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Growing up in Southern California during the '70s, I thought I would always listen to The Dead Kennedys, dress all in black and dye my hair pink. As an environmental and political activist in the '80s, I became obsessed with human potential and social innovation. Now, in my early 40s, I’m a mother of two living in a tranquil neighborhood of well-kept homes and trimmed lawns. But I’m not the Generation X version of a hippie transforming into a yuppie. There’s more to it than that.
Although I respect conventional marriage, it’s not the right choice for me. I’m not a true pair bonder. Building my children’s home life on the shifting sands of love and intimacy with an individual partner would be uncomfortable. I like to be part of an extended community in which family life is a shared experience. Apparently I'm not alone, as services such as Modamily.com match partners who want to be parents, but aren't interested in falling in love. Everyone is interested, however, in creating a family.
When Hillary Clinton inspired us with the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” many people began to revive our ancient and long-term history of family tribes. It’s my thesis that “blended families” are becoming a norm and, by default, now resemble family tribes. My intention is to fully participate in this modern family revolution. In raising my son Jesse, the first step was to consciously choose to parent with Glenn (in photo above), with whom I did not have a romantic relationship, but had shared core values and complementary personalities.
Glenn was a close friend and co-worker. He was 18 years my senior. We decided to have a child together as nonromantic partners after seeing so many divorces among friends and family. We met in Southern California, and moved to Maui, Hawaii when I was pregnant. We raised Jesse on the same property, in separate houses.
I had idealized notions of basking in the warm ocean and hiking in the rainforest. I found, however, that raising and educating a child among people fixated on sports and leisure was not optimal. I longed to move back to the city after two years. But we wanted an intact family and since our commitment was not through a marriage, divorce was not a concern. Separating Jesse from his father would have undermined the whole reason we partnered to have Jesse in the first place. Glenn was happy on Maui and his business was thriving. I had to buckle down and make peace with my choice to put down roots in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I gave up relationships, educational opportunities and career options. I commuted 3,000 miles for holidays with my relatives.
Jesse is now 22 and on his own. Now, I am raising a 4-year-old daughter in the same house with my current parenting partner, Paul and several other community-minded people. Our parenting agreement is ever-evolving, especially since we are actively looking for another father for my future children. I plan to be pregnant in January 2014.
I had all the benefits of being married with a stable family life, but I was also single and kept my romantic options open.
I’m glad we kept our family together. Moving would have spared me a few challenges but would have created bigger ones for Jesse. I grew as a mother and parenting partner through those years of sacrifice. And our partnership worked wonderfully. I had all the benefits of being married with a stable family life, but I was also single and kept my romantic options open.
Glenn was the primary caregiver, I was the primary earner, and though we both had romantic relationships with others, we remained totally committed to our family. Jesse flourished and so did we. By fulfilling our original principles, we didn’t need to ask, “Is this marriage working for us?”
Paul was another long-time friend. He works in the natural foods industry. In fact, Paul is one of that industry’s true founders. You’ve probably eaten one of his original products, GardenBurger, since more than one billion GardenBurgers were sold. For many years Paul was too busy to even think about being a father. But when GardenBurger was sold to Kellogg, I seized the opportunity for us to become parents. In 2008, Paul agreed to become my known donor and hands-on parenting partner. Paul never had to give up his autonomous life and his work in developing nutritious food products. He was able to become a parent without the complexities and risks of marriage.
Living with or near my parenting partners has taught me much about successful family life and the core of human nature. With this experience I now guide and advise others through the process of building and maintaining innovative families. Through my website PartneredParentingMagazine.com I am able to reach people all over the world. I am continually adding new information from my current search and “courtships.” I’ve answered every sort of question about my sex life, finances, family history, and my plans for the future from both allies and adversaries. I welcome all of them. They’re a sign that people on all sides of these issues are beginning to really think about what modern family life should be and can be.
Last week a 41-year-old professional musician was referred to me. She was all set to pick an anonymous sperm donor and be artificially inseminated next month. Her tears and grief weighed on her face as she told me of her fears and anxiety of depriving her child of a father, and herself of a partner to help raise her child. Slowly her face began to brighten as I described the potential parenting partners to whom I could introduce her. The best match is a man I met through Modamily.com. For 10 years he’s been looking for a talented, careful woman like her as a mother for his child. He is 42, healthy, successful and has a supportive family. They are meeting tomorrow. If this match works out, their child will be blessed with parents who are child-centered and willing to go outside their personal romantic options to make a wonderful and lasting family.
Raising kids in a loving, sustainable community and family is my mission in life. This is the fulfillment of my own dreams, and at the same time I am pioneering an option for millions of others. My dream is to live in a world where families are designed as conscientiously as possible. I love helping people consider all the many intentional, thoughtful parenting options. Then, just like me, they can choose what’s best for them, for their children and for the world.