In late 2003 my husband J.R. broke the news that his biological clock was ticking. This was news to me. I had been under the assumption that he, like me, did not want kids. Turned out that had changed. We discussed it a bit but I pretty quickly vetoed the idea. I knew myself: I didn’t have it in me to be a fulltime parent. Eventually, J.R. floated the idea of co-parenting, an arrangement in which we’d share the responsibilities with a mom or two. Days off and shared costs? Hmmmm. Long story short: now, more than ten years later, we have two wonderful daughters with their two baby mamas, a lesbian couple.
What is co-parenting? It’s two or more individuals raising children together even though they aren’t in a partnered relationship. Google the term and you’ll find it is a term most often used to describe divorced couples raising their children together. Of course, those are unintentional situations; the parents start with the intent that their children will grow up living with both parents happily married and all living under one roof. But somewhere along the line the parents grow apart and as a result things change for their children.
But there is also intentional co-parenting, in which un-partnered parents set out to co-parent from the start. That means they can prepare for the unique aspects of shared custody. As we formed our family, we did extensive research on how to structure our family to best benefit our children. We consulted with a lawyer to ensure we had the tightest possible legal coverage. We met with a child counselor who specializes in children in shared-custody arrangements, to ensure we created a schedule that is best for the kids. We even met with counselors for ourselves to make sure we were all approaching this with healthy perspectives. We also created a shared bank account into which we contribute 10% of our gross salaries. And we’ve been open to adjusting our agreements as needed over the years. Flexibility is key to successful co-parenting!
With all that preparation and over seven years with children, do I still consider myself not up to 24/7 parenting? Yes. A common theme among parents is their fear that they aren’t up to the task. I’m okay admitting that for me it’s not just a fear, it’s a fact. I’m better at this than expected but I don’t for a moment forget that minus my three amazing co-parents, the girls – and I - would be far worse off. It might seem that I’m being too hard on myself, but I don’t think so. In addition to acknowledging my weaknesses I’m cognizant of my strengths, one of which is strong self-awareness. That self-awareness resulted in two beautiful children thriving under the care of four dedicated parents, their Parental Entourage, who each share the best they have to offer. Co-parenting was definitely the right choice.
So what are the specifics of how we created our family? That will be covered in next week's Co-parenting post so please be on the lookout.