The definition of "platonic parenting" seems to vary based on whom you talk to, showing that modern families can be created however works best for everyone. They range from two people partnering up specifically to have children to married couples who dissolve their romantic relationships but remain together for their children's sake.
Tanisha Williams, 30, says she's been putting off love to focus on her career, but her biological clock is starting to tick. When she told a friend—who happens to be an ex-boyfriend—that she was thinking about going to a sperm bank, the two started discussing the possibility of having a child together. If they do, they've agreed they'll stay strictly friends and have a platonic parenting arrangement.
"For us, being in a relationship is difficult," explains Tanisha. But "we both see good qualities in one another and know we would support one another and be a family for our child's happiness."
Platonic partnering is also becoming an alternative for married couples heading for divorce. Valerie and Clark Tate made news last year for hosting an "uncoupling ceremony," where they gave each other back their weddings rings. They decided to no longer pursue a romantic or sexual relationship with each other but to stay legally married and amicably living under the same roof, so they could both continue to raise their children together.
"Children are love radars; they can feel when there's love and kindness, and they can feel when there's hurt and cutoff between parents," Valerie recently told The Guardian. "The way people treat each other makes a huge difference."
Some platonic parenting relationships keep non-biological parents in the picture. Allison Lindsay, a hip-hop emcee and promoter nicknamed "Allicat," tells Parenting.com that she platonically parents an ex-boyfriend's children from his past marriage.
"He is an active duty Marine and could use the assistance due to his career. My relationship with the children developed, and it wasn't something that we all just wanted to throw away," Allison explains. "Co-parenting is deciding that no matter what, I have played an important role in these children's lives, and I am a parental figure to them. He consults with me when making vital decisions concerning the children—medical, educational, custodial, etc. We consult with each other concerning our schedules as well to ensure that someone is always available."
An Upward Trend
The platonic parenting partnership trend is on the rise, says Rachel Hope, author of "Family By Choice: Platonic Partnered Parenting."
"It's building a family with a partner as an alternative to a conventional romantic relationship," Hope tells Parenting.com. "We've all seen instances where having a baby destroys a marriage. This takes that possibility out of the equation. It's a team. You're creating your own village or a family tribe without a romantic relationship that can be disruptive."
Rachel has both a 25-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter raised with platonic partners.
"My co-parent is my colleague, associate, best friend, editor, treasurer, co-environmental activist and the most amazing man," she explains. "We got along so well, I thought, 'This is the person I could parent with.' But we had no romantic energy, in part because he was older than me and also it was just not there. We realized both of us wanted kids so badly but both didn't feel ready or want to have romantic relationship at that time. So we started talking, wondering, 'could we do this?'" And they did.
Rachel says 25 years ago, this seemed like uncharted territory, but today, more people are platonically partnering up to raise kids.
"Millennials are embracing this more because they have fewer preconceived notions of family," says Rachel. Also, some may have come from families of divorce and may be concerned that creating a family based on a romantic relationship could be setting it up for failure or heartbreak.
Putting the Kids First
In a platonic partnership, people can work out and agree to many of the logistics of family life—child-rearing philosophies, finances, education, living arrangements and much more—in advance. They're entering into the arrangement with clarity and forethought.
"This is a rational alternative to a traditional marriage," says Rachel. "You can't say, 'I fell in love and didn't know what I was doing.' In a platonic partnership, you have to be an adult; you can't use power, intimidation, hysteria, drama or sex to get your way. You communicate with honesty and don't care about sex... There are always going to be problems to solve, but when you have them, solving them isn't so emotional."
Rachel also points out that platonic partnering can be a wise choice for people like Tanisha, who's not interested in marriage but is interested in having children because, let's face it, being a single parent can be tough.
"Not only are we raising kids together, but we're a support system," says Rachel. "Instead of putting our child with a babysitter and going out, they're with their parent. You can parent with someone whom you know has their finances together, has had their health evaluated, and is seriously looking for a platonic partner—you kind of have a head start."
"When you're family, you're family. When you get to know someone who feels like family, you're partnering with your best friend," says Rachel. "And your child is the most important person in both of your lives."
Courting Potential Partners
Rachel points out that the internet provides a means for many people to find potential platonic partners. Among the most popular sites are Modamily, which hosts live socials in major cities; Coparents.com, which offers a huge database of people; Family by Design and Pollen Tree, which are smaller and strive to match people online; and Pride Angel, which caters to the gay community but is also a good resource for co-parents.
She suggests people communicate with potential co-parents well in advance—maybe even for several years—before deciding to start a family together to make sure you're fully on the same page.
"The parenting agreement can only be as good as the people in the agreement. You must do your research and get to know them very well," she says. "Everything you agree to is only how valuable the person's word is; you have to trust the promises that they make."
There are definitely some obstacles to creating such a partnership, but Rachel says the biggest are housing and terminology.
"There are very few housing situations conducive to this kind of autonomous living," she says. Apartments in the same building, a house with a cottage on the property, or houses on the same street are good choices, she says, so everyone can live together in close proximity but still have their space.
Also, many people just aren't used to hearing the term "platonic parents" or understand what it means. "Evaluate: Are you patient with explaining yourself to people, or is it really annoying?" she says.