What is platonic co-parenting? Is this an option for you?
When I first started 'Maybe Baby' coaching, 13 years ago, platonic co-parenting was not very well known outside the LGBTQ+ community. I had know lesbians and gay men who had wanted children and decided to get together to have and raise a child together. It seemed to me at the time that this would be a good arrangement for heterosexual people who wanted to have children with someone else but who didn' have a partners who wanted children.
This was an option that I would suggest to my clients who were single and felt they wanted children but really didn't want to be a single parent. It can be daunting to imagine being a single parent, to have all the responsiblilty - the financial and emotional responsibility for having a child. For many people, the possibility of having someone to share this with can make all the difference.
The benefits and pitfalls of co-parenting:
- Having emotional support with parenting.
- Having financial support.
- Some women feel that having the involvement of another parent will enrich their children’s lives.
- Finding a suitable co-parent can be tricky.
- Legal arrangements can be complicated
- If you are in a relationship with someone else other than the co-parent, negotiating parenting responsibilities can be difficult.
- Some women prefer to have no involvement with the donor in the bringing up of their child for a number of reasons including wanting the freedom and ability to make decisions about their lives and the lives of their child without discussion with another person.
Is co-parenting the right choice for you?
- You are looking for more than a sperm donor and want to have the involvement of the father in your child’s life.
- It’s crucial to you to have the emotional involvement of another parent in raising your child.
- You feel comfortable and happy with negotiating, compromising and making decisions with someone else in regards to most aspects of your child’s life.
The key thing to remember is that unlike donor insemination where the biological father of your child will have no say or involvement in your child’s life growing up (at 18 years of age children conceived by donor insemination can legally now contact the sperm donor), in co-parenting, the father of your child will be an equal parent and will be involved in your child’s life. By law, they are legally the parent of your child and will be entitled to seek access and visitation. If you are choosing co-parenting, you are choosing to be ‘tied’ to your co-parent through your child for a very long time!
Exercise: What qualities are you looking for in a co-parent?
Sit down with your journal, reflect on and answer these questions to help you identify
the qualities you are looking for in your co-parent.
1. Physical characteristics – Do you have specific physical qualities you are looking for? Does your co-parent/father of your child have to be of the same ethnicity as yourself?
2. Financial stability – How financially stable does your co-parent have to be? If you met someone who is unemployed for example, would the fact that you would have tobe the prime and only breadwinner be ok?
3. Values – What values are important to you in a co-parent? How are these different from the values that a lover or a friend might have?
4. Views on childrearing – What strongly held views do you have on raising children? For example – are you dead set against private schooling? What about discipline?
5. Psychological health/well being – We all have psychological flaws and weaknesses – it’s part of being human! But what is essential for you in a co-parent and what would you not tolerate in a potential co-parent?
6. Level of involvement – Co-parenting implies equal involvement in child-rearing. The reality is that co-parenting can range from the father living in a different city orcountry and visiting the child several times a year to the father living in the same neighbourhood and seeing the child on an equal basis as you. Get clear on what level of involvement you are expecting from your co-parent!
Remember – you will never, ever find a co-parent who meets ALL your requirements. This is why some people opt for the ease of using anonymous donor sperm – because when you deal with human beings and not just sperm donors, you realise that every potential father of your child will have some flaws! But you can use the answers from the above questions as a guide – and, importantly, use them to be clear about what you absolutely won’t tolerate, what would be ok and what youwould love in a co-parent.
Over the years, the idea of platonic co-parenting has gained more ground and this weekend, the Guardian newspaper ran a piece in the weekend section about platonic co-parenting called I wanted to meet a mate and have a baby without wasting time: The rise of platonic co-parenting.
I discovered that there is even someone who is researching platonic co-parenting and following these new type of families.
"Prof Susan Golombok, director of the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Family Research and author of We Are Family, a new book examining the wellbeing of children in structures beyond the nuclear unit, has researched new family forms since the 1980s. She has studied families created via IVF, sperm and egg donation, and surrogacy, as well as lesbian mother families, gay father families and single mothers by choice.
Golombok’s team turned their attention to elective co-parenting as an emerging trend in 2015. They are now following 50 families in what they believe to be the world’s first study considering the impact of the arrangement on childrem
She says: “It was a gradual realisation that this was a new phenomenon picking up speed. The main question for us is how does this relationship between parents, where there is no romantic relationship, develop, with each other and the child? Is the relationship breakdown rate higher or lower? Very early findings suggest that how well the parents communicate with each other and collaborate over childcare seems to make a big difference.” (Deborah Linton, Guardian article)
As the years go on, it will be interesting to see what her research shows and how co-parenting arrangements have fared.