This modern family consists of three parents: a married couple, Zeke Hausfather and Avary Kent, and their friend David Jay.
The three decided to come together in a committed — and legal — relationship and co-parent baby Octavia together. They tell Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson about their decision and how it works.
On deciding to have a third parent
Avary Kent: “[Zeke and I] have been together about seven years, and have known David for pretty much that whole length of time. And unfortunately we don’t have a lot of family here in the Bay Area, and we knew as entrepreneurs and people who value our careers and multifaceted parts of our lives, that when we decided to have a child, that we would want support, and we would want to be part of a larger community in that effort — not only to help us, but also to help our daughter, or at that point future child, have access and exposure to lots of different points of view and lots of really incredible people that we know. And so the process started many years ago with David, in talking about how we may come together as a family. It didn’t start with this idea of being co-parents.”
On co-parenting as an asexual person
David Jay: “For me as an asexual person, I’ve kind of always known I wanted kids, but felt that it was pretty unlikely that I was gonna have kids in a traditional way. And I’ve always formed really close, committed relationships with my friends, including friends that are couples. And so even when I was in my 20s and thinking about what might kids look like to me, the possibility that I might form a committed relationship with a couple and help them raise one or more children was really appealing to me. And then I met my partner in 2011, and it became pretty clear early on that she didn’t want kids, and I really did. And so what I said to her was, ‘Look, I am gonna find a way to have kids in my life. If our relationship can be flexible, if we can each have the room to do what we need to do, then I’ll find a way to have kids in my life and you can make your own decision about whether or not you wanna have kids.’ And what we wound up realizing was, it makes a lot of sense for me to be a co-parent, and for her to be a person in the child’s life, but not to be primarily, you know, bottle-feeding at 4 a.m.”
On concerns when considering co-parenting
AK: “It was less about concerns and more about, what were our values? So we really started this process about three years ago, so long before I was pregnant, and pretty much shortly after Zeke and I had actually gotten married. And one of the frameworks that we found really helpful was thinking about time, and what kind of commitments each of us would make around time — both with ourselves and with our child. Responsibility, so who is responsible for what, how do those decisions get made? We also looked at financial commitments, and what would that look like in terms of financial agreements? And then finally discipline, and what were our theories and our values and our frameworks around that.
“And one of the processes that we did on a long weekend with more Post-it notes than I can count was actually really each of us sharing and looking at our childhoods, and what were the things that we loved that we really valued and want to carry forward into our family? What were the things that were not ideal, and that we might want to avoid in the future? And what were things that were maybe missing that we wish we had had, or that we’ve learned since then from other people about their experiences that we would want to include? And so by having that framework and that structure for what it meant to be family, it gave us this really safe container to explore that, and from there we were able to progress the conversation in terms of what our involvement together would look like practically, logistically and legally.”
On determining the division of labor
Zeke Hausfather: “Initially, Avary had to bear a lot of that responsibility because the baby had to breast-feed. But ever since week three or so, since we’ve been able to bottle-feed her with store-pressed milk, D.J.’s been able to help out for half the night. So we now divide the night into two shifts: Avary and I take one shift, he takes the other — either late or early — and then his shift, the baby is in his room sleeping in a little bassinet there, and he bottle-feeds her when she wakes up, changes her diaper, et cetera. So we get a lot better rested and we also get to spend a lot more time together as a couple. You know, in some ways I think it’s really good for our relationship.”
On downsides of co-parenting
ZH: “I think we had to put a lot of work into laying a lot of groundwork, and how we wanted to communicate, how we wanted to make decisions together. You’re turning a two-person, complicated decision-making process into a three-person process, and that takes a lot of groundwork. It took years of building trust. It took us really kinda taking the script of parenting and holding it up on the wall and saying, ‘OK, what about this do we wanna keep, what about this would we wanna change?’ So I think it took a lot of intentionality, but that work is really paying off, and that all of us get this beautiful, amazing child in our life — and get a lot of support, I think a lot more support than most parents get.”
On the notion of parenting as a communal task
DJ: “Though kind of legal third parents are not as common, I think that raising kids in community, and raising kids in community that you really take the time and energy to build, is as old as human history. And we’re just finding a new form of … anyone who says, ‘Hey I’m having a kid, and I’m gonna sit down with my friends and talk about how often they want to come by, and have a relationship with this kid.’ And I think that the practice of community parenting is one that exists everywhere.”