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Next Idea that is Going to Get Under Your Skin

The other thing I heard about this week (after the Gaffney-Dippold lawsuit) is a new site called Modamily.  It is a social network matching site bringing together people who want to co-parent because they don’t have a partner or are unable to create a child without assistance.  In order to not go the anonymous donor/surrogacy/fertility treatment route, people can find other people who want to co-parent via the site and create a child together.

Co-parenting isn’t a new arrangement — this has been going on in the local, personal sense for decades (centuries?).  A person wants to have a child and cannot due to logistics (GLBT, single parent, partner has fertility issues) and they choose to involve a person in their life who will not only contribute the gametes or the organs, but will also play a role in the child’s life (this is how it differs from gamete donation or surrogacy).  Though that role differs from family to family.  In some cases, there is a primary parent and a secondary parent who sees the child at regular intervals.  Sometimes they both have equal weight with decision-making.  Sometimes the two people live together and sometimes they live apart.  This isn’t just for single parents by choice, the site also states that it is for “anyone interested in forming a modern family.  Gay, straight, single moms/dads looking to have another child, etc…”  If you are in a committed relationship but cannot have a child without fertility treatments, this is an additional option — to bring another parent into the arrangement who will provide the gametes or organs in exchange for a parenting role.

In all co-parenting cases that I know, the two people committing to raising a child together knew each other in the face-to-face world BEFORE reaching this agreement.  They didn’t meet each other for the sole purpose of creating a life together and raising said child together.  They formed a relationship and then decided that this was something they could do well with one another.

But let’s dissect this site idea because while I love the idea of co-parenting, the site raised a lot of red flags for me.  Perhaps it won’t for you, and I’d love to hear how you’re processing it.

First and foremost, the description of the site implies that there is something inherently “less” in being a single parent by choice, an idea I need to refute.  The site says (and I highlight):

In most cases, when using a sperm donor, a mother is resigned to being a single parent. We feel that co-parenting provides more support to the child because it involves two parents that are physically, financially, and emotionally committed. Healthy, happy, and balanced children are what we are trying to achieve and statistically, having both a mother and father within a child’s life dramatically improves chances for a happy and balanced upbringing.

Resigned?  Really?  Resigned?

And I’m not sure what parent attempts to raise an unhealthy, unhappy, unbalanced child — please show me five people who have that as their goal (yes, it sometimes happens that people raise unhealthy, unhappy children, but the implication is that co-parenting has happiness as a goal… whereas single parenting does not).  So the site begins by offending me.

It continues on to explain why people would want a site such as Modamily:

Because people are staying single longer and waiting to get married, sites like Modamily can fill the void by helping those that still want to fulfill dreams of having a child. There’s plenty of time to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, but only a limited time to find Mommy or Daddy Right.

I’m not sure why these two people have to be mutually exclusive.  Or why — again — co-parenting with a recent stranger is preferable to being a single parent by choice.  I know plenty of single parents by choice and they all seem to be doing a fine job at parenting.  They all seem to have well-adjusted children similar to my own.  In fact, I can’t think of any child from a single parent by choice that is lacking in love, support, or care.  I’m also not sure how co-parenting with a recent stranger (meaning, you met them recently — until you connect on the site, you don’t know each other at all) is preferable to the opening scenario on the about-us page:

…enormous amount of pressure for finding a partner, often resulting in rushed marriages ending in divorce. It was even more disheartening when a child was introduced because now that child would often have to be raised in an environment of friction where mommy and daddy did not get along.

Co-parenting doesn’t mean that the two people will get along any moreso than the two people who rushed into marriage.

And buried in the FAQ page is a one sentence warning:

We will also recommend that if you decide to enter into an arrangement with someone you both see a lawyer to hammer out the details.

Ya think?

If the site had angled itself as Match.com but only for those who want kids in the future, I probably wouldn’t have furrowed my brow.  I would have thought, “oh, brilliant, so you know the people you meet there want children vs. going on a date with someone and needing to get to that point where you discuss whether you want to have kids.”  But a dating site for people who want children in the future is very different from a wild west co-parenting site which doesn’t sound as if it is doing much more than connecting two unrelated people.  As of this point, it isn’t counseling users on how to draw up paperwork to legally protect both parents as well as the child.  It isn’t helping facilitate discussions between two people to fully understand the ramifications of co-parenting.  It’s just matching two people because they both… let’s say… like the idea of free-range parenting.  And then sending them off into the sunset to figure out for themselves how they want to get started trying to create their free-ranged offspring.

Your thoughts?


1 HereWeGoAJen { 02.22.12 at 9:00 am }

It just seems like such a bad idea.

