Coparenting (or co-parenting) describes a parenting situation where the parents are not in a marriage, cohabitation or romantic relationship with one another.
Coparenting by choice is happening NOW. There are websites, romcom movies, and TV shows about it. People from many walks of life are making the choice to have children with other like-minded people who they are not involved with romantically and with whom they do not live. People are making this choice for many reasons.
To begin with, 31 is the new 21. Trends indicate that self-exploration trumps career development as 20- and 30-somethings follow their own interests and well-being for as long as they can. Around 35, when women are still working on their careers or in the midst of intensive self discovery, they are confronted with the scientific reality of their biology not cooperating with their lifestyle.
Yet, they know there are options. As I interviewed women in the late 20’s and early 30’s they expressed their comfort in knowing that technology is on their side. This takes the pressure off of needing to conform to the pressure of biology or traditional societal norms. The result is that many are shying away from parenthood when their biology is primed and are turning to alternative reproductive technology (ART) to help them get pregnant when they are ready.
This trend is furthered by the cultural shift towards finding a life partner later in life – if at all. Marriage trends in 2014 are at the lowest levels in history. And with divorce rates so high, Millennials appear skeptical and they know there are alternatives. In a recent Pew study, 52 percent of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life while only 30 percent say the same about having a successful marriage (not that I personally am against marriage in any way … in fact much of my psychotherapy is based around supporting marriage for my clients).
To sum it up, people are realizing they can move forward with becoming a parent on their own time even if they haven’t found the man/woman of their dreams. AND – this is where coparenting comes in — they are open to doing it with another person, who they may or may not have known prior to figuring out their path.
Just like online dating, many of the coparenting arrangements are done through matching profiles online. There are numerous matching sites that are gaining lots of media attention such as Pollentree.com, Familybydesign.com, Modamily.com and Coparents.com.
Some people have criticized this arrangement saying that elective coparenting is not modeling love for the child. Yet, I would argue that point as many of these families are based on love … love without romance between old friends, love for children who are very much wanted, and love between two people who meet because they both want the same thing and potentially learn to love each other albeit, (mostly) in a non romantic way.
Elective coparenting is a conscious decision. And because it is conscious, in most cases there is a high level of forethought and planning that happens before the baby is born/adopted. Future coparents are forced to consider many of the difficult issues often glossed over by other parents such as complex legal, psychological, logistical, medical, and financial issues. This intensive planning can result in solid structures for the child/children where parenting issues are flushed out in advance.
One of the things that I have designed is a process to help support individuals and prospective elective coparenting understand how to approach elective coparenting.