Co-parenting

How Do Gay Dads Navigate Compromises in Co-Parenting Arrangements?

With up to four parents involved with childrearing in an "intentional co-parenting" arrangement, how are decisions made? Bill Delany explains how it works in his arrangement.

One of the most common questions my husband and I get as co-parents of our two daughters – we raise them with their two moms – is how our decisions are made. It's assumed that because there are four of us it must be complicated and maybe even contentious. One thing I always stress when promoting co-parenting as an option for wannabe parents is that the personalities involved are the key to success. Control freaks or their opposites, doormats, will probably not work. Important personality traits to have? Patience, a willingness to listen and an openness to compromise; you shouldn't hold grudges or offend easily.

We spent a couple of years getting to know the moms, especially the birth mom, whom we got to know before she became part of a lesbian couple. It felt like we were dating her. Before making any babies, we wanted to determine that we had compatible temperaments. Over the almost 13 years we've all known each other, and 10 years since our older daughter was born, most of our decisions have been fairly easy to come to. (In an earlier post I explained how we determined our daughters' first and last names.) We've taken a lot of trips together, by road and by air, and there has never been any tension. Choosing activities for the kids has been a mostly smooth process. Choosing the kids' daycare and nursery schools was easy-peasy.

The Catholic School Compromise

Their current elementary school, however, was a slightly tougher compromise on my part. Well, not so much the school specifically as it is a bigger compromise around it. I'm atheist with little love for the Catholic Church, or organized religion in general. Biological mom is Catholic and wanted to raise her kids with a Catholic tradition. Honestly, back in the dating stages, if we didn't live in San Francisco, that could have been a deal breaker for me. But I know that our city's progressive values will protect the kids from the worst of the Church's teachings. Plus, my agnostic husband and I make our views known to the kids as well. We make it clear quite often that we don't buy into any of it, and have even challenged them to think about what they're being taught. And their mom is OK with our doing so. She herself is more a stereotypical leftwing San Franciscan than a stereotypical Catholic.


Her personal experience growing up attending Catholic schools was positive, and so she wanted the kids to go to one also. We looked at several, most of which were kind of meh. The one we settled on is wonderful. For starters, more than 50 percent of the student body isn't even Catholic, and there are atheist parents, so J.R. and I have plenty of kindred spirits at school functions. We get along great with the community of families, and have a lot of fun together. Amusingly, a couple of other parents have told us that our presence at parent orientation together made them decide to choose the school. They figured if gay parents felt comfortable being there, then it couldn't be too bad. And the school isn't bad at all; in fact, it's amazing. They are financially self-sufficient, so my mind is at ease that our tuition isn't going to the Church itself. And in their religion classes they teach the crunchy granola peace and love hippy version of Jesus, even including being responsible stewards of the environment.

So that's my one big compromise for the family. And it's one I can live with because minus all the religion mumbo-jumbo, the people in our daughters' school are wonderful and the academics excellent. And we live in San Francisco; it's not that the kids are at risk of becoming religious zealots.

The Legal Father Compromise

Another big compromise I can think of occurred right after our older daughter was born. Long story short, having kids was J.R.'s idea and initially he was going to father both kids. (We always intended to have two.) Later it was decided that we'd each father one. But when during the dating years we learned he can't have kids, we made the decision that I'd father both. It bothered me, though, that this was his dream, and now he wouldn't have a more concrete connection to the kids. One day it hit me: I'd give up my rights so he could adopt them. Then he'd have the legal designation of father and I'd have the biological. This came up not too long before the first one was born and we kind of threw the idea at the mom, and then moved on without much feedback from her. It didn't seem like that big a deal; just a win-win. Well, after the birth we revisited the topic and she let us know she had reservations about it. She was concerned that words and phrases like “adopt" and “giving up rights" might cause issues for our daughter; that she might not get that it's just about legalities and technicalities, and not about whether or not I loved her.

So now, if we couldn't convince her that that wouldn't be a problem, then we couldn't proceed with the adoption; the mother has to sign off on it. I rarely lose my temper, it's not my thing, but I was holding the baby and had to hand her to J.R. and leave the room because I was so pissed. During the whole journey I always deferred to J.R. and the mom. There hadn't been anything about the process that I felt so strongly about that it required that I stand my ground. Or at least there hadn't been until the idea came up to have J.R. adopt. I wanted this for him so intensely, and it just came up against a very significant obstacle.

We all had some deep heart-to-hearts and the mom agreed to discuss the matter with a therapist and a child counselor, who could offer insights into how a kid might react to our proposed legal arrangements. In the end she was assured enough to agree to go through with it. Now both of our daughters are J.R.'s legally, not mine. And they both already know about it and why it was done, and it's been a non-issue.

Aside: California has since passed a law that allows more than two legal parents, so it's now an option for me to regain my rights with a judge's ruling!

