GEOFF ROBINS / TORONTO STAR
Carson Rennick, 35, doesn’t want to have to wait for Ms. Right to become a father. The London, Ont., man hopes to find a woman willing to have a baby with him without a romantic relationship, and to share responsibility for their child without cohabitation.
By: Paul Hunter Feature reporter, Published on Fri Feb 22 2013
Carson Rennick of London, Ont., wants to become a father without having a relationship with the baby’s mother, in an arrangement called co-parenting.
Carson Rennick is six-foot-three, athletic and ruggedly handsome.
He is dark blond and blue-eyed. He earns a salary that allows him to live comfortably.
And he wants to father your child.
At least, he does if you are also in good shape, have a post-secondary education, no serious family baggage and live within a two-hour’s drive of his home in downtown London, Ont.
Appearance isn’t a deal breaker. After all, there will be no sex involved. No romancing either.
Instead, the 35-year-old seeks a partner with whom he can conceive a baby through in vitro fertilization or insemination and then share equally in the financial, social and emotional responsibilities inherent in raising that son or daughter.
The child will move back and forth between his home and the mother’s, spending equal time with each parent in an arrangement known as co-parenting.
The union steward in construction is anxious to get started. He feels his ideal time to become a dad is slipping away.
Many divorced parents are familiar with the concept of co-parenting. But now potential parenting couples are bypassing the marriage. They’re even skipping the coupling.
Already accepted and understood within the gay community, where conceiving a child within a relationship presents its own obvious impossibilities, co-parenting appears to also be gaining traction in the straight world.
The website Modamily.com, created just over a year ago to connect potential parenting partners, has 3,000 members, 80 per cent of whom are straight like Rennick. He, however, doesn’t care if his future co-parent is straight or lesbian; the woman’s race is irrelevant to him as well.
In his profile posted at Modamily, Rennick basically explains his circumstances and what has brought him to this search.
Though his 20s and early 30s, he says, he focused on advancing his career. While he dated women who would have made perfect life partners, Rennick says he was never ready to commit to them or to fatherhood. Raised by a single mother, he said he had no interest in becoming a dad until he felt ready to dedicate himself to the obligation.
Now, he wants to be a father and he fears investing the time to find an ideal mate in a conventional manner might leave him as a much older man with a young child. He said he doesn’t want to be 65 and unable to relate to a 15-year-old.
“For someone in my position, I think it is perfectly logical,” he says. “I want to have a child. I want to be a loving father. I want to be the father that I didn’t have when I needed my father.
“Everything about raising a child — and I know there are ups and downs — I can’t wait for. I crave it. I want it.
“It’s not just that I want to have a child because I’m getting to a certain age. I want to have a child because I love children. I want to have children. But in the path that I took in life, I pushed that option off. I just wasn’t ready. I’m ready at a later age and this is the path I have to take now or at least one of the paths.”
Ivan Fatovic helped pave that path by launching Modamily. The website joined the likes of Coparents.com, MyAlternativeFamily.com, Familybydesign.com, PollenTree.com and Co-ParentMatch.com as web destinations for potential parents to learn more about building a family in a non-traditional way.
“I think it’s going to get a lot bigger,” Fatovic said from Los Angeles, where he was organizing “a mixer” for some of his clients to meet outside the virtual world.
“There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people that want to become parents but haven’t found a way to do it for whatever reason. I think people are just starting to become aware of this as an option.”
Fatovic says he has tried to take his website beyond a clinical environment of people seeking or offering sperm and egg donations by blending in aspects of mainstream dating sites, such as big display photos and compatibility quizzes.
“Instead of sex questions, we’re asking more parenting-style questions, more about your lifestyle, beliefs and value systems, and we try to partner you up with someone that’s similar,” he says.
It’s free to sign up for Modamily, but to read and send messages, the cost is $29.95 (all figures U.S.) per month or $74.95 for three months. A concierge service that includes staff members helping to find an ideal match is $149.95 for three months. The site also offers legal information and, in a nod to murkier elements of the Internet world, the option of linking to a company that does background checks.
