Dudek and Matthew Heller went public about nesting after their divorce in 2016. Splitting Up Together is a television show about birdnesting on-again off-again parents. Off duty parents get the garage which seems kind of “normal” to me.
A family law attorney from Britain Stephen Williams, says that birdnesting cuts court fees and is a cost-effective solution for parents that split up. Another British lawyer from Ashtons Legal believes that birdnesting is more about an increase awareness to children’s mental health. “People have become far more savvy about needing to think about their children’s development,” he says. “I think that is a really, really good progression, basically, because often those issues were pushed to the background, and it was the parents’ often problematic separations which came to the fore.”
Birdnesting parents believe that they are raising healthier children. Linnea Andersdotter who was birdnested as a child and is now 36 says that “It felt like a very dramatic thing when they first let me know that they were going to split up, and when I found out I didn’t have to move, that really helped me not freak out about the situation,” she says. “I was kind of kept in a safe little bubble whilst they were sorting out the break-up thing.”
But critics argue it can create a “halfway house” situation which doesn’t help children process the reality of their parents’ separation. Eline Linde, who lived in a nesting household says she found the experience “strange and confusing”. “I didn’t know if it was mum or dad’s house, or if they were working out if they were getting back together”.
Family-law solicitor Ben Evans believes it works for some couples because it can help “buy them a bit of time and ease the pressure on them. Both parties can mull over future steps, he argues, and avoid knee-jerk or costly decisions”. Buscho says a nesting period also provides “breathing space” that can facilitate reconciliation or help partners figure out what they want their long-term co-parenting plan to look like. t Bergström argues that nesting stalls the divorce. Åse Levin, a 50-year-old graphic designer agrees with Bergström’s argument and says that birdnesting made it difficult for her to move on with her life. “I know that both of us had real anxiety being in that apartment… you didn’t have your things, so it wasn’t a cosy place to go to,” she recalls. “You’re stuck in some kind of bubble or something, you cannot do anything. You cannot go forward.” I wonder though of maybe the apartment was too small to feel like a home to begin with and if a bigger home would have made a difference in her perceptions about birdnesting. Nesting can raise new challenges for parents though because they may have to change their routine. Bodil Schwinn says birdnesting is working well for her and her former partner, “You need to have a good relationship with your ex,” she states.
I like the idea of birdnesting parents and believe that this new trend will make stronger healthier families. Let me know what you think.