Online Singles Seek Parenthood but No Sex

PHOTO: Shown in this screenshot image, the Modamily.com website allows couples who want to have kids, but not sex or romance, to meet and co-parent.
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Melani, a 41-year-old New Yorker who sells sustainable water-filtration systems, just never found the right man to start a family. But now, more than ever before, she wants kids.

"Being a career woman in such a complex world, finding a good, honest, loving man is really hard," Melani said, asking that her last name not be used. "And I always wanted a child, ever since I was 11 and babysat."

But maybe not a husband, romance, nor even sex.

Melani is looking to what she calls "the next big thing" in online match-ups and has signed on to Modamily.com, a new website that pairs couples interested in "co-parenting" arrangements.

It's sort of like the new Jennifer Westfeldt film, "Friends With Kids," about two best friends who have a child, while keeping their relationship platonic.

Skeptics highlight the potential side effects, but supporters say that forming a sexless union, simply for the sake of having kids, might even be better for children, given that half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce.

"The shared raising of a child between two loving, committed, and financially secure adults," as described by Monamily.

The Website says this approach "helps to solve the problem of quickie-clock-ticker marriages and resulting divorces."

Couples can decide for themselves how the child is conceived, according to CEO and founder Ivan Fatovic, a former Hollywood talent director who also worked in finance.

Some might have sex, others might use home insemination methods or, if they have the financial means, opt for in vitro fertilization.

The New York-based site launched last week and so far has seen about 20,000 visitors, 70 percent of them heterosexual men in their 40s and 50s, Fatovic said.

Similar websites such as co-parentmatch.com have popped up in Europe and in Israel.

"It's a trend that's happening in the rest of the world," Fatovic, 36, said.

"If [love and marriage] don't happen, people end up marrying someone they're not crazy about and get divorced in a few years," he said. "In two out of three divorces, a child is involved. When a child is introduced, the mom and dad don't get along and are fighting with each other. My thinking is that we can find two people that put the child first."

Through a co-parenting contract, the couple lays out how the child will be raised, answering questions about religion, time commitments and financial obligations.

"It would be nice if they lived in the same proximity or the same city, whatever they agreed upon," Fatovic said. "It could be a 50-50 arrangement or limited involvement. It would have to be hammered out."

Registration for Modamily is free now, but once the site is fully launched, will cost subscribers about $50 a month.

"We are for people who are gay, straight, anyone ready to have a child and hasn't found someone to do it in the traditional means," Fatovic said.

Samantha Schoech, a mother of 5-year-old twins who blogs for the website Baby Center, said she sees nothing wrong with the co-parenting arrangements.

"I think it could work," said Schoech, who is from San Francisco and is a child of divorce. "Lots of kids end up in a co-parented arrangement because of divorce. This way, instead of the trauma and dealing with parents' baggage and anger, this would be a completely amicable arrangement.

"Both parents are completely committed and are friends," she said. "I can't see that's any worse. I think in some ways, it's better."

But Schoech, 41, said she understands parenting is a major commitment and worries about the trend of "trophy children" and "people trying to raise perfect human beings."

Children Can Be 'Accessories' in Marriage

"In some ways, especially the way the media deals with celebrity children, they are a cute little accessory," she said. "But parenting is hard work.

"I am not completely gung-ho, but I am not going to be judgmental about it. Between the right people, it might be a workable thing."

But child development experts say couples who enjoy romance and sex are important models for developing children. And it's those bonds that help them cope with children.

Juli Slattery, a psychologist for the national Christian organization Focus on the Family, said she has deep concerns about co-parenting arrangements and their potential effect on not only the children, but the couples who choose to co-parent.

"It's a bad idea and I don't like it," she said. Those arrangements are not only "terrible for the kids," but also bad for the parents.

"[Co-partners] underestimate the amount of commitment and work it is to raise kids together," Slattery said. "They have to agree on things like faith, nutrition and schooling. It's very stressful, and the marriage bond makes it easier."

Having children puts stresses on even the happiest couples, according to Slattery, and those who think that children "are the only glue" in a relationship "live in fairytale land."

"Sex and hormones, like oxytocin, allow us to compromise, bond us together and make the compromise required of parenting easier," Slattery said.

"When we have kids, our happiness goes down, but if we are married, that is less so."

And that's from the parent perspective, according to Slattery.

The mission of Modamily, to help those who want to have children without a loving relationship, sounds like "adults trying to figure out how to have it all."

But Melani, who is using the website to find a co-parent, disagrees. And she also does not rule out the possibility of finding love, or even a marital partner.

"I think online dating used to be a little sketchy," she said. "But so many of my friends and family met online. This is just another vehicle that puts two people on the same level playing field and gets rid of the awkwardness of, 'Do you want to have a child?'

"I know I would be a great mother if I found the right father," she said. "There are lots of ways to bring two people together to have a child. Really, it's a matter of finding a connection with someone else whose interest is, first and foremost in children.

"We all want the same thing in life."

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