2 MeAndBaby { 02.22.12 at 9:08 am }

My first reaction: holy sh!t, that’s stupid.

3 Audrey { 02.22.12 at 9:11 am }

The passage about single mothers and raising balanced children makes me think whomever wrote this had just watched a Psycho marathon.

4 MeAndBaby { 02.22.12 at 9:16 am }

Okay, now that my brain has stopped spinning, I thought I would provide a better comment. If this actually goes anywhere, years from now when the parents determine that they are not capable of co-parenting because they were strangers when they made that decision, and they are engrossed in legal battles and putting their child through THAT, the media will get a hold of it and it will be another sensationalized story about SMCs (i.e. Octomom). Which makes me cringe. I skimmed the front page of the site for about 10 seconds and clicked away. I would have never considered this when I started my SMC journey.

5 Mo { 02.22.12 at 9:26 am }

WOW. I’m speechless.

6 Jessica { 02.22.12 at 9:34 am }

I find this concept so wrong on so many levels. I wonder how successful they have been and what some of the outcomes have been for people who have participated on this site? The site also seems to contradict itself. It says it is for “anyone interested in forming a modern family. Gay, straight, single moms/dads looking to have another child, etc…” but then it goes on to say “having both a mother and father within a child’s life dramatically improves chances for a happy and balanced upbringing.” So what are they supporting? They say it’s for single individuals but then tell you it’s not healthy for the child to be a single parent? The whole thing is wacky.

7 Emma { 02.22.12 at 9:44 am }

I’m sorry, but any website that tells me to see a lawyer to “hammer” out the details has Bad Idea written all over it!

I get what they’re *trying* to do. But it’s just not a good idea…

8 Justine { 02.22.12 at 10:14 am }

At first I thought “hm, interesting.” Because suppose you *do* want someone to co-parent a child, and haven’t been able to find one in your circle of friends? But what gets me, I guess, is both the denigration of single parenting and the blase way that the site seems to treat parenting compared to the commitment of, say, finding a partner. If the site was supposed to match people up who then “date” (that’s not the right word, but I can’t really find the right word) to find out if they want to co-parent, maybe that would be OK. But it seems like a “quick fix” kind of site … poof! Co-parent! That’s what bothers me.

Then again, people get married to people they meet on match.com (I did) … sometimes pretty quickly (I didn’t) …

9 Mrs. Gamgee { 02.22.12 at 10:21 am }

I guess I’m not totally surprised that a ‘service’ like this has come to light, but it’s still rather appalling nonetheless. I met my Beloved through an online dating site, and I see the value in matchmaking services, but this seems mercenary at best.

10 Lisa { 02.22.12 at 10:29 am }

Huh? What? Go out and find a stranger to have a kid with? Seriously? I don’t think I can really come up with a coherent thought on this one.

11 Kate { 02.22.12 at 10:52 am }

What the WHAT?!?! Wow.

12 Rachel { 02.22.12 at 11:36 am }

“Modafamily…Because there isn’t enough ways to screw up your kids already…”

I think I found their catchphrase.

13 gwinne { 02.22.12 at 12:07 pm }

(I think my comment disappeared…apologizes if it comes out twice) Anyway, as for the idea, Mo says it all. Mind boggling.

But I did want to say that even the national SMC organization–of which I used to be a member–uses the same sort of rhetoric (much more subdued, of course!) that basically says SMChood is a “plan B,” rather than optimal situation. I don’t agree, of course, but I consider myself an SMC by choice, as opposed to by circumstance (i.e. I never had any desire to be married, but many (most?) SMCs experience grief about coming to the decision.

14 a { 02.22.12 at 12:23 pm }

No offense to the SMCs, but I guess my question is this…for approximately half of the target audience, isn’t it a reasonable assumption that you are a single parent by choice because the usual method of becoming a parent (i.e.finding a suitable partner) has eluded you? If you had your preference (and I would guess this largely applies to women, as I have yet to hear of a man who goes out and hires a surrogate to be a single father by choice), would you take an anonymous sperm donor or a random guy who you could meet/background check, but not actually have to put up with, who would help take care of your child with you? In other words, I think there’s probably a market out there for this.

I recently read an article which posed the theory that marriage didn’t used to be so much about love and companionship as much as it was about having children to pass on legacies. Basically, people got married to co-parent.

I think this is an idea that is rife with unforseen complications. And the marketing is condescending. But I bet there are people out there who would use the service.

