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‘I’m ready to start a family, but can’t wait for the one’: the rise of elective co-parenting

We are so often asked ‘What makes a good parent?’ Being an honest, respectful role model who acts with care, empathy and kindness? Or being able to provide the safety, time, and attention that our children deserve? Certainly, there are many different ways of answering this all-important question. And as it turns out, there are many different approaches to parenting, too.

That’s why platonic parenting or ‘elective co-parenting’, as it’s more commonly known, is on the rise. An increasing number of people are choosing to partner with a co-parent in order to start a family, but without being romantically involved. They can be single or in a same-sex relationship, best friends who have known each other for years, or people who have met on an online platform.

Cultural evolution

The standard nuclear family structure has been redefined over the decades, starting in the 1960s, when alternatives to the stereotypical heterosexual married couple with an average of 2.4 children began to appear. In today’s postmodern society, more and more variations of the family concept are gaining recognition and acceptance. Like everything else, the family structure and the various forms that it takes has evolved and will continue to adapt to our changing world.

While it is still a commonly held belief that the presence of both the father and the mother in the home is ideal, that is not always necessarily true. It’s widely acknowledged that couples who have children together also have to grapple with a sometimes-painful shift in their organisational structure, with children easily displacing lovers as the primary partners in a family.

Often, the emotional distress that children suffer due to constant animosity between their parents is a heavy price to pay for maintaining the image of a conventional family unit. The current divorce rate in the UK is estimated to be at 42% for 2021. This is a traumatic experience for everyone involved and can have lasting negative effects on children, that trauma is often outweighed by the benefits of being raised in a calmer and more loving environment by parents who share in their children’s care without actually living under the same roof. It is clear that there might be more to consider than just keeping up with tradition, if ultimate stability and wellbeing are to be maintained.

The bigger picture

With the increasing challenges surrounding the logistics of parenthood, and the alarmingly high chances that relationships might fail, it is no wonder that there has also been an increase in celibacy syndrome over the past decade. This is particularly prevalent in Japan – with the number of Japanese people expected to drop by a third by 2050, but there is also clear evidence to show that celibacy is increasing throughout the rest of the world, too.

Indeed, sexual activity has reached its lowest levels in the age groups between 35 and 39 for both men and women, with only 32.2% reporting to be sexually active. Several factors have been blamed for this - including increased levels of stress, longer working hours, declines in alcohol use and fewer offline social activity – and it’s clear that Covid-19 has played its part. However, regardless of the cause, this trend and its currently trajectory are troublesome.

As if the planet hasn’t got already got enough on its plate, globally, the number of deaths are set to outstrip births as soon as 2025, and new policies will be needed urgently to cope with an aging population. This demographic shift will have enormous economic, social and geopolitical consequences.

Falling fertility rates could be linked to the lack of affordable childcare, instable employment and less solid social infrastructures, and world leaders have been compelled to act in response to this future crisis. Across Europe, governments have introduced benefits aimed at stimulating population growth, including boosted monthly payments to households who decide to raise children.

Aside from practicality, there has been a distinct change in mentality. The young generation who are now in their 30s have gone to university and want to start having children much later. This decreases the window of opportunity in which to meet a suitable partner, and they are more likely to either run out of time, or go on to have fewer children when that time does come.

Partners in parenting

This is why elective co-parenting has become more than a trend. Now, it’s often a necessity for many professionals who thought that they might be ready for children by their early thirties, only to find that they had not yet met a suitable romantic partner, or kept pushing their plans back in favour of moving their careers forwards.

We now find – both among the LGBTQ2+ and heterosexual communities – that an increasing number of adults in their forties still want to be parents but need further support with raising a child. They want to do a great job at parenthood but don’t want to risk rushing into commitment with someone unsuitable - increasing the risk of an unsettled family environment or divorce, which can be devastating for children further down the line.

Indeed, the failed search for the perfect soulmate (which may or may not even exist at all) has led to many relationships that are built on one thing: panic. When you reach a certain age – both for men and women alike – there is an expectation of where society dictates that you should be: if you’re to do things ‘right’, you meet someone, you fall in love, you get married, and then you have a family. But of course, it’s your long-term happiness - the ‘ever after’ - that is most important. The pressure to complete each set step often forces us to compromise by settling for an unfulfilling partnership.

While romance is often presented as a prerequisite, the demanding daily tasks of parenting are far from compatible with all-consuming starry-eyed love. Numerous studies indicate that romantic partners’ relationship quality almost invariably declines following the birth of a child. Raising a child can be the challenge of a lifetime – even with an established partner by your side. Elective co-parenting isn’t easier – and logistics need to be well organised (as within any family unit) but some argue that it can be less complicated. If you and your co-parent have never had a romantic relationship, then it never needs rekindling while you’re surviving on four hours of sleep a night.

Collaborate and conquer

Indeed, most parents will tell you that time, money, energy, space and enthusiasm are often in short supply. The division of labour between elective co-parents can, in this sense also be highly beneficial to each parent as individuals, as well as the children that they are working together to raise. When parenthood is more equally shared between two people who support one another, the pressure that overwhelming responsibility brings can feel automatically lifted. Each parent has a vital and equal part to play in their child’s life – but also has at least some time to themselves.

A warm and supportive relationship can come in many forms - and is what elective co-parenting is trying to achieve, whether you’re male, female, transgender or non-binary; this has become a distinctly fathomable option for those who simply never met the right romantic partner - but want to raise a child. And while some elective co-parenting unions are struck among old friends or new acquaintances, others have been facilitated between like-minded individuals thorough the technological advances of the 21st century, especially the up-rise of bespoke online matching, dating and introduction platforms.

A brave new future

So, what does the family of the future look like? The answer is: Whatever you want it to be.

In fact, now might be the perfect time for us to be brave about what we really want, and to at least consider alternative routes to parenthood, where stability, balance and respect are prioritised over romantic love and traditional - sometimes strained - cohabiting partnerships. In this sense, elective co-parenting is a fathomable solution, and is a proven way of providing a functional, dynamic and stable life for a child – without the instability that hot-and-cold, on/off romantic partnerships can bring.

Fortunately, the dating scene is evolving in response to this. Now, individuals are able to find their potential partners online – but beyond just romantic attachments. Thanks to specialist dating sites such as REDDI, you can now also find another person who is on the same trajectory from the very start, offering matching services where users can find potential partners to raise a child with – without necessarily having the expectation of romance, love, or sex.

This particular app is a first-of-its-kind and puts users in the right place at the right time – and with the right kind of people. Aiming to make searches as narrow as possible, expertly matching elite individuals to others with similar interests, values and goals with the emphasis on mutual connection; ensuring that priorities are aligned from the very start. That, surely is what all good family foundations should be built upon?

It’s no wonder that people are starting to warm to new ideas.

If you feel that now is the time to join likeminded people who are on the same page as you then please apply to join the waitlist to become part of REDDI’’s community.


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