Are Brad and Angelina really “co-parenting”? Are we?


These two are obviously made of wax, but are their real-life counterparts really co-parenting?

written by Love Isn’t Enough columnist Deesha Philyaw; originally published at The Faster Times

Recently on Twitter, friend of Mydria asked us: Can an unmarried couple with kids be considered “co-parents”? in response to media outlets referring to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s “co-parenting” partnership and referencing them as co-parents. Mydria asks because around these parts we tend to think of co-parents as people who share parenting duties but live apart, after a break up.

I wonder if the media refer to Brad and Angelina as “co-parents” and not simply as “parents” because they aren’t married. As ifNew CoPa Logo 2we need a special designation to remind us that the couple is living in sin. Or maybe we need a special designation for unmarried celebrities who live and parent together, lest they be confused with the riff-raff.

That said, I’ve also read about married couples who are referred to as “co-parenting.” I usually translate this as: “Hey, look! Dad cares for the kids too–besides going to work everyday. He does, you know…Mom stuff.” No disrespect to couples, married or unmarried, who are parenting with parity under the same roof. In fact, good for them. But the fact that what they are doing is considered co-parenting, and not just parenting, signifies how much of an anomaly non-gendered division of childcare labor still is.

Finally, in response to Mydria’s question, I mentioned that some same-sex couples who are parenting with a third-party donor or surrogate also describe their relationships as “co-parenting.” Again, all involved are parenting, but there is a distinction made that says, “We are the parents of these kids, but we’re not parenting in the ‘traditional’, i.e., married and/or heterosexual, way.”

Or maybe they aren’t saying this at all. Maybe the distinction is being made for them…for all of us? Because applying my own logic, the parenting that my kids’ father and I have done since our divorce is “just” parenting as well but it too requires a clarifying label. I can’t even remember where I first heard the term “co-parenting,” and I don’t recall making a conscious decision to call what we do with regard to jointly caring for our kids “co-parenting.”

For all my musings, however, the title of this column and of the resource site I run with my ex aren’t changing. After all, U.S. marriage rates are declining, and we have the lowest percentage among Western nations of children who grow up with* both biological parents. We have highest divorce rate and the highest rate of single parenting. If these trends continue and if the number of married and co-habitating dads doing their fair share of the childcare continues to grow, then maybe “co-parenting” will replace “parenting” as what Americans call the heart-, hand- and headwork that two or more people undertake on behalf of a child entrusted to their care.

Photo Credit: thomas_tkacsik

*I’m assuming here “with” means “living full-time in a single household with.”


This is the first in a monthly series on co-parenting. Deesha Philyaw is the co-creator, with her ex-husband, of Co-Parenting 101, a site designed as a resource for parents and others “who find themselves parenting after divorce or separation for whatever reason.”

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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