Parenting is a unique, one-of-a-kind journey with many paths. There is no one, conventional way of raising children and building a family. This is truer more so in recent times where you can find more and more diverse, non-traditional families, LGBT couples or divorced co-parenting couples who successfully rear and raise happy, healthy families.
One particular family dynamic and co-parenting trend that is growing in popularity in recent years is “platonic parenting” which, in the most basic terms, means two (sometimes more) non-romantically involved people work together to raise children as a family unit.
In a society that, for decades, has been taught and raised to believe that only traditional nuclear families with a mom and a dad have the capability to raise children, and only recently began to recognize the capability of same-sex couples – platonic parenting can seem like an ultra-modern, progressive idea. However, many platonic parents say it’s quite a simple concept: just two or more adults raising children together.
But is it really as simple as that? Kinacle examines the good, the bad and the ugly of platonic parenting so you can determine if it’s an arrangement that will work best for you.
First, let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions.
Platonic Parenting FAQ:
Is platonic parenting legal in the United States?
Kinacle does not have the capacity or expertise to offer any legal advice on any matter. However, based on our research, there is no definitive law in the United States that explicitly declares platonic parenting or co-parenting between unmarried people as illegal. However, if you plan to co-parent a child with someone other than your former spouse, we highly advise for you to reach out to a family law expert.
What we can tell you though, is the successful story of two friends raising a special-needs child who successfully petitioned the Canadian court to sign an official order to legally adopt despite not being a conjugal couple:
Natasha Bakht and Lynda Collins made headlines and history in November 2016 as they became the first two people to platonically co-parent Bakht’s biological child, Elaan, who was born with severe disabilities. Throughout Bakht’s challenges, Collins was there to fully support Elaan’s needs. After petitioning for adoption rights, a court in Ontario approved and granted Bakht and Collins a legal declaration of parentage. Elaan’s birth certificate was updated to show both names of Bakht and Collins as his legal parents. It was momentous success in Canada’s family law and consequently redefined how the world’s view on parenting.
Are you in a similar situation as Natasha and Lynda? If you are, then it’s best to consult family law experts to get legal advice and explore your options.
How is platonic parenting different from a platonic marriage?
Platonic parenting means two or more individuals that come together to raise a child: an LGBT couple, best friends, two single moms, even long-time colleagues. Some platonic parenting arrangements are also born out of co-parenting apps and websites. If you’re curious about these types of apps and websites, a quick online search using search phrases like “co-parenting partner” or “platonic parenting website” should lead you to the right direction. We also see successful stories where an LGBT couple are trying for a child through artificial means with a female friend and then decide, mutually, to co-parent the child they “made” together.
Platonic marriage, on the other hand, means a divorced couple who decide to co-parent a child minus the romance. It’s an arrangement that works for couples who find that, although they may not be the best husbands and wives, they can still be good parents. Most parents in a platonic marriage still live in the same house with the proverbial “separate lives” while some live in different homes. Whatever the case may be, parents in a platonic marriage usually plan their living arrangements around what works best for the children.
With the basics explained, we’ll start off with the good side of platonic parenting.
Platonic Parenting Benefits
Provides men and women with more child-raising options.
Recent statistics show the steady decline of marriage rates in the United States. More and more women want the fulfillment of raising their own children without the complication of marriage. Women can split expenses, manage the household and be fully present in their children’s lives minus the stress of trying to keep a spouse happy.
Easily pass on shared values and family expectations without fear of conflict or constant disagreement.
Strong friendships often form bonds that are even more lasting than a married couple. It means that two people have gone through similar challenges together and well – basically grew up together so when two long-time friends decide to platonically parent a child, they easily incorporate their shared values and family expectations when raising their own children. Similarly, when a formerly married couple decide to platonically co-parent, they both agree that they are better parents apart rather than together. This means that, setting aside any personal issues, it will ultimately make it easier for them to continue to commit teaching their children the same values.
Raising a family without worrying about how to keep the romance alive.
Studies indicate that following the birth of a child, the quality of a romantic relationship declines. This happens quite often that it becomes a common plot among books and movies. What with caring for a newborn, helping with homework, preparing meals, housework, juggling careers and all other challenges of being parents, date nights and couple time tend to dwindle over time. With platonic parents, since romance was never part of the equation, falling out love is never an issue either.
Children’s needs are consciously put first, marriage/relationship needs are second.
Platonic parenting is a big decision and a life-long commitment with the well-being of children foremost in mind. When two unmarried people make the mutual decision to raise children together; chances are, they did not arrive at this decision lightly. They may have unknowingly raised children together through years of helping out one another through caring for newborns, long hospital stays and taking turns picking up each other’s kids from soccer practice. After a while, living together in one family home, managing expenses together and splitting childcare tasks between each other just seems easier. And once they have carefully decided to platonically parent their children, they do so deliberately and consciously decide to take this step together, fully aware of how massive a decision they are making but also knowing that they are doing this for the children’s benefit. On the other hand, parents with relationships that start out romantically are quite the opposite, they are a couple first before the children so naturally, they’ll want to keep working on their needs as a couple while also juggling the needs of their family. This can prove to be stressful in the long run.
