Photo: David Jay (left) with his co-parents, Avary Kent and Zeke Hausfather, and their daughter, Octavia Hausfather Jay Kent.
David Jay identifies as asexual — i.e., he does not experience sexuality and desire in the way that most people are used to — and yet he's always wanted to be a parent. In his late thirties, that dream came true: he's now co-parenting a toddler in the Bay Area with two other parents. But in order to become a parent as an asexual man, he had to really think outside the box.
For one thing, David had to find someone — or in this case, multiple someones — with whom he felt comfortable co-parenting. Once he found them, the three had to deeply ponder what it means to be a parent. Which parts of parenting are biological, and which parts are social and cultural? What's the best way to split up the labor? If disagreements arise about values, about where to live, about school, then how do the parents decide what happens?
David and his co-parents spent years talking about these questions before finalizing their decision to have a child together. In the process, they ultimately created a "co-parenting contract," and they've been generous enough to share an abridged version of that contract with us at The New Modality. (Some personal material has been removed from this contract.)
Here's how the contract begins:
This document describes an agreement between Zeke Hausfather, Avary Kent, and David Jay to co-parent a child. It is our hope that articulating our shared values, shared intentions, and existing agreements in these pages will provide a useful reference for future conversations, and that regularly revisiting and adjusting these agreements will help to maintain healthy communication and decision making within our family. It should be noted that this is not a legally binding contract, even in places where financial systems are discussed, merely an informal statement of shared intention.
It is the intention of the three of us (Zeke, Avary, and David) to serve as equal partners in raising a child. As of the writing of this document, this child is due August 30th 2017. It is the goal of all three parents to strive for equality in parental rights and responsibilities, financial contribution, decision making power, and legal status. We believe that having three loving parents in our child’s life will allow us to more effectively nurture and support our child. We embark on this journey together after a long history of shared love, friendship, and intentionality.
The contract contains sections with headers like "Decision Making and Communication," "Finances," "Parental and Household Responsibilities," "Discipline," "Family Time," "Community," "Education," "Child Healthcare," "Relocation," "Disagreements," "Separation," and "Loss of Ability to Parent." A couple things that jumped out at me include:
- In the "Finances" section, they plan for disparities in income by saying: "Our intention is to set our standard of living and that of our child to one which will allow the parent with the lowest income to comfortably contribute their ⅓ share, though we recognize that this may not always be possible."
- In the "Community" section, they plan for all the parents to get romantic time by saying: "We intend to structure parental responsibilities in a way that will allow each of us to maintain healthy personal relationships, both with members of our personal communities and with our committed partners. This includes regular time for Avary and Zeke to focus on their marriage as well as regular time for David to spend time with his romantic partner at least once per week."
Again, you can read the document here.
Additionally, now that David has gone through the co-parenting set-up process himself (and has advised other people who are trying to do the same thing), he's developed a list of prompts for people who are interested in co-parenting. He calls it the Menu of Parental Responsibilities. The Menu is designed to help people think about how they might want to co-parent — a person can go through it, either alone or with one or more partners, when thinking about how to share parental logistics.
In March of this year, David and his co-parents took advantage of a brand-new California law that allows children to have more than two legal parents. After months of figuring out the details, David completed the official adoption paperwork that anointed him as Octavia's third parent in the eyes of the state. I had the honor of being present in the courtroom when it was all signed and delivered, and laughing along with the others when the judge said: "This is a first for me. Congratulations!"
I was also happily present when David held an Adoption Ceremony post-paperwork. (I admit it, I Instagrammed the event, but in my defense, I couldn't help myself because there were cupcakes in the colors of the asexual flag.) The ceremony included Octavia's new grandparents, one of whom delivered this excellent quote:
“The world is just too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love.”
— William Sloan Coffin
On that amazingly sweet note, thanks to David and his co-parents for sharing so much information about what they’re doing! (David is also one of our wonderful NewMo Catalysts, and you can learn more about him and his life from his Catalyst profile.) Part of our mission at The New Modality is to provide support and tools for the people who seek to practice alternative relationships and family arrangements with integrity and care. But many such families keep their workings private. So I'm really grateful that we can show so much backstage process behind one three-parent family.
This was written by Lydia Laurenson, editor in chief of The New Modality. (Learn more about Lydia at her NewMo profile.) It wasn't fact-checked by a third party. There's more about our transparency process at our page about truth and transparency at The New Modality.