the pre-natal agreement

Dads Are Equal Parents, But Only If They Step Up to the Challenge

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Yesterday I submitted my book The Pre-Natal Agreement for publication. I immediately got feedback from people who were concerned about what I was trying to propose. Today, I need to clarify a few things.

The Pre-Natal Agreement is a call-to-action. Dads are equal parents. It’s time for dads to take full responsibility for our participation in raising our kids. From the day they are born, both parents must agree to sharing the joy as well as the hard work that goes into raising healthy and happy children.

This agreement is a vow, best made before conception, to love and cherish your children by always doing what’s best for them.

I think this statement from the discussion says it all.

“What we are agreeing to, now, before we have kids,
is to cherish and value the 50/50 co-parenting
of the other parent forever.”


Pre-Natal Agreement Release Announcement, Dec. 17, 2019


What’s Hard About 50/50 Parenting?

I was expecting some push back. But where the pushback came from was surprising to me.

OBJECTION: This is going to run most of the guys off?

LOGIC: Men enjoy a lot of freedom due to the stereotypes around parenting. For a man to step into the 50/50 agreement, the promise is to give 100% of their effort, 100% of the time. We’ve benefited from some of the “dad jokes.” We can opt-out of a good portion of the child care if we just go along with the accepted routine. But with this opting-out comes an imbalance that is not so good for us in the long run.

As many in our society have agreed, the dad should go back to work ASAP while the mom should stay at home with the child. (I know this was our choice as well.) But, isn’t it possible that some dads would make better caregivers than their partners? Isn’t it possible that I would’ve made a better stay-at-home parent than my wife? Regardless of how you answered those questions, the reality is BOTH parents must opt-in to the total-package for the co-parenting agreement to work.

If a guy is scared off by the idea of sharing 100% of the duties of raising a child, perhaps that’s a good indication of how things might’ve gone in the relationship. This aspect of the Pre-Natal Agreement might be an acid test. Are you 100% in? Are you ambivalent?

OBJECTION: What about abuse or alcoholism?

LOGIC: How can two people agree to 50/50 co-parenting in the future that includes abuse, cheating, or addiction? While this is a good question, it’s a bit off the point. As two people get married, they exchange vows concerning the hopeful future of their union. The Pre-Natal Agreement is the same kind of “spiritual” document. Two people agreeing to join together in bringing children into the world need to be very clear about the equal balance of responsibility.

Do you think my ex-wife would’ve agreed to have kids with me if I had led with the Standard Possession Order as a balance of parenting duties? “Okay, so we want to have kids. Great. I’m going to put in about 30% of the effort. You can handle most of it, right?”

That would never have been acceptable. And while this agreement is aimed at pre-natal relationships, the actual agreement can take place between two parents at any time. It’s easy. “We agree to parent 50/50 forever. Amen.” Of course, relationships end, and problems in marriages can occur. This does not negate the idea of marriage vows, nor does it contradict the promise and spirit of the Pre-Natal Agreement.

These are more like vows that laws. This document is more of a prayer than a legal binding agreement.

As I ran my agreement by my friendly divorce attorney, his response was concise, “Seems straight forward enough. I am assuming you know it will be trumped by a future hearing.”

Of course, what my legally-astute friend was pointing out, just like marriage vows, there can be future hearings to change or renegotiate any agreement.

The Spiritual Side of Parenting

When you cross over the threshold of becoming parents, you are taking a spiritual vow to love and support your children over and above yourself. The Pre-Natal Agreement provides an opportunity to have a discussion about how you will parent (even in the event of a divorce) before you become parents. I do think some couples will be turned off by the comprehensive nature of this agreement. I hope that what I have created gives couples an opportunity to express and negotiate their ideas about becoming a parent.

In my marriage, we absolutely agreed to 100% co-parenting and an equal split of all the chores and responsibilities that came along with our agreement to bring children into the world. For the most part, we abided by these 50/50 parenting principles for the 10 years of our marriage. In my case, the balanced co-parenting ended when my future ex-wife went for the typical divorce package (70/30) rather than continuing to honor our spiritual agreement. With this document in place, at least both parents agree to share everything about parenting equally. For men, this means we have to step up to the plate and do our fair share. For women, this means in the event of a divorce, they will agree to 50/50 co-parenting rather than take the 70/30 deal most states offer.

While one little agreement will not prevent divorces or unbalanced co-parenting decrees, perhaps new couples will consider how a 50/50 parenting agreement (as a guiding principle) can protect and nurture the children with a balance of both parents’ love and care. This agreement may also guide couples in the case of separation and divorce.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce dating journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.

Additional articles about 50/50 parenting and divorce:

Here’s a little video I made to show the disparity of 70/30 custody agreements.

Further Reading:

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