Here’s recent story from the Telegraph (UK) about people opting to be coparents without being romantic partners. I’ve written about this before quite a while ago but it’s probably time to revisit the topic and the piece leaves me with several things to think about. (There’s also the more recent NYT story–one I blogged about earlier this year– that doesn’t quite fit the category but comes to mind. I’ll come back to that.)
The general idea here is that two people who are friends but not lovers would agree to raise a child together. I find myself thinking this seems fine in the abstract, but there is much in the Telegraph article itself that gives me pause.
To me, coparenting is extremely serious business. Certainly the law sets it up that way–once a person is a legal parent, they are in for the long haul and it isn’t all that easy to get them out. It isn’t just law, though. Children need people who coparent to work together.
My experience of friendship is that it can be enduring, stable and richly rewarding. Thus, the idea (in theory) of two friends raising a child seems fine to me. I don’t particularly see why the parents need to be in love or to be lovers. Indeed, it seems to me that often friendships can be more stable and less volatile than romantic relationships, which if anything could put them on a sounder footing. That earlier discussion of the New York Times article features the sort of relationship I envision, although remember that the man there is not defining himself as a parent of the child involved.
That said, I look at the particulars of the Telegraph article and I blanche. For the most part the people described here aren’t friends–they are at best acquaintances. They don’t know each other nearly well enough to commitment to a life together as coparents–because the thing about being coparents is that it is a life-long commitment. (You know, people get divorced all the time and they keep on being coparents.)
I cannot help but think that most of the players involved here no clue what it is they are getting into. The people in the lead anecdote may be an exception to this–if it took Sabrina Morton six years to conceive she might have gotten to know Kam Wong pretty well. But the connections between the other people discussed seem so very tenuous.
The idea that you’d meet someone once or even a couple of times and decide to coparent with them seems to me no more reasonable if you are working off a platonic relationship than a romantic one Maybe you get lucky and it all works out. Far more likely, you learn later that you aren’t all that compatible and this massive joint project you’ve undertaken becomes that much more complicated and difficult.
So here’s where I’m left–the idea of parents who are not romantic partners seems just fine to me and there are instances where it works nicely. But what I see in the story is people who are undertaking parenthood far too casually. It’s exactly the same worry I have about people who meet each other, feel some immediate sexual attraction, have sex and end up with the woman pregnant. That’s not a basis for raising a child together. This doesn’t seem any better.
For those of you who are particularly attached to the genetic link, I’d note that the practice discussed here does give the child two parents and both parents are the genetically linked individuals. Is that all you need? Is there any requirement that the two people have any specified relationship? What do you say?