Traditional marriage is not a requirement on sites like PollenTree and Modamily. CNS file photo/Jon L. Hendricks

Bob Brehl: Do co-parenting sites threaten family?

  • January 22, 2020

Skipping love and marriage and going straight to the baby carriage is a growing phenomenon with a myriad of websites popping up over the last few years that link adults who want children, but not romance.

Some call it “platonic parenting,” but without the wedding, and sometimes ensuing domestic fights leading to divorce and single parenting.

Names like PollenTree, Modamily, Family by Design, Coparents and PrideAngel, serving the LGBTQ community, are just some of the names of these websites claiming to hook up compatible co-parenting partners within their networks.

They’re similar to dating websites like Tinder and E-Harmony, but instead of looking for love, users are looking for someone with whom they can share parenthood. Promoters of the service argue that what they do is actually better for children because it skips the “divorce nightmare.”

Members on these websites pay a fee, typically around $30 a month, while the data science finds matches for like-minded, compatible people who want to start a family. After a match, members continue to pay the fee until signing an agreement to co-parent with a partner, which can take several months. It is up to the parents whether conception is through normal course or artificial insemination.

So, how and why did this phenomenon start? Technology, of course, provided the platform. And society created the demand by putting off starting families for many reasons, not least of which is economics. Finally, a seismic shift in societal moral values over recent decades has made contractual parenting palatable in some circles.

Today, people in their 20s and 30s are waiting longer to get married. According to several polls I found, about one-third of single adults ages 25-34 say they haven’t found what they’re looking for in a life partner. That percentage jumps even higher (41 per cent) for singles over 35.

It becomes a conundrum when you’ve reached the stage of life where you’re ready and willing to reproduce, but haven’t yet developed an ideal romantic relationship. Co-parenting websites claim they offer the ideal solution.

But is it ideal? Co-parenting websites are yet another direct assault upon the traditional family and the values and the nurturing that children receive by living with two loving parents under the same roof. The “anything goes” attitude cannot be applied to something so important as raising children, many argue.

Co-parenting proponents overlook the immense amount of work it takes to raise children. My wife and I talked through virtually every decision when our children were young — and we still do. It’s hard to imagine rearing them with a legal contract as our handbook. And partnering with a stranger that data analytics matched up, to boot.

That’s not to say co-parenting can’t be beneficial. Most reasonable people can see the damage to children living in a home with a dysfunctional, loveless marriage between the parents, particularly if the relationship is abusive.

Brendan Schulz of Toronto told the Chicago Tribune that love is what is important, not simply the family all living together. He logged on to Modamily after a five-year relationship ended. He determined that as a gay man in his mid-40s, co-parenting with a woman would be his best route to fulfil his desire to be a father.

He was looking for a 50-50 situation with the mother. Through Modamily, he found a partner and ironed out a co-parenting agreement. It covered everything from the pregnancy (Schulz attended every doctor’s appointment and cut the umbilical cord) to parenting (all major events are shared, they spend ample time with extended family and they have an even split for everything else, living in separate homes just five minutes away).

Schulz told the Tribune that co-parenting their son has far exceeded his expectations.

“If I miss him on my days without him, I can drop by and see him. After he’s gone to sleep, I can call her and say, ‘Our maniac child just took forever to go to sleep,’ and she listens,” Schulz said of his co-parenting partner. “I can’t imagine it a different way.”

And then there’s love finding its way, just as water finds its level.

The Wall Street Journal found a co-parenting couple — she from Montana and he from Vancouver — who matched up, agreed to co-parenting, and then fell in love. The baby is due in June of this year. So, though Jenica Andersen and Stephan DuVal started as so-called platonic parents, the traditional family and romance has won them over.

(Brehl is a writer and author of many books.)

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