The Privacy Issue Compromise

Just thought of another big compromise. You'll notice that in this post and all others I write, the names of the moms or kids are never mentioned, nor are significant identifying details. J.R. and I live our lives like open books; we'll share almost anything about ourselves with anyone. The moms are 180 degrees from that: They are intensely private. The compromise is that I can share our stories through my writings or being interviewed by the media, but I have to keep the moms and kids as anonymous as possible. I've been mostly successful, primarily because most of the interviews I've done were for print media. But there was that one slip while being interviewed by a local TV station, and I'd absentmindedly included a family photo among a group of photos on the table next to me. The cameraman zoomed in on that one and sure enough, splashed it all over the screen. Moms were not happy about it. Oops. That was several years ago and Westboro Baptist hasn't shown up to picket our homes so we're probably in the clear.

But that's been it; the above has been the worst of it. There are traditional two-parented families that experience more conflict and disagreement than we do. Even with our differences, we four parents work very well together. There's no formula or checklist that will ensure successful co-parenting. The key is intangible; it's having temperaments and personalities that are in sync. Probably the only way to know if you have that is by taking the time to get to know each other, and by discussing children and parenthood from every possible angle, to find out in advance on what you are and are not willing to compromise.

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    So far in our podcast, we mostly interviewed dads who had their kids either through surrogacy or adoption. But there are other ways in which you can become dads. In this week's episode we look at two ways that are often overlooked: Known Sperm Donor, and Co-Parenting.

    David Dodge, managing editor at GaysWithKids.com is a father of two children, who he had together with a lesbian couple. Though he has no legal rights with his daughter and son, they still call him 'papa,' and his parents go to visit their grand children even when he's not around. In our interview, David sheds light on being a Known Sperm Donor.

    In our second interview we had Bill Delaney and husband J.R. Parish on a Skype call from San Francisco. They are co-parents of two girls together with a lesbian couple. In the call they discuss this carefully planned (and amazing!) arrangement.



    During the episode, we count the ways* in which gay men can currently become dads:
    1. Adoption
    2. Surrogacy
    3. Men who come out of straight partnerships and marriages
    4. Sperm Donation (known or unknown donor)
    5. Co-parenting




    *If you would like to add to or comment on this list please write to us at hello@daddysqr.com

    Our Family Coalition

    Our Family Coalition (OFC) is based in the Bay Area but is the largest state-wide advocacy organization for LGBT families. They've contributed to varying degrees to everything from marriage equality court cases, to getting LGBT inclusive curriculum added to CA's public school system, to achieving the multi-parent legal recognition that was mentioned on our interview with Bill and J.R.

    Episode Credits:

    Co-Hosts: Yan Dekel, Alex Maghen

    Guests: David Dodge GaysWithKids.com, Bill Delaney & J.R. Parish
    Music: Hercules & Love Affair, "Leonora" buy here
    Articles referred to in this episode:
    Putting the 'Known' in Known Sperm Donor (David Dodge, The New York Times)
    The Known Sperm Donor (GaysWithKids.com)
    Top Three Benefits of 'Intentional Co-Parenting' for Gay Men & Couples (Bill Delaney, GaysWithKids.com)
    11 Steps Gay Men Should Take Before Co-Parenting With a Female Friend (Bill Delaney, GaysWithKids.com)





    For any questions, comments or advise, please do not hesitate to contact us at hello@daddysqr.com or on Twitter @yanirdekel

    J.R. and Bill with their daughters

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    The Best Part of Coming Out, Says This Gay Dad, Is Being an Out and Proud Role Model for His Daughter

    "I couldn't face myself in the mirror and think that I could be a good dad and role model for my child when I was lying to myself every moment of every day," said Nate Wormington of his decision to come out.

    Photo credit: https://eliseabigail.com/

    Nate Wormington had lived much of his life not being true to himself. He had a beautiful baby girl, was married to his best friend and soul mate, but there was still no doubt in his mind that he was gay. Still, he chose to stay in a heterosexual relationship lifestyle, and it was making him incredibly depressed.

    "For some that may be a sustainable life, but denying a core value of myself began to take its toll on me, and I had to own up to my own truth to salvage my life and my relationships with the people I love." Despite the difficulties in doing so, he eventually, he came out. Today, he's co-parenting with his ex-wife and they're still best friends. This November, he's getting married to the man of his dreams. But most importantly, he's proud to be a positive example to his 7-year-old daughter.

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    Entering into intentional co-parenting arrangements with another adult or couple has many benefits, says Bill Delaney. Here are his top three.

    I often joke that the best thing about co-parenting is that we can have both kids and a life. It's certainly easier to maintain a non-child-centric social life with scheduled child-free days, but that is the least of the benefits of sharing parenting responsibilities.

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    This Gay Couple Was Inspired to Become Foster Dads Thanks to the Show "The Fosters"

    Matthew and Brian say they used to feel like "unicorns" as gay foster dads. They're happy to see more LGBTQ couples take the plunge into the foster system.

