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This Mom Is Using Craigslist to Change Her Daughter's Life

Photograph by TaQuilla Caradine

It was late at night when my e-mail pinged with a Google alert. I have several set up as my attempt to remain on top of stories that might be relevant to me and my life.

This one in particular was for the search term "single mom."

Typically what this alert produces is stories on statistics about single moms (always more depressing than the reality I myself live as a single mom by choice) and uplifting tales of single moms who are making it work (the stories I prefer to read).

This alert was a little different, though. It was a link to Craigslist ad, the contents of which had me catching my breath in excitement as I read:

Single Mom of One Seeking Single Mom of One (Share a House with Me)

I am a single mom of one little girl just about 9 years old. I'm in search of another single mom of one, preferably a little girl close to the same age to create a support system for one another. If the title grabbed your interest then I'm sure you may be aware as to how challenging it is to be a single mom with little to no support. My goal for this post I must admit is a very unique idea, here in Chicago, the school system is failing our children, the neighborhoods that are kid friendly are difficult to navigate, childcare is astronomically expensive and the daily stress of being a single mom is sometimes overwhelming.

So here's a proposal to the right fit (if this is at all possible)...

As singles without children it's fairly easy to find roommates that are like minded and likely in the same position in life. As single moms, we hardly if ever explore the possibility of "roommates." However if the right fit were able to be paired this could be an amazing opportunity for all parties involved and very beneficial to elevate ourselves to the next level. I'd like to share a great apartment or house (that I otherwise could not afford or just wouldn't be ideal for a single income) in a great area with an amazing school district.

The benefits of this arrangement are endless...
-Able to live in a spacious place
-Splitting the cost of living 50/50 (huge financial benefit)
-The support of having another person available for emergencies
-Two little girls having one another
-Ability to really save and not live pay check to pay check
-Emotional support
-Sharing in the busy day to day tasks (household chores, errands, groceries, etc.)
-Possible outings and vacations that are otherwise challenging

I want her to have everything she would have if she were living in a two-parent home.

The ad itself was written by a mom in Chicago—thousands of miles away from where I live. But the concept was brilliant to me. I've long talked about how, as a single mom, I often wish I could purchase a plot of land and parent alongside some of my best friends. While I manage the daily duties of parenting pretty well, there is absolutely something to be said for having another adult there—someone to lean on and talk to and someone to share some of the responsibilities with. I've always believed that if I couldn't find a romantic partner to do that with, co-parenting with a close friend would certainly be a close second.

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As such, I knew I had to reach out to this mom, if for no other reason than to talk to her about what she was searching for and what she was hoping to achieve. I'd never seen anything like this before, and I was curious what had prompted it.

I got so much more than I had hoped for when TaQuilla Caradine, author of the original post, made time to chat with me on the phone.

Caradine has been working as a cosmetologist for nearly 10 years now, but she is also currently in school pursuing a Human Resources degree. Her daughter turns 9 this month, and while her ex is in the picture (taking their daughter every other weekend), the bulk of the parenting responsibilities fall on Caradine's shoulders.

"There is no cohesive co-parenting," she explained to me. "No conscious uncoupling." She is the one who takes her daughter to gymnastics, swim and school. She's the one who does the afterschool homework and enforces the rules. She makes all the major parenting decisions.

Meanwhile her ex serves more as a babysitter during his few days a month with their daughter.

I can certainly relate to what it means to parent entirely on ones own. And I admire Caradine's desire to continue improving not only her life, but also her daughter's.

"I work really hard to give her a life where she doesn't feel like she's missing anything," she told me. "I want her to have everything she would have if she were living in a two-parent home, which is part of what led me to this idea."

In Chicago, Caradine explained, there are a ton of different neighborhoods that all provide a different culture and atmosphere. Within those neighborhoods, there are charter schools, selective enrollment schools, magnet schools, lottery schools and public schools. Unfortunately, the education a child gets at any one of these can be drastically different from what their peers are getting at a similar school just a few miles away. Living in the right neighborhood can be crucial to a child's academic success.

Caradine does pretty well financially, she told me, but what she could have been living quite comfortably on as a childless woman is obviously spread more thin as a single mom. So Caradine makes sacrifices so her daughter doesn't have to, including camping outside a highly sought after summer camp enrollment center one night so that she could be first in line to get her daughter a spot.

What I saw my entire life was women helping women—aunties, grandmas, mothers, all coming together to support each other.

Caradine is a good mom. A loving mom. A committed mom.

