Millennials want to be good parents regardless of their relationship status.
More than getting married, Pew Research Center has found that persons in their 20s and 30s see being a good parent as one of the most important life goals.
This fact is surprising considering the majority of millennials are single and have never been married. To ameliorate the situation, some are taking matters into their own hands, stepping around love and marriage and going directly to the child.
The result is co-parenting, which is the "shared raising of a child between two loving, committed, and financially secure adults," a term formerly associated with divorced parents.
“Society’s changed,” Darren Spedale, founder of co-parenting community Family By Design, told ATTN:. “Millennials — and even Gen Xers — are creating families in new ways from their parents...They don’t feel like they need to change who they are in order to build a family, that they can build a family in the way that makes the most sense for themselves.”
Ivan Fatovic, founder of co-parenting network Modamily, sees the practice as something similar to NBC’s "Will & Grace" if the title characters had a kid. “They don’t really want to be a single parent,” Fatovic told ATTN:. “They see co-parenting as a viable alternative that could be no better or no worse than a successful marriage or divorce, where mom and dad hate each other and the kid gets caught in the middle.”
Equality might be paving the way to co-parenting.
Fatovic has noticed a trend in his work: the majority of Modamily members are women in their 30s to early 40s. He believes they seek co-parenting arrangements in response to fading gender roles.
“They have their own careers,” Fatovic explained. “They also know about 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. A lot of women who are in their mid-30s are feeling the pressures of having a child sooner rather than later.”
Another aspect of co-parenting relates to LGBT coupling and situations where a third party is needed to start a family. Whether it is two gay men seeking a woman to carry a child or a lesbian couple seeking a known sperm donor, co-parenting could be seen as something happening in tandem to gay marriage.
Some experts see this way of parenting as a sound alternative, too.
Ellie McCann, extension educator at University of Minnesota’s Parents Forever program, helps divorced families work to parent as independent people. She sees willing co-parents as a model for success.
“If your goal is to not have a romantic relationship and to only have that co-parenting relationship, it clears up so much,” McCann explained to ATTN:. “So much of that emotion — or hurt or loss —won’t be there.”
McCann continued: “If both parents have the same goal, which is really keeping the child up front and their interests leading their relationship, I don’t see what any harm would be.”
This doesn’t mean co-parenting is easy.
As Fatovic points out, you have to take certain legal measures like a co-parenting agreement, if the adults are not involved in a romantic relationship, to ensure proper legal protections.
“If you’re not married, you’re not in a romantic relationship, usually what we recommend is they talk to a lawyer,” Fatovic said. He does qualify this by mentioning this arrangement isn’t legally perfect. “A co-parent agreement is not as legally binding as being in a marriage,” he said. “They don’t have the same protections if something were to go wrong,” he added.
Co-parenting is just another non-traditional family expression.
Spedale is optimistic that co-parenting will become a commonplace option for starting a family.
“[Co-parenting] will be seen as a standard option among other forms of nontraditional parenting,” Spedale explained. “People may consider [it] along with adoption, surrogacy, and other forms of nontraditional parenting.”