Fatovic, who also has his profile posted, figures that if traditional dating sites can boast memberships in the multi-millions, there’s no reason a site like his can’t eventually hit the million-member mark. (Coparents.com has 76,000 users, mostly in Europe.) Fatovic says he has just begun reaching out to the gay community in a serious way but, he believes, this is a need that cuts across demographics.
“I think it’s a universal problem that people have been having, finding themselves getting older while not having someone to raise a child with,” he says. “I like to think we’re helping people and raising the profile of co-parenting as a viable option.”
Rennick is open in his social circle about his story and circumstances. So much so that he almost found a co-parenting match through the grapevine when a previous female acquaintance heard of his quest and began talking to him about being a mother to his child.
The two progressed to the point where they’d decided the child would be in French immersion at school and had even broken down which holidays the child would spend with each parent. The child would move back and forth between homes every three months with one parent getting him or her on weekends when the child was living with the other.
She was prepared to get pregnant right away.
“It was a crazy time but one of the most exciting times in my life,” says Rennick in a deep baritone suited to a radio announcer. “We were planning out the building blocks of this kid’s future.”
However, just before they went to a lawyer to formally draw up a contract, the woman suggested she wanted to cultivate a relationship with Rennick as well.
“That wasn’t what I was looking for at all,” he says. “I didn’t want to complicate the whole process with a relationship. I didn’t want her to have any animosity towards me if it didn’t work out.”
That was two months ago, and since then, Rennick says, he has been communicating regularly with four women on the Modamily website. But those discussions are very preliminary.
“They’re still at the point where they’re trying to see if the site is right for them. You don’t jump on and say, ‘I like your picture, I like your profile, let’s have a kid.’ But by talking it through, you move closer to defining what it is you’re looking for.”
Wanting to build a family in a non-traditional manner can meet with criticism, and Rennick has encountered it among his co-workers. But he feels he gains acceptance when he explains his motivation.
“It still feels like it’s a taboo thing from time to time,” he says. “I work in construction, unionized labour, and a lot of the guys are from traditional European families. Their grandparents are still together. Their parents are still together. They have a wife and they will be together forever.
“A lot of them were dismissive of the idea saying, ‘That’s not good. You shouldn’t be doing that.’ But a lot of them come around to the idea when I explain the time frame I have or that I want to have. These old, salty guys see that I do have love that I want to share with a child. They see I do have passion for having a child.”
While it is outside the traditional norm, Toronto-based child and family therapist Jennifer Kolari, author of Connected Parenting: How to Raise a Great Kid, says children are remarkably adaptable. The shape a family takes, she says, is much less important than the love they receive within that family structure.
“What all children need is a loving, consistent and predictable caregiver,” she says. “It really doesn’t matter what shape or form that takes. If whoever is bringing that child into the world is prepared to do those things and knows what it takes to be a parent, they’ll be a good parent.
“Families come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Some of it you can control, some of it you can’t. (Co-parenting) is complicated to do so people have to know exactly what they’re getting into. But for the child, as long as they’re loved and as long as that love is predictable and consistent, then they’ll be okay.”
Co-parenting, she says, in a non-romantic partnership “is not particularly different” from a divorced couple who raise a child together after romance has been removed from their relationship.
Rennick believes one difference is that if a marriage falls apart, there is a danger of the child being used as a pawn between acrimonious estranged partners. That’s something he hopes to avoid.
While the 35-year-old continues to pursue a parenting partner, he is dating a woman, which would seem to complicate matters. But not in his mind.
“I told her from the get-go this is something I’m doing for myself. If everything works out between her and I, that is great but I’m doing this for me.
“I’m still looking for Miss Right but at the same time, I’m looking ahead for myself. If I can find someone who wants to do this before I find someone that is Miss Right, then I’m going to go through with having my child on my terms wholeheartedly as opposed to waiting three or four years and deciding this is the one.”