With a heartening increase in the number of people co-parenting, there are more and more families made, as parents take to a world full of, as The Guardian eloquently puts it: ‘legal agreements and counselling rather than dates, romance and sex.’
That’s what their relationships are based on and they choose that route because they have a mutual longing to have a child – or children – yet find themselves in a position where it would otherwise be impossible.
Co-parenting is often linked with gay men and women. However, heterosexual single men and women are increasingly turning to the internet in the hope of having a baby this way. Realising that they would rather fulfil their dream of becoming a parent with a likeminded individual, who they are not romantically linked with, than not be able to have a family of their own at all.
The organisation and planning of co-parenting should not be underestimated.
It’s so important that prior to making any legal agreements, each potential parent’s views, opinions and expectations are discussed and agreed. That way, it will be a happier and smoother experience for all concerned, including the children.
The Guardian had some really heart-warming stories to tell, introducing us to some amazing co-parents, including Sabrina, Kirsty, Kam and Zaide’s story and that of Rachel Hope. They give a great insight for anyone considering following this path.
Sabrina, Kirsty, Kam and Zaide
Louise Carpenter wrote the article and, as she begins her story at the Morgan supper-time table, she expresses how: ‘It is utterly astonishing watching them, not because they are all gay and all devoted to their son – nothing new in that – but because they met on the internet in order to create [then three-year-old Zaide].’
The modern family consists of Zaide, his “mum,” Sabrina Morgan, Kirsty Slack and his daddy, Kam Wong.
Sabrina was a single gay woman; Kam wanted a child while partner Martin didn’t want children in his life around the clock – he is ‘very much part of Zaide’s life now, though’; and Kirsty wanted a baby yet didn’t want to carry one.
Kirsty and Sabrina met in the traditional way. And Sabrina and Kam found each other through the internet, purely looking for someone with whom they could have a child they are Zaide’s biological parents.
Sabrina says, on the subject of others’ perceptions and views on the matter: “They think you’re going to bring children into this warped world where there is no real love, no real morality, that it’s not natural, not right – and then you say to them: ‘Hang on a minute, you’re divorced. What difference does it make? Just because we don’t sleep with Kam, it doesn’t mean we don’t love and respect him as a man and as the father of our son.’”
You get the feeling from Louise’s article that Zaide simply has more parents to love and adore him. We are left in no doubt that their arrangement works for them. All of them. They had become friends by the time Zaide arrived. And you get the feeling they are close, with an unwavering respect, admiration and support for one another. Kirsty came into the relationship after Zaide was born, however it appears that Kam is mindful of the fact that she is not Zaide’s biological mum and he is sensitive to it. At the time of writing the article, they were considering the possibilities of giving Zaide a baby brother or sister.
Louise writes: ‘Kam, Sabrina and Kirsty have clear boundaries for their parenting agreement.’ This clearly has much to do with how and why it is working for them.
Rachel, Paul and Grace
When Louise put it to Rachel Hope of LA, a highly successful (straight) co-parent whether there was a case for ‘hitching up’ with someone in the more conventional way, purely for the purpose of starting a family, rather than ‘going it alone (Or in the case of a man, choosing a surrogate?)’ her response was a definite: “Oh no!… Why would you choose to be a single parent when you can co-parent?”
Rachel has a grown-up son whom she, and a male friend, had by way of natural insemination and she is mum to daughter, Grace, whom she had using artificial insemination, co-parenting with a godparent of her son.
She wrote a book on the subject in 2014, called Family By Choice and she recommends at least one year of ‘hard work’ rather than jumping straight into such a life-changing commitment. And she is very clear ‘about safeguarding both personal safety (some men trawl the sites for sex) and any future “relationship” – all the more necessary given that a child will be involved’.
Ivan Fatovic, Modamily founder – a site that brings people wanting to co-parent together – agreed with this principle, saying that: “It’s absolutely vital to see a therapist or a counsellor together.” He also warned that: “You have to have a thick skin.” At such a sensitive time, you may need to brace yourself for rejection.
Encouragingly, many people are going on to successfully become a co-parent so if you can steel yourself, it will help on your journey.
Where to start?
Once you find yourself in a position where you are ready to co-parent, it is sensible to devise a parenting agreement prior to doing anything legally. This will mean that each individual involved in the agreement will have worked their way through, and agreed upon, the practicalities such as health, finance, education and so on. Whilst not legally binding, it will provide clarity in a court of law, should things not go smoothly.
Discuss plans with a legal professional for an in-depth understanding of your lawful obligations and those of your co-parent.
Get to know the friends and family of your co-parent and introduce them to yours.
Remain honest and open with your co-parent prior to taking action. It is better to work through any differences of opinion or feelings before your baby comes along.
Use artificial insemination under the advice of, and with the assistance of, a fertility clinic or your GP.
At the heart of it
Dr Carol Burniston, a clinical child psychologist, makes the critical point that: “The real issue of co-parenting is: ‘Are the child’s needs being met?’”
She goes on to say and whether “amid all the cerebral activity of planning this child, you have actually taken into account a little person who may also have views, and that their views will need to be taken into consideration. There are babies born with far less planning. With divorced parenting, there can be quite a lot of animosity. Co-parenting can be a good thing as long as there is an acceptance that it’s not just about the parents.”
The most important thing for any child has to be knowing that they are loved unconditionally.
When it comes to co-parenting, there is a great deal of time, energy, work, laughter and tears that is bound to go with all the preparation and planning. We think that this level of commitment indicates that a child is really wanted and should give them a really good start in life. And for those with more than two parents, that’s a whole lot of love.