    Matthew Hamparian and his husband Brian Lawrence have been together for over 18 years and live in Columbus, Ohio. "We had talked about children for a long time," shared Matthew. They were inspired by the show "The Fosters," and watched it regularly as one of the staffers of the show was a friend of Brian's. In one of the episodes, Matthew remembers a conversation between a foster child and the biological child of his foster parents. The foster child asks if he was okay with the fact that he had to share his home with foster siblings. He responds that he is okay with it, because he and his family have enough of everything.

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    Terrell and Jarius need your help. Earlier this week they were made aware of an act of discrimination against a male transgender student at Johnson High School in Gainesville, Georgia

    "Dex Frier was elected by the student body to run for prom king but is now facing backlash from the school's administration," shared the dads via their Instagram. "The school's Superintendent is forcing Dex to either run as prom queen or not run at all. This is very unjust and does NOT reflect the opinion of the parents nor the students."

    Watch their video below:

    Dex, 17, who came out identifying as male in his sophomore year, spoke with Gainsville Times about being nominated by the student body. "Frier said he kept his emotions in check while at school, but 'the moment I got home, I immediately started crying. I've never been shown so much support before,' Frier added."

    He was later informed by school officials that his name had been withdrawn and he could only run in the prom queen ballot.

    Sadly, there have been rival petitions started in support of Dex's nomination being withdrawn, and he's received backlash from those who believe he shouldn't be able to run.

    Although Terrell and Jarius do not know Dex personally, they were made aware of what was happening through Jarius co-worker who is a parent at the school. "He's such a brave kid and is standing firm in his beliefs, and we should support him," said Jarius.

    These dads are asking all of us to take a minute and sign this petition and share with friends and family, or anyone you think could help.

    Surrogacy for Gay Men

    Learn How These Dads Used Social Media to Find Their Surrogate

    In the latest "Broadway Husbands" vlog, Bret and Stephen discuss the rather unconventional way in which they found their surrogate: through a Facebook group.

    In this, the Broadway Husbands' sixth video, Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna discuss the rather unprecedented process they went through to find their surrogate. The lucky couple also chat about winning an "Intended Parents" competition, which granted them the free services of a surrogacy agency who is now helping guide them (and their new surrogate!) on their journey.

    In the first video below, get caught up to speed with the dads-to-be. Plus: there's bonus footage! Ever wondered about the financial side of their journey? In the second video, Bret and Stephen talk candidly about how they're managing to afford their dream of fatherhood.

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    Gay Dad Life

    Gay Single Dads Defend Andy Cohen's Right to Be on Grindr

    After the Internet rushed to judge Andy Cohen for signing onto Grindr a couple of weeks after welcoming his newborn son home, fellow single gay dads rushed to his defense.

    Last week, we wrote a post about reports that "What What Happens Live" host Andy Cohen had been "spotted" on gay dating app Grindr several weeks after welcoming a newborn into his home. This has some of his followers on social media all worked up"

    "Get off Grindr and start being a dad," said one follower who appeared to think single parents must take a vow of celibacy the minute they start changing diapers. "You're sad, that kid has no chance," said another.

    Well, suffice it to say that this judgment from people who are presumably not single gay dads of Andy Cohen certainly struck a nerve with our gay dad audience! We received well over 100 comments on this post on Facebook, the vast majority of them coming to Cohen's defense. We caught up with two fellow single gay dads to find out why the story struck a nerve.

    "We don't have to live like monks!"

    One of the most liked comments on our piece came from Owen Lonzar, who wrote the following:

    "I have always been a good single father to my biological son who came to live with me when he was 7 years old. He is now 25 years old and we are very close. I used Grindr and dated while he lived with me. I never had anyone sleep over and he certainly never saw some man he didn't know hanging around my home. Single parents have to date responsibly and with sensitivity to their child but that doesn't mean they have to live like monks!"

    We asked Cohen to elaborate a bit more on why the backlash against Cohen bothered him. He had the sense, he said, that much of the criticism against LGBTQ parents comes from gay men without children. "Gay men without kids have a lot to say," he said. "And all of it is ignorant, because they have no idea what it means to actually be a father." He said he was particularly disappointed in gay critics, given our shared history of discrimination. "You would think with all the prejudice we have faced that gay men would be less judgmental themselves," he said.

    "Are we supposed to be celibate?"

    Another commenter, Josue Sebastian Dones-Figueroa, who is a divorced father of five, questioned what Cohen's critics would prefer him do. "So what, parents are supposed to become celibate because they have kids?" he asked.

    We followed up with Josue to ask him to elaborate a bit more: "The idea that just because he is a dad that he would need to stop being a man," he said, questioning why Cohen should have to put his life hold and stop dating, or having sex, just because he's now a father. "If the child is cared for loved and not neglected what is the problem? Life goes on right?"


    Fatherhood, the gay way

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