" ‘Boring and normal’: The new frontier of polyamorous parenting"
Toronto news reporter Jenny Yuen, poly herself, just ended a cross-Canada book tour for her new Polyamorous: Living and Loving More. More about the book soon.
Meanwhile, it seems to have prompted this very matter-of-fact article in today's Globe and Mail, Canada's largest-circulation weekday paper, about polyfamilies raising children. The Globe and Mail is often considered Canada's newspaper of record. Excerpts:
‘Boring and normal’: The new frontier of polyamorous parenting
Stephanie Weisner, left, and her husband Ian Hubbard, right, and Weisner's boyfriend Mike Wissink, second left, spend time with Weisner's and Hubbard's children Issac, 7, and Alice, 9, in their home in Moncton, N.B. (Darren Calabrese/Globe and Mail)
By Zosia Bielski
Sometimes Stephanie Weisner doesn’t know how two-parent families do it all, without a Mike in tow.
Weisner, 38, has been in a polyamorous relationship with her husband, Ian Hubbard, and her work colleague, Mike Wissink, for eight years. The three adults all live together in one home in Moncton, alongside Weisner and Hubbard’s two children, who are seven and nine years old.
The family keeps a joint e-mail account to sort out their household logistics. While Weisner and Wissink, 49, work shifts at their airline industry jobs, Hubbard, 47, home-schools the children. Wissink often cooks and cleans while Weisner does the groceries. All three pitch in with bedtimes and shuttling the kids to their various activities. This winter, the whole family’s going to Disney World.
“We’re very boring and normal,” said Weisner. “We’re not swinging from chandeliers.”
“Polyamory is still an unknown – it’s still misunderstood," Yuen said. “We have a long way to go.” ...
...In health care, some are also acknowledging polyamorous families. POLYBABES is a new, groundbreaking study from the McMaster Midwifery Research Centre that tracked poly Canadians’ experiences throughout pregnancy and childbirth. Co-investigators Erika Arseneau, Samantha Landry and Liz Darling are working to educate health-care providers about better helping poly families – from allowing more than one partner into the birthing room, to avoiding invasive, judgmental questions.
...A 2017 Canadian study asked 480 respondents who had been in polyamorous unions – a third living full- or part-time in homes with kids – how they think the rest of the country sees them. Most felt that Canadians do not view their relationships as a legitimate form of family, according to study author John-Paul Boyd, former executive director of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family. More than half said outsiders still mistakenly treat polyamory as a sexual fetish or kink.
...Researchers have found that children of poly parents fare no worse than the children of monogamous parents, and in fact enjoy some unique benefits in their enlarged households, according to a 2015 analysis of previous studies compiled by Waterloo, Ont., sexuality educator Jacki Yovanoff, titled What About the Children?! Children in Polyamorous Families: Stigma, Myths, and Realities. (However, Yovanoff notes that some poly parents feel pressure to portray their families and children as “perfect,” anticipating that their detractors would be quick to blame any flaws, however minor, on their unorthodox lifestyle.)
In Weisner’s Moncton home, more hands on deck means the children get more attention. “There are more people to get you juice and more people to chat with,” Weisner said. “If you’re angry at Dad, you can go and find Mom or you can go and find Mike. There’s always someone who’s available.”
Their setup also gives the adults more free time. On Saturday mornings, Wissink, 49, takes one child to drama class while Hubbard, 47, attends a running clinic. When Weisner has a date night with one of the men, the other takes care of the kids. And when the two men, who are best friends, took a guys’ trip to Vegas, Weisner babysat.
Then there is the economic boon: “You can have two incomes and a stay-at-home parent, which is pretty sweet,” Weisner said.
Many poly parents believe that having more adults around helps socialize and build emotional maturity in their kids. Toronto pastry chef Emily Materick, 40, has three-year-old twins and maintains multiple romantic relationships. The children’s stepfather, Adam Riggio, sleeps over four or five days a week; another partner stays over once a week and Materick is also starting up a couple of new relationships. The mother believes that dating different people will yield more diverse perspectives for her kids, down the line.
Initially, Materick’s toddlers were possessive around dates who would come over. “If one of my partners had their arm around me, they’d try and take their arm off from around me,” she said. Eventually, the twins got more comfortable. “For a three year old, it’s not about, ‘Who’s having a relationship here?’ It’s basically, ‘Are you here and are you fun?’” Materick said.
...Kitchener, Ont., consultant Michelle DesRosiers is currently in three relationships. DesRosiers, 40, has chosen not to live with her partners; she shares her home with two sons, 8 and 10, from a previous marriage. “I watch and hear them,” said DesRosiers, who runs a poly parenting network on Facebook. “I go with their pace if they have questions.”
DesRosiers argues that her kids get to see what healthy, amicable breakups look like, versus combative divorces driven by infidelity.
...Polyamorists challenge another relationship myth – the one that tells us one spouse has to do it all: be our lover, best friend, co-parent, emotional confidant and work coach. Whichever way DesRosiers’ kids decide to live their lives, she hopes they’ll learn not to place too heavy a burden on their partners. “Go out and have some solid friendships and be sociable with other people,” she said. “Don’t make one person your everything.”
In Moncton, Weisner and Hubbard had many serious conversations before they opened up their monogamous marriage to Wissink in 2010. Not only was their relationship now shared with a third person, so was their parenting. While the married couple leans toward a child-led philosophy, Wissink comes from a stricter background. All three have adjusted their parenting styles: Wissink has gotten more relaxed around certain rules and expectations while the married couple will sometimes turn to Wissink when “gentle tactics” aren’t working. “We all have pretty equal say,” Weisner said, noting that family votes are easier with a third person serving as tie-breaker.
While Wissink serves as a father figure to the children, the family prefers to use his first name as his title: “The kids introduce us as their mom, their dad and their Mike," Weisner said. The parents have talked to their kids about their open family, sharing their philosophy that love is not a finite resource.
So far, no one has openly ostracized the atypical clan. “We haven’t had anybody be hostile,” Weisner said. “I think we’re very fortunate.”
...Elisabeth Sheff, an educational consultant and author of the 2013 book The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multi-Partner Relationships and Families, paints a vivid picture of how the kids of non-monogamous parents feel about their uncustomary households.
In a 2013 report co-authored by Mark Goldfeder, Sheff conducted in-depth interviews with 22 American children ages 5 to 17, who candidly divulged the perks and the pitfalls.
On the plus side, children said that more adults in the house meant more “ride availability” anytime to anywhere, more Christmas and birthday presents, more homework help and more attention. Some said they felt more connected to their parents than other kids did to their moms and dads, thanks to the openness and honesty in their homes. The children reported minimal social stigma, partly because their poly families could easily pass for blended families with step-parents.
At the same time, teens complained about crowded houses: too many people, too few bathrooms, too little privacy. They spoke of rivalries with their parents’ partners’ kids. Extra adults in the house also meant extra parental supervision: Lies were harder to maintain with so many adults watching. Some teens felt loss when their poly parents split with a partner they’d liked.
Sheff argued that many of these challenges weren’t unique to poly kids: children of divorced parents dating new people or building blended families face similar realities.
“Over all, the children seemed remarkably well adjusted, articulate, intelligent and self-confident,” the authors wrote. “These respondents appeared to be thriving with the abundant resources and adult attention their families provided.”
Read the whole article (December 2, 2018).