Shelley Hunt is a 38-year-old mother of two from Penticton, BC, Canada, who shares a home with her partner, Peter Verge, and his three children — but there's a bit of a twist: They live separately together. Shelley and her kids live in one suite, while Peter and his kids live in the other. Shelley shared her family's living arrangement on TikTok, where it quickly went viral, gaining nearly 5 million views. In the video, Shelley explains that they own a home with two suites, allowing them to live "blended-unblended."
We also catch a glimpse of their respective suites and the different decor/personalities they chose for each!
BuzzFeed reached out to Shelley, who explained that she and Peter came into this arrangement while they were newly dating and both in the market to buy a home. "I had been through a house fire and a divorce and many subsequent moves/transitions, and I was hoping to settle with my kids long-term. We were very new in our relationship, so living together with five kids didn't seem wise, for us or them."
"When I found this place, I couldn’t believe how ideal it was for two families. We could be close by but have our own family units. We looked at the house once and put in an offer. It resulted in us both spending less money on a home than if we’d bought separately."
Each suite has its own kitchen and living room. Shelley's has two bedrooms and one bathroom, while Peter's has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The only shared space is a hallway and laundry room, and each suite has its own separate entrance. Shelley told BuzzFeed that she and Peter are completely separate when spending time with their kids, unless they do a planned activity together like a game night or blended dinners twice a week.
And as for how they split duties and costs, Shelley said, "That's the best part of this type of setup: We know exactly what we’re responsible for, and we handle our own shit. We are responsible for our children and suites. I make sure my kids are ready, fed breakfast, off to school, to their extracurricular activities, to all appointments, fed dinner, and ensure they have everything they need in life. Peter is the same. We clean our own spaces. We arrange childcare for our own children. Sometimes we ask each other for help, but it’s always exactly that: an ask."
"Our finances are separate. Peter’s suite is bigger than mine, so that’s how we’ve determined the percentage of the bills we each pay. I pay 42% of the mortgage and utilities and taxes. He pays 58%. It’s what we agreed was fair."
People flooded the comments in support of Shelley and Peter's arrangement, and some even chimed in with their own unique living situations that work for them:
Shelley told BuzzFeed that she 100% believes that living blended-unblended has strengthened her and Peter's relationship, as well as each of their relationships with their kids. "[Peter and I] started with a strong relationship, and this has definitely maintained the respect, love, consideration, and romance. Our communication is amazing, because again, there's not a lot of room for unsaid expectation and disappointment!"
"I am amazed at the bond I have with [Peter's kids] and how the kids have all embraced us. They use 'step-sibling' and 'step-parent' language, and call us a family. This was something they initiated and never something we pushed on them. I love their ability to embrace something that is untraditional and thrive in it. They don’t know how things are 'supposed' to be, but they do recognize happiness and health and love when they feel it."
Shelley believes that the overwhelmingly positive response to her TikToks shows that people are becoming more open to unconventional family structures, and that's a good thing. "Can you imagine, for a moment, what message Mother’s Day celebrations in school send to a child in foster care? For a child who lost their mother to cancer? For a child who was raised by their grandparents? Can we stop sending the message to children that they aren't whole because their family doesn't look a certain way?"
She continued, "Our ideas of family have been so exclusive. Who are we if our families are untraditional? Less? Hell no. Everyone deserves a seat at the table. I absolutely love Mother’s Day, but let’s widen that door! Every kind of family counts and is worth celebrating."