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The Village that Raises the Child: Stories of Co-Parenting Relationships

A photo of the sidewalk featuring the shadows of two adults on either side of a small child. The adults are holding the child's hands.
Towbar
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Image by towbar from Pixabay
Co-parenting can mean different things to different families.

Co-parenting looks different for every family. But at its core, co-parenting can encourage good communication and responsibility-sharing by putting focus on the common interest: the children.

What it means to “co-parent” depends on who you ask. For some, co-parenting means raising a child with an ex-partner, or assuming a parenting role in a current relationship for a child from a previous relationship. For others, it can mean caring for a child with a platonic partner while each parent has their own independent life. For still others, it means raising a child with multiple parents, no matter what their relationship status.

But all these examples have one thing in common: Parenting together with the common goal of meeting a child’s needs.

Omisade Burney-Scott steps in for host Anita Rao in this episode to share her personal story, joined by her co-parent Michael Scott. She also talks with Zena Sharman, a writer, LGBTQ+ health advocate and the author of the book “The Care We Dream Of”, about life with her three co-parents and three children.

And Trina Greene Brown, founder of Parenting for Liberation, joins the conversation to talk about the individual work that parents can do to build healthier co-parenting relationships and resources that are out there to support that work.

Thanks to Michelle Felder of Parenting Pathfinders and AJ Feeney-Ruiz for also contributing their thoughts on co-parenting.

Advice for Co-Parents, by Co-Parents

Strive for equity in your relationship, not strict equality

“The systems [want us to] try to figure out a way for it to be 50/50. And in reality, we have to honor where people arrive and what resources they have, and honor their contributions.” - Trina Greene Brown

Be open and honest with yourself and with your co-parents.

“Have a lot of conversation upfront about your dreams, your visions, your values, the logistical stuff — and also just be open to what unfolds. There's a big difference between the planning and the imagining, and then the experience of becoming a parent.” - Zena Sharman

Find gratitude in your relationships.

“Identify something … about the family you've created together that you're grateful for. Keeping these positive thoughts in mind can truly transform your experience as a co-parent.” - Michelle Felder

Acknowledge the challenges, but don’t let them stop you.

“It takes some work and some planning, but you can do it.” - AJ Feeney-Ruiz

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Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Omisade Burney-Scott (she / her) is a Black southern 7th-generation native North Carolinian feminist, social justice advocate and creative with decades of experience in nonprofit leadership, philanthropy and social justice.