But she's also a mom who is perhaps spread too thin. A mom who has started to fantasize about the benefits of teaming up with another single mom in order to truly provide for her daughter all the advantages of a two-parent home, and in order to have the emotional support for herself that could go hand-in-hand with having another adult in the home.

"I grew up in a pretty matriarchal family," she explained to me. "What I saw my entire life was women helping women—aunties, grandmas, mothers, all coming together to support each other. It made me realize that women really can accomplish great things when they work together."

Caradine is fresh off a relationship that she described as extremely loving and supportive. Unfortunately, her boyfriend had to move because of a job opportunity, and she couldn't follow, because doing so would have meant taking her daughter away from the two weekends a month she gets with her dad.

She knows what it means to sacrifice for her daughter's best interest.

Still, since that breakup, Caradine has been passionate about focusing on some of her dreams and pursuing them without the distraction of a romantic love. "Sometimes, as women," she explained, "We lose sight of our own goals when there are men in the picture. I want my daughter to have the stability of two adults in the home, but I don't want to lose track of my own goals in the pursuit of that. I want her to see me striving for and achieving my dreams. With the right match, I really think that becomes more attainable."

In addition to the pursuit of her HR degree, Caradine is also hoping to develop a website she's been conceptualizing for years, a space that would be all about fostering the types of relationships she has become such a proponent for: Women and mothers helping each other, either through advice about certain neighborhoods, schools and job opportunities, or through facilitating exactly the type of living arrangement Caradine is now seeking for herself and her daughter.

"It's really two-fold," she told me. "By home-sharing like this, we all benefit by being able to stay in a nicer home in a nicer neighborhood with better schools than what most single moms could afford on their own. But there is also the benefit for my daughter of being able to experience an almost sibling-type relationship, of having another child in the home she is growing up alongside. And for me, there would be the benefit of having another adult to talk to. It's the kind of situation where if one of you had a really bad day at work, the other could say, 'Go take a bath. I'm going to take the girls to get some ice cream.' It's just … having someone there to share some of that responsibility with—to team up together to make it easier for you both."

I'm sure most single moms can admit, the thought of that sounds pretty nice.

So far, Caradine has received a few promising responses. One in particular she was quite excited about. "She and her daughter are from a different cultural background than us, too," she told me. "One of the benefits of this 'modern family' venture could be the possible cultural exchange, which I think would be a huge benefit for our children to grow up learning to accept others and build upon a true understanding of and appreciation for our differences."

This is a way not only for us to give our kids the best, but also for us to give ourselves the best.

Of course, I asked Caradine how she planned to handle the potential conflicts such an arrangement could bring. Roommate disasters are, after all, one thing to deal with while single and childless—it's an entirely different ballgame if your roommate is living a lifestyle you're uncomfortable with while your child is under the same roof.

How do you handle a roommate who is bringing men home on the regular? Or who drinks a bit too much? Or who has a temper you don't feel comfortable having your child around?

"Let me be clear," Caradine told me in response. "I'm not looking to make this arrangement happen tomorrow. I want us to have compatibility meetings, where they spend time at our house to see how we live, and we do the same. I want us to make sure our kids get along, and for us to talk about all those potential roommate issues far in advance. I almost want us to have a pre-nuptial agreement for our living arrangement, if that makes sense, where we agree on several terms before we ever move in together, and where we maintain a fund of money that is set aside specifically for the expenses of moving again, should it turn out that this arrangement doesn't work in the end."

"But I think if you're smart about it," she went on. "This type of living arrangement could actually be much more stable than moving your child in with a romantic partner. Women are strong, and they are loyal. And at the end of the day, most just want to do what is best for their kids. I truly believe that if we find the right match, this could be a mutually beneficial relationship for a long time to come. This is a way not only for us to give our kids the best, but also for us to give ourselves the best—the extra time and support necessary to achieve our own goals sooner. I really believe there are a ton of benefits if you can find the right match. Don't think of it as roommates, think of it as two moms helping each other and living life."

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When Caradine talks about this idea, I can hear the passion in her voice. She waxes poetic about the potential for making this a movement—for convincing women that there really is so much to be gained by relying on each other.

The statistics for single moms and their kids aren't great. They are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to face trouble with the law, and their children are less likely to be successful in school.

Could co-habitating have the potential to improve those odds?

Caradine believes so. And for her, it starts with finding the perfect match to home-share with. But ultimately, she hopes it might just evolve into an entirely new way of being a single mother.

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