At a glance, platonic parenting sounds like the perfect arrangement for people who find themselves in circumstances where they need help with their kids but do not necessarily have the time for a serious, romantic relationship. It’s a great idea for recently divorced couples who want to amicably co-parent their kids together with their current, respective partners. It’s also an ideal solution for LGBT couples. It might even be the perfect arrangement for siblings who are single parents and just naturally decide to join their families as one single unit.
We further discuss the many different types of families and couples that can greatly benefit from platonic parenting but like all types of parenting, nothing is perfect. It’s no surprise then that platonic parenting has several critics who find several flaws in it, especially for the children.
The Drawbacks Of Platonic Parenting
Platonic parents can still break up.
Like any relationship, platonic parents still have the potential to break up. Critics argue that getting married can be undone through divorce but it’s much more difficult to undo platonic friends who raise children together. In fact, it can sometimes be harder for friendships to fall apart than it is for actual married couples especially when a child is added into the mix. When platonic, unmarried parents “break up”, it opens up several questions such as:
- Who gets actual parental rights?
- If you bought assets together, yet you’re not actually married, who gets what?
- Can either one of you file for parental custody?
- Will the parents simply find other friends to seek the same arrangement with?
- If one (or both) of the platonic parents decide to pursue a romantic relationship, after all, how will this major change affect the children?
Children may suffer from the absence of witnessing real romantic love between their parents.
Family experts maintain that, for the emotional well-being of children, they need to be exposed to real, romantic relationships and that they need actually see it in their homes. It’s said that the love between parents is like the bright sun that shines on their children and it keeps them happy and healthy. As there is no romantic connection between platonic parents, one can certainly imagine that children will not be able to see or experience any real type of romance in their own homes. They might know about it, read about it, see it in movies or social media but if it’s not present in their homes – how can parents teach them about romantic love?
Platonic parents may get involved with actual romantic partners who can potentially ruin their parenting arrangement.
Other parents in a more traditional setup are always curious to know – what happens if platonic partners eventually find a romantic partner that they want to be with? While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it may be more difficult to manage children raised by platonic parents if more people come into the picture. Platonic parents may then need to carefully choose any romantic partners and anyone they date must also be open about them being platonic parents.
Children with platonic parents who live in different homes may need to “bounce” between houses constantly.
Some platonic parents live in separate homes for varied reasons. Whatever the reasons may be, while this may same beneficial to the parents themselves, it may not be as suitable for growing children. Research shows that young children need the security of a stable home to grow up to become stable adults themselves. Some parenting experts may argue that children need the security of an everyday routine and that being shuttled to and from different houses on a regular basis may prove to be unstable in the long run. This is particularly true in cases where the parents might experience life changes or become unable to meet their children’s schedule from time to time.
Having children constantly explain their family dynamic to their “mainstream” friends.
While many couples are beginning to choose platonic parenting over traditional parenting, it is still not a type of parenting that’s considered mainstream. When school-aged children from platonically parenting families learn about the more mainstream type of family unit, they may feel obligated to explain and maybe even defend how their family is set up to their other friends. Sadly, this type of situation may leave the child prone to bullying due to them being “different” from the other kids.
Platonic parents themselves may need to explain their situation to mainstream friends or family who may not completely understand or accept the situation.
In some instances, it’s not just the children who need to find ways to let their friends know about their parents, but the parents, as well, may find themselves in situations where they’ll need to explain their own reasons why they’ve decided to platonically parent with a friend or former spouse. While it’s sometimes healthy to just say “it’s none of your business” to random people who are not in the position to question your parenting choices, it’s simply harder when you have to explain your decisions to close family members or friends, especially the ones who lean more on the traditional dynamic of parenting.
The key takeaway here is just like any parenting arrangement, platonic parenting is filled with its own highs and lows. What’s important to remember is that when two adults mutually decide to platonically parent a child, it is a decision that requires both parties to carefully decide, plan and commit to their roles as parents.
What does it take, then, so that platonic parenting doesn’t turn ugly?
Based on what we know, one of the keys to successful platonic parenting is Open Communication. We certainly aren’t experts but after careful consideration of the pro’s and con’s of platonic parenting – if two people plan on being a family and be in a lifelong commitment to become parents then they mustn’t be afraid to talk about whatever issues they are currently and potentially facing. Openly communicating arrangements to family members and existing children will certainly help make the load lighter.
Another key ingredient to successful platonic parenting is an ironclad Legal Foundation. While parents need to mutually trust each other at all times, it’s always better to prepare for what’s ahead. Before delving into a deeper involvement as one half of a platonic parenting partnership, always seek legal counsel with family law experts that specialize in non-conventional types of parenting partnerships. Proper legal advice in estate planning and family law will ensure that you, your platonic parenting partner and your children will be protected should times of conflict arise.
While Americans are largely still traditional up to today and still see other types of parenting as “novel” ideas that “probably won’t last”, platonic parenting is certainly more than an idea to many families who have been successful at parenting their children without marriage or romantic involvement for several years.
The world is certainly changing. And the definition of family is changing along with it. Regardless of how fast things change, though, one thing has endured the test of time: family matters. However we want to raise our children, whatever ways we seek to build our own families, it’s important to keep in mind that each of the little boys and girls we raise matters. If we raise them with love and kindness, they’ll surely grow up to share their own love and kindness to the rest of the world.
Recommended further reading: ‘Family By Choice’ by Rachel Hope (via Amazon)