June 4, 2021
Platonic parenting? How some start families when romance isn’t happening or wanted.
A growing share of adults are looking for partners to help with parenting — but aren’t counting on finding “the one”
Robin Mock is trying to figure out how she wants to become a mom. She knows she wants to have a child — and soon. She’s 43, in the final stages of divorce and keenly aware that her longtime longing for motherhood has not only not happened, but gets less likely with the passage of time.
So the Los Angeles doctor of audiology is looking seriously at her options, from fostering a child to adoption, from sperm donation to the increasingly popular platonic parenting.
The latter option involves prioritizing partnership above romance, so instead of finding someone you hope to spend the rest of your life with in a couples-focused relationship, you look for someone you feel would be a good parent with whom to share raising a child.
While the practice is growing, critics warn that children do best when their family life is stable — and that’s more likely when they’re being raised by their own married parents who are committed to the children and to each other.
“Children benefit from being raised by two stably married parents,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a scholar at the Institute for Family Studies and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. “And, frankly, married parents have enough challenges sticking together for their kids and one another. Without the bond of married love, platonic parents are much less likely to stick together and give kids the stable, loving family that is best for them.”
Platonic parenting, according to Naomi R. Cahn, a law professor and director of the Family Law Center at the University of Virginia School of Law, is an international movement that probably got a boost from the pandemic because dating slowed down and the ticking of the biological clock may have seemed much louder.
Platonic parenting is also more established within gay and lesbian communities, but as a recent Guardian article notes, it’s increasingly popular with heterosexual singles, too. The news site notes tens of thousands of people have signed up on the matching website Coparents.co.uk, while U.S.-based Modamily.com has 30,000 international members, two-thirds of them heterosexual. In the United Kingdom, Pollentree.com has 53,000 members, three-fifths of them women. Some on those sites seek a parenting and romantic partner, others a parenting partner only. The big goal for all members is becoming a parent.
Platonic co-parents could have children a number of ways, including though intercourse, surrogacy, in vitro fertilization and adoption.
People thinking about forming nontraditional parenting partnerships don’t tend to trumpet their decisions, said Patrick Harrison, PollenTree.com founder. “Our members keep a low profile because it’s nobody else’s business. They don’t need to rest of society to tell them it’s a good or bad thing,” he told the Guardian.
As noted, there are lots of opinions on the topic, but the phenomenon is driven by a real yearning for parenthood by both men and women who have not found “the one.”
Mock is more than willing to talk about her efforts to be a mom. And she’s trying to be realistic. She is preparing to be ready if she decides to try having a baby: taking prenatal vitamins, checking her fertility and hormones. She’s read avidly about options and she seeks out folks with experience in different ways to have children, including a potential sperm donor and a woman who fostered then adopted a child.
“I’m prepping, prepping prepping,” she said. “And I still know that rationally, everything could look good but I may not be able to get pregnant or, if I do, maybe I can’t carry a child. The likelihood that I’ll do IVF is pretty low, because it’s ridiculously expensive,” she said. “I think I have a couple of years — maybe until I’m 45 — to figure this out.”
That is only part of the article, listen to the podcast for more and my thoughts on why I think this is wrong.