Michelle Darné talks about parental alienation and her fight for her right to parent.
Even as the founder and executive producer of And Baby – the pioneer magazine, radio show and TV series for alternative parents – I did not practice what I preached: I did not legally adopt my children. My ex and I brought our babies into the world together and it didn’t seem to matter that I didn’t carry them. In my busy life, paperwork felt like a mere formality – until it wasn’t. By the time our relationship ended, I had made it too easy for the system to erase me as a “nobody” in the lives of my daughters, and I nearly lost them forever.
I was incredibly fortunate to have the resources to fight, to have our public visibility to attest to my parentage, and I still lost everything in an effort that too often felt futile. However, millions of parents are much less lucky. About 22 million parents battle parental alienation in the US alone, hemorrhaging money in court, losing jobs to keep showing up at pick-up, and living in silent shame because we assume they deserve it. But it is children who suffer the most when we let outdated norms and archaic systems tell them whom they are allowed to love, and how many days per month.
While parental alienation does not discriminate, LGBTQ+ parents are particularly vulnerable because even legal unions do not come with presumption of parentage, and second-parent adoptions – even where they are legal – are usually voided should the child(ren) cross state lines. There wasn’t a single form – and I filled out more than I can count – where I didn’t have to cross out “father” to enter my name. And I have been crucified for ambition, which remains a dirty word when describing women, and a trait, according to the outdated norms we let run our lives, deemed incompatible with motherhood.
As a brown, ambitious, non-biological, lesbian mother, I seem to have drawn every short straw offered by our biased and antiquated legal system. But I would do it again, eyes and heart wide open, for my daughters. What I won’t do is stand by and watch our biased and antiquated legal system senselessly destroy loving families.
So after nearly a decade of vacillating, I wrote Parent Deleted, sharing my soul and hope, baring my faults and countless mistakes, and trying to capture the mysterious force that is the bond between a parent and her child(re)n.
Going through my tribulations, I hoped I wouldn’t have to write this book. I hoped it would no longer be needed, or that another unlucky bugger writes it if it is. But, alas, my parents taught me nothing if they didn’t teach me that the world isn’t shaped by armchair quarterbacks.
So I wrote Parent Deleted for all who are silenced by their absence in the law. I wrote it for mine and all other daughters who have the right to shake up motherhood as they aspire to be all they can be – because there are countless ways to be a good mom. I wrote it for those with the power to shape law and policy because we can no longer allow a brutal violation of basic human rights to unfold in the blindside of our collective vision. For the countless children severed from their loving parents. And for the millions of parents suffering the shame that is, as long as we stand by, on all of us.
What gives me hope is that as a society, we have done this before. In the last decade alone, we have taken on bullying, sexual assault, drunk driving and more and persevered until we could draw a line in the sand; until the entire system rejected the unacceptable behavior. Let’s do this again; let’s not stand by and watch our biased and antiquated legal system senselessly destroy families. So through Parent Deleted and my non-profit Simply Parent, I lay my story onto the mounting wall of resistance. I would be honored if you peel of some of your courage and feistiness so that together, we relegate institutionalized parental alienation to the pages of history books!
An acclaimed spokesperson for equality at the helm of And Baby, a pioneer magazine, radio show, and TV series on alternative parenting, Michelle Darne found herself at once callously erased from the lives of her children and silenced by the law.
Parent Deleted is a gripping tale of one non-biological, lesbian mother’s fight for her children – an intimate, infuriating, and infectious story of perseverance, sacrifice, and hope in the face of debilitating adversity. And it is a courageous, disturbing, and necessary expose of a likely emergent social justice frontier: the rights of all children to be with their parents, whether they are biologically linked, straight, gay, prepared or knocked up, perfect spouses or fallible ones.
Michelle Darné has been a prominent figure in the fashion, advertising, marketing, publishing, and entertainment industries for more than thirty years. In 2000, she bet on a market nobody believed existed when she decided to publish And Baby Magazine: Redefining Modern Parenting which became the pioneer national magazine to focus on alternative parenting. Within a few years, And Baby became a radio show with 7 million listeners, and then a TV series followed through Time Warner cable. She is currently the CEO and Executive Producer of digital media company Patina Entertainment. To amplify the impact she aims to have through Parent Deleted, she also recently founded Simply Parent, a non-profit that is dedicated to forging a society where good parenting is protected in all its diverse genesis, forms, and colours.