15 Cristy { 02.22.12 at 12:46 pm }

So, let me get this straight: a couple struggling with infertility is villainized for using medical technology to help building their family, but this is okay? I fully understand wanting a baby, but doing it with someone you’ve NEVER MET and then asking that person to share the responsibility?!?!?! Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Look, I’m all for reproductive rights, but I think you also need to take into account the child you are creating from a relationship like this. There are enough children in the world who are screwed up because their biological parents are absent and cant get along. Profiting off of it is morally wrong.

16 Alexicographer { 02.22.12 at 12:52 pm }

@a when you ask “If you had your preference … would you take [1] an anonymous sperm donor or [2] a random guy who you could meet/background check, but not actually have to put up with, who would help take care of your child with you?” I would absolutely, positively, without a second thought take [1]. Then again, I do not believe there is such a thing as [2], that is, someone I would (a) not actually have to put up with, who (b) would help take care of your child with you? I find it completely implausible that one could achieve (b) without (a).

To comment on the site itself I’m going to have to click over there and I’m not quite sure I can bring myself to do so.

17 Dora { 02.22.12 at 1:28 pm }

IN-FREAKING-SANE! So I’m gonna hand over my precious baby to someone I barely know because it’s his weekend? As for advising people (in small print) to see a lawyer to draw up a contract, and such contract would be considered invalid in family court, which only considers the interests of the child. Either parent would have full rights to sue for custody AT ANY TIME. People who once loved each other have horrid, ugly custody battles. This idea is a recipe for disaster.

Re: “Or why — again — co-parenting with a recent stranger is preferable to being a single parent by choice.”

Well, listening to SMC “thinkers” I know that some women are afraid of going it alone financially and are afraid of having to be on mommy duty on their own 24/7, particularly if they don’t have family nearby. Valid concerns, but IMO, this is more likely to create more difficulty than be of help.

18 Varda (SquashedMom) { 02.22.12 at 1:39 pm }

Weird wrong, sad, ACK! Don’t even know where to begin. If I hadn’t met my husband when I did, at the zero hour (I was 40 when we married, nearly 42 when we had IVF twins) I was planning to try have a baby with a close gay male friend of mine. I would’ve been the parent in charge, a single mom & he would’ve been in the kid’s life but a little bit removed, more like an uncle than a dad. And you know? I’m glad things worked out the way they did, but that would have been OK, too.

19 battynurse { 02.22.12 at 4:09 pm }

Ok so I haven’t visited this site nor had I even heard of it before now but I had joined a site a few years back called copa.rents dot net or something along those lines. While I’ve considered the advantages to coparenting before I can also see a huge potential for problems. For one thing the site I joined seems to have more than a few who are using it like a dating site and basically looking for people to have sex with. Ummm, yuck! Not to mention that there seems to be a fair number of men looking for a woman to have a baby for them or just strange involvement. Maybe it’s just that site but while the idea of coparenting sounds appealing with someone I know and trust, the idea of doing it with a stranger I meet on a web site just sounds freaky.

20 al { 02.22.12 at 5:13 pm }

Trying to wrap my head around the concept that, according to folks who’ve created this site, there’s no such thing as a family except how you personally feel like defining it as. Deconstruct and reconstruct as you please – no accountability! No consequence! No right or wrong! The kid will be wonderful no matter what! Or so we’d like to think.

I agree with commenters who point out that the undefinable ramifications lie far in the future, and such short-sightedness is rife with impending disaster like a ripple in a pond that stretches wider and deeper with each passing generation.

21 Louisa { 02.22.12 at 7:02 pm }

Actually my first thought is Holy Cow what an amazing idea! Single parenting is brilliant if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford to do this or have the lucky position of having a family that can help you raise your child. For those of us who are dying to have a baby and are getting anxious about whether we will ever find a partner to raise a family with and are not in a position to be able to afford to become a single parent it would be great to meet a man who is just as committed to the same idea. For better or worse multitudes of people all over the world are meeting and marrying via the billion dollar online dating industry; these people who meet online are marrying and getting pregnant and are often just as much recent strangers as a site such as Modamily’s co-parenting couples. It seems that Modamily is doing a very similar thing but with the focused intention of introducing people who want to have a baby. Through its compatibility questionaires and associated financial, psychological, medical and legal checks that are recommended they are ensuring that these people are compatible for the purpose of raising a child and co-exisiting as co-parents. Online dating sites sometimes ask compatibility questions about dating but rarely touch on more long term subjects involving marriage and parenting. The majority of people getting pregnant don’t know anything about their partners real financial status let alone their fertility potential, their psychological preparedness to raise a child or that an argument about whether to give your kid a flu shot might cause them to get a divorce. I would imagine that once they have finished answering the massive number of questions and discussing and negotiating the way in which their child will be raised, let alone going through the process of getting pregnant, these co-parenting partners will certainly not be strangers anymore.

