Understanding Platonic Parenting: A Dialogue on Non-Traditional Families


The conception of family has, for long, been a part of the debate and discussion around gender and sexuality. Family as a social unit played a significant part in determining how equality, especially in terms of preference, orientation, and gender roles is played out in the social world. Being identified as a family has remained important, especially for non-traditional families because not only does it bring a sense of personal fulfillment but also drives the process of acceptance in society.

Needless to say, the popular media has bombarded all social spheres with the most accepted and appreciated form of what a family looks like, or rather, what a “real family” should look like. We are faced with happy, cheerful portraits of traditional (read heterosexual) families on an everyday basis and we are driven to the point of believing that an ideal family consists of a mom, a dad, two kids, a dog, and a house.

Through popular perceptions, one can easily determine the fragility of this concept and can determine which families are celebrated, which ones are acknowledged, which ones are sympathized with, and which ones are frowned upon.

Fortunately today, we also have a counter-narrative and we are gradually crawling towards acknowledging other forms of non-traditional families such as LGBT couples or divorced co-parenting couples.

However, when we look into the portrayals of non-traditional families, even in the modern-day dialogue, we seldom get to witness the stories of families that are not tied together by romantic love. Even the most inclusive discourses that are accepting of homosexual parenthood, single parenthood, adoption, and transgender parenthood have not really come out to discuss platonic families. Does that imply that families like that do not exist, or is it simply our prejudices that stop us from looking at platonic partners capable of bringing up a child together?

A massive reason for this bias can be traced to the assumption that ‘family’ as an entity is to be supported by love and our idea of love has been narrowed down to fit only a particular form of it. Sexuality has been inextricably tied together with romantic love and it has been painted as the most fulfilling form of love that one must seek to achieve. This assumption and labeling of love come with its own set of consequences wherein all other forms are either looked down upon or not considered anything at all.

What is Platonic Parenting?  

Platonic Parenting is when two individuals, not tied together by romantic love, decide to raise a child together with equal legal and social rights. In the most basic terms, means two (sometimes more) non-romantically involved people work together to raise children as a family unit. These parents share all obligations equally including financial responsibilities, education, upbringing, and socialization responsibilities of the child.

There usually are two major patterns surrounding the practice. One that can be traced to people raising children with their siblings or best friends as co-parents and two, people meeting specifically for the aim of raising children.

The first path is especially common amongst women wherein a lot of women are increasingly looking at raising children with their sisters or their best friends. This arrangement has also been seen in American sitcoms such as Kate & Allie (1986) as well as the three season-long series- Playing House (2014, 2015 and 2017).

The formal co-parenting arrangement of this sort was brought to light in late 2018 when the Canadian court granted equal rights as platonic parents to two women who filed for the adoption of two children. Ever since there has been a significant increase in the number of women who are choosing to raise children with other women in their lives.

The other co-parenting arrangement that we are presented with is people meeting specifically to raise a child. Today, we have several online forums that are dedicated to connecting prospective co-parents so they can start a family of their own. Some of these include- Family by Design (http://www.familybydesign.com/), Modamily (https://www.modamily.com/), and CoParents (https://coparents.com/).

Co-parenting then comes across as an immensely inclusive domain for it facilitates a range of people to access equal rights as parents, irrespective of whether or not they are in a romantic relationship. This includes everyone from LGBTQ+ couples, siblings, two single parents, best friends, or just about any two people who wish to raise a child together.

The critique of this form of parenting raises the point of risk involved in the entire process, to which a shared response by co-parents is highlighting the fact that a similar kind of risk surrounds all situations wherein a child is involved. Any two individuals who are raising a child together can very well end up in a complicated situation, irrespective of whether or not they are tied together by a sexual or a romantic relationship. In order to look into this issue, many co-parenting partners get into a legal contract and many still like to continue with mutual trust and cooperation.

All in all, co-parenting is a viable alternative for people who are ready for parenthood, don’t want to do it alone and don’t want to wait till they find a romantic partner or are not seeking a romantic relationship at all. As inclusive as it can get, platonic parenting can be open for all, no matter where they lie on the sexual preference spectrum or whether or not they are seeking sexual companionship.

The fact of the matter remains that no matter what, families of all shapes and forms have been existing and will continue to exist. What is important is to have at least some representation that could lead to igniting a dialogue on the matter.

Vernika Tanwani
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Vernika Tanwani

Vernika Tanwani is 23-years-old, and has pursued Masters in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University Delhi. She writes both professionally and for pleasure and loves creating art in varied forms including poetry, writing, painting, crocheting, and other DIY projects. In addition to being involved in advocacy and activism surrounding gender, she also feels deeply connected to issues such as child rights, climate change, environmental pollution, and animal rights. She has previously presented her research at international and national conferences and her works have been a part of University journals including Niti Samvad (St Xavier's College, Mumbai), DU-Vidha (Delhi University) and Volcano (Banaras Hindu University).

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