Meet Jeffrey Walker, a 56-year-old Communications Director for a large nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over a decade ago, he made the "greatest decision ever" and became a proud single dad to two incredible daughters through an intentional co-parenting arrangement. Here's his story.
"When I came out in my early twenties I was very hopeful that I would fall in love and start a family," said Jeff. "I had a few relationships and during a 10 year relationship in my 30's had explored adoption with my then partner. We weren't prepared for the expense and many of the logistical realities it would entail. Unrelated, that relationship ended and became an important friendship and family-ship."
During the 80's and 90's, Jeff recalls there not being many visible role models for queer parenting. "There was at the time a lot of attempts by gay couples to foster parent that were being battled in the courts, and adoption was riddled with discrimination and homophobia," he explained. "In the turn of the new millennium there was an increase in the number of gay and lesbian families, and while that increased my hope it might be possible, it seemed unlikely for me as a single gay man." Jeff didn't want to have to be in relationship to afford the cost or manage the important responsibilities and time commitment, but these were real factors he had to consider.
When Jeff was in his forties, he met Mayeti, a successful, career-driven single woman in her thirties with whom he became close friends. "We shared a desire to be parents and often talked about it," said Jeff. "We often talked about the challenges of single parenting which gave way to conversations about co-parenting."
The two friends began to talk about what it would look like to create a family together. They had long conversations, exploring the many different ways people had become parents. They eventually recognized that near half of children were being raised by parents who didn't live together and shared parenting, most through the prevalence of divorce. "We looked at our lifestyles and our desires, our sameness and differences, and our personalities and qualities," shared Jeff. "We mostly talked about our shared intention to raise children who felt unconditionally loved, supported in their evolving identities, and cared for physically, emotionally and spiritually."
They decided that intentional parenting - or co-parenting - made perfect sense. "So we took the leap of faith – the greatest decision ever."
Through simple home insemination, they got pregnant twice, and have two amazing daughters who are 10 years old and 7 years old. "They understand that they have two queer parents and that we love each other as friends and family and that we've never been in love. And most importantly they understand they are loved and came into being through intention, faith, and grace."
Jeff and Mayeti live in bordering cities, only a few miles apart. The children are at each parent's homes equally and the parents have a schedule that provides them each half the week to do things as single adults and explore their interests. "We are also both deeply immersed in a community of other parents and children and spend time together as a family at times," says Jeff. "We have different interests and each take the kids on vacations that fit our interests and theirs - and we've gone on vacations together. We all went to Disney last year because neither of us wanted to miss their first trip to Disney. We have an extended family, a literal village of friends and relatives, who love and support our daughters."
Jeff says he learns from his children every day. "I would sum up a vast majority of these lessons as opportunities for me to be re-parented. Everyday they teach me to stop my narrative that runs on auto-pilot and to listen to them and more importantly hear them - so I can make intentional decisions about how to be the dad they need."
And for others who are considering a similar path to parenthood? "The greatest blessings follow a leap of faith. Leap!"