22 Krissi McVicker { 02.22.12 at 11:16 pm }

I really don’t know what to make of all of this. I can see that single parenting is really tough but meeting a total stranger to arrange a co-parenting relationship doesn’t seem like it would work at all! Raising 3 children now (after 6 IVF cycles) is very stressful at times and my husband and I don’t agree on everything but we are committed to eachother and what’s best for our family. I think strangers that don’t have that same love, passion, or history with each other may love that child but wouldn’t have as much of a committment with their children as a family. And I think many fights, disagreements and issues would/could come up. If some divorced parents can barely make arrangements with each other about co-parenting and they had a love at one time for each other than how can stangers make it work? Maybe these singles are so eager now, but it gets a lot harder once the baby is here and grows and has so many needs and wants and there are stresses added to the mix.

23 Krissi McVicker { 02.22.12 at 11:28 pm }

I also want to add that as in many divorced situations, the ones who will really suffer in this situation are the kids. What a confusing thing for a child to ramble off how their “parents” aren’t married, may not even like each other and most likely fight but share them through special rules…it’s just too weird and just very sad.

24 E { 02.23.12 at 12:00 am }

Doesn’t this seem like the idea that 2 people came up with and put absolutely NO thought into the repercussions? I mean who are the legal parents? The 2 fertile spouses? then what happens if one of them divorces is that now devoted 2nd spouse left with no rights? Or what happens at death?

25 niobe { 02.23.12 at 10:37 am }

I’m not really understanding all the hate.

This seems like just another option for people who want children and would prefer to have a co-parent. Options are good. People make different choices about how to build their families.

While they probably could have used more inclusive language, I can totally see how someone might want another person to share parenting with and value having another parent in the child’s life.

Not everyone wants to be in a romantic relationship with the other parent(s) of their child. Not everyone wants to be a single parent by choice.

I imagine that, aside from sites like this, it may not be all that easy to find someone who wants a co-parenting relationship. Here, you’ve got a pool of people who have the same goal and you can find someone who shares your beliefs and values regarding parenting.

And, yes, the people are recent strangers, but many, many relationships start that way. I’m presuming that, in most cases, the people get to know each other before committing to a co-parenting relationship.

It’s like on a more convential dating site — your ultimate goal might be marriage or a committed relationship, but that doesn’t mean your first email asks “How about if we move in together next Tuesday and set the wedding date for the following week?”

Yeah, it might not work out and there are legal complexities involved, but that’s the case with pretty much any relationship and most “unconventional” forms of family building.

26 Francis { 02.23.12 at 12:04 pm }

With somebody you have never met!??
You people are retarded. Unless it’s your family, every single person you meet in your life was somebody that you have never met!!!! Is it the time that is throwing you?? Where on the site does it say to rush or not do due diligence. How Puritanical can this country get?? Relax, Satan didn’t build the site.

27 It Is What It Is { 02.24.12 at 12:10 am }

Such the provocateur of late!

28 Tiara { 02.25.12 at 12:29 pm }

Thank you for this post, Mel. So many things went thru my head as I read it that I thought my head would explode! I had so many comments that I decided to write a post of my own. I linked back to here, I hope that’s ok. Thanks again!

29 Billy { 03.15.12 at 8:10 am }

What do I think..
Well for start I agree with you and with what Tiara wrote on her blog about it being all wrong to promote their site on the expense of others (SMCs). And as for the healthy, happy and balanced children, well SMCs (like other infertility parents) have mostly “worked” hard to have these kids. They can’t be more loved or cared for etc. Also, researches show that what’s important is the love the child receives and not how many (or which gender) parents s/he has.

That being said, and not referring to this specific site of which I know nothing, I don’t think there is anything wrong with such a site (obviously if it’s a decent site and not a sleazy one where people think they can get free sex like the one Battynurse talked about..). You may be in a position where you’re single, want a child and don’t think going the single route is for you. And you also may not know anyone who you’d like/can go co-parenting with. I don’t think it is wrong to meet for the sole purpose of having a child, obviously meeting a few times and having long discussions on all sort of things (child raising topics and others) to see if you see eye to eye. And yes, a contract would be advisable.
That being said, I must say that while I did think of co-parenting, it was not for me, exactly because I’d have to find someone I don’t really know and how can I know that that person will be the right father to my child? (will add that at the time my sister’s ex was giving her a very hard time in regards to their child, and I didn’t want my child to begin her/his life as a child of “divorced parents”). But again, that was me, and others might prefer co parenting with someone who also wants to co parent and whom they got to know on such a site.

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