When my ex and I split, I wasn’t quite sure how co-parenting our son was going to work out. Seth and I knew that after almost 10 years together, we did not hate each other. We just didn’t want to be married anymore.
Family members and friends had opinions about our break-up. One family member tried to convince me that living in two homes was going to damage Oliver, who was four years old at the time.
“This is his time, Somer,” this person wrote to me in an email. Meaning, Seth and I were being totally selfish and hurting our child by breaking up our family.
Except, we didn’t break up our family. It is very much intact, three years later. We just have two homes now. Seth and I decided that we would co-parent Oliver. We agreed we would discuss parenting issues, that we would split all costs associated with the kid, and that we each wanted equal time with him.
While two houses is not ideal, a trip to a family therapist early on confirmed what we had suspected: the number one reason why divorce is so stressful for children is because mom and dad don’t get along.
And so, we do what we need to do in order to get along. It sure helps that we like each other a whole lot. And now that we are both in committed, live-in relationships with other people, the five of us do stuff together whenever our schedules allow.
Sometimes I joke about our hippie family buying a compound in Northern California or Oregon and raising alpacas or whatever -- Seth and his girlfriend get one wing of the house, Jeff and I get the other wing, and Oliver has a room in the middle. I can think of a few complications, but giving Oliver one bedroom where he can keep all his stuff, while still having both parents involved in his life every day, outweighs most of them (hey Seth, if you’re reading this, let’s start looking at farms, m’kay?).
And then, of course, there are the benefits of part-time parenting.
It’s not ideal that Oliver has two houses. We do what we can to make that part easier on him. But I’d say that we currently have a situation where everyone’s basic needs are being met. We are doing that whole turning-lemons-into-lemonade thing.
The last time I wrote about my hippie family, I think a commenter or two said they wished there was some sort of matchmaker service where you can find a non-romantic partner with whom to have children, so they could skip over the romantic involvement/breakup and just get to the co-parenting.
IT EXISTS, YOU GUYS.
Modamily and Co-ParentMatch both work like dating sites, except instead of finding people to bang or meet for awkward coffee dates, users can sign up to find like-minded people with whom to have real human babies.
Single women have been choosing to have babies on their own for decades, using sperm donors. As someone who was raised by a single mom, I can tell you that it can be sort of rough to grow up without a father -- both on the mother and the child. But my father was a dick, you guys, so in my case I’m glad that I grew up without him. Two parents are best, except when they’re not.
These co-parenting matchmaking services remove the problem of unwilling or anonymous dads, because both parties agree to raise the child together. There is no anonymous sperm donor or deadbeat dad in this equation. Just two people who want kids and come to an agreement about how to make that happen.
The Daily Mail profiled co-parents who met on Co-ParentMatch and are now cohabitating non-romantically and raising their daughter together. While this situation may confuse some people, it makes perfect sense to me.
From the Daily Mail:
“The parents live in the same house, however they each also hope to have romantic relationships later on, so there is the possibility of getting their own places. For now, however, they say their focus is on their daughter.”
I have a solution for these two, and really, anyone else who wants to try out alternative parenting: join my hippie commune alpaca farm. Maybe we can even convince Jane to move her cult HQ there, too.
There is nothing wrong with two parents who love their child and can make parenting decisions together. There are many ways to be a family, and this is just one of them.
Our hippie family works for us. Just last week, while I was volunteering at Oliver’s school play, the rest of the fam walked in together, and Oliver said excitedly to his teacher, “That’s my dad and his girlfriend and my mom’s boyfriend!” We must be doing something right.
Somer is talking about her alternative family situation on Twitter: @somersherwood.