There was an interesting article in The Observer magazine on Sunday about the apparent rise in co-parenting. As far as I could tell the families featured were all American but I suspect the same phenomena is happening in the UK, or will be soon. It’s not a directly donor conception story as often the gametes of the people concerned are being used, rather than those of a conventional donor, but what is interesting is where and how you draw the line between a donor and a parent. I know that for some people this is more than clear. Genetic connections equal parenthood. But if, like me, relationships are what make a mum or a dad, then the distinction is less obvious. Perhaps what is important here are the agreements that are made between the parties involved. Wanting to be a parent rather than wanting to provide sperm, eggs or a womb to enable others to be parents seems to be the crucial factor. But isn’t wanting to be a parent what relationships are all about…you know, a couple getting together and wanting to make a baby. Isn’t co-parenting, as the article puts it, “Just a tragic consequence of alienation and loneliness?” A world where we all work too hard, meet too few people, leave it too late to have a family in the conventional way, look for love on-line and then, when disappointed, look for a co-parent on-line? And then, as the article continues, “…there’s the practical: how the hell do you choose a parent on the internet and then make it work through all the years of middle-of-the-night temperatures, school plays at inconvenient times, school pick-ups and dental appointment, discipline issues…money…education…”
Ivan Fatovic, founder of Modamily, a site that brings together individuals who want to co-parent for a wide variety of reasons is very clear that spending at least a year getting to know each other is absolutely vital before committing to having a child together. As he says, “The relationship is going to be hard or harder than dating, because you are making a life-long commitment. It’s absolutely vital to see a therapist or counsellor together. You have to have a thick skin. For those who are already feeling emotional (about wanting a baby) it can be even tougher if you are then rejected. A lot of people feel the rejection and can be heartbroken. I know customers who are considering two, three, four people in the early stages”. Wow, how cold is that! But hang on a moment. Conventional couples often break up after having a child because their relationship has not been strong enough to adapt to the demands of parenting. Isn’t it better in some ways to check out the other person (or people) first and make sure they are in it for the long term… that the child comes first? What isn’t addressed in the article is the question of one of the co-parents developing an emotional relationship with another adult (almost seems old-fashioned here). Where do they fit in this set-up? What if they want to have a child together?
Clearly co-parenting is not for everyone, BUT if time is taken over much talking and listening, boundaries are clear, legal agreements are made and artificial insemination always used, then it would seem that this can be a parenting solution for both gay and heterosexual people. Whether it works out for the kids in the long-term we will have to wait and see.