Vice: "What It's Like to Start a Poly Family," meaning one with children
Vice articles are often pretty high quality, better than the online-mag average, and this one's no exception. It's titled "What Happens to Polyamorous Relationships When One Partner Has Kids," but the author seems to have originally titled it, "What It's Like to Start a Poly Family."
Save this one to send to anybody who thinks polyfamilies are inherently questionable for children.
Coincidence: As it happens, Moose and I are just back from an end-of-summer BBQ party at the home of a 25-year triad who have two extraordinary twins entering their senior year of high school.
Rob and Julia Campbell / Stocksy
When a member of a polycule gets pregnant, everyone faces new choices about how to adjust their relationships.
By Sofia Barrett-Ibarria [a frequent Vice writer]
...Now a married couple and the busy parents of a young child named Elliot, Matias and Amory Jane’s love lives are much quieter, though some of their partners have since become valuable members of their growing family. “I think there are many benefits to having more attentive adults in every child's life,” Amory Jane said. When Amory Jane became sick with hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancy, she and Matias’ other partner, Joelle, became close friends. “She brought me crackers and ginger ale when I had bad morning sickness and massaged me as I grew larger and more uncomfortable,” Amory Jane said. Joelle was also present as a doula during Elliot’s birth. “It was over the top magical for me,” Joelle said. “It was a privilege I wasn’t anticipating.”
After Elliot was born, a “poly pod” of seven partners regularly took turns looking after the baby, including Joelle, who lives next door. “We would often split date nights so one couple had baby duty half the night and could relax, and actually go out during the other half. There were always at least two adults watching the baby,” said Amory Jane. “It worked well for helping us keep our sanity and stay connected to friends, lovers, and ourselves in ways that brand-new monogamous parents might not get to do.”
...Polyamory is reportedly on the rise with approximately 10 to 12 million polyamorous people living in the United States, and like Amory Jane and Matias, many of them are parents. Many of those parents also report this multiple-partner family structure can be to the overall benefit of the parents, the partners, and family life.
Dr. Elisabeth “Eli” Sheff, a researcher, expert witness, and relationship coach, is the co-author of an upcoming [20-year update of her long-term] research study on polyamorous parenting that identifies common trends among polyamorous families in Australia and the United States. According to Dr. Sheff’s findings, poly parents tend to favor free-range, collaborative parenting styles with permeable family boundaries that encourage bonds with chosen family members who often provide their partners with emotional and logistical support. ...
Ragen lives with their husband and 6-year-old daughter, 19-year-old stepson, and two other partners, who occasionally step in to help with childcare and enjoy their own unique relationships with the children. As the primary caregiver to their daughter, Ragen is usually in charge of day-to-day parenting decisions on their own. Their husband takes over for playtime, manages logistical tasks like schedules and appointments, and is generally the one “in charge” when Ragen isn’t around. Ragen’s boyfriend helps with daily maintenance tasks like school drop-off and pick-up, and their girlfriend, though uninterested in being a co-parent or having kids of her own, enjoys joining the kids in more spontaneous play. ...
“The great thing about this arrangement is that everyone gets to have exactly the relationship that works for them and nobody is expected or required to do things they aren't good at or don't want to do,” said Ragen. “Parenting is still stressful and difficult but when the labor is shared so broadly across so many different people, it never feels like a burden. Nobody is isolated or overwhelmed, there's always help, and nobody is ever forced into a role that doesn't work for them.”
Joelle doesn’t weigh in on major parenting decisions, like when to potty train Elliot or where they will attend school, but Amory Jane and Matias welcome her input. “Matias and I are open to our partners' ideas, especially about things where they may have more experience than us,” Amory Jane said.
As much as Joelle enjoys helping out, finding the time to date other people can be a challenge. “It has put dating on the back burner a little bit more for me,” she said. She also wishes she could spend more time with Matias, her primary partner. “That’s been the hardest part of the whole dynamic, but it’s also hard for Amory Jane and Matias now that they have a child that’s part of everything all the time,” she said. “It takes three very desiring people to make it work.”
Ragen believes poly parenthood offers emotional and psychological benefits for both parents and children. “The kids get reasonably happy adults in their lives who can fully engage in the aspects of the labor that they're good at and genuinely want to do, and they get well-rounded parenting because of the ways that we all compliment each other.” ...
“I've known several polyamorous families who have adopted either queer youth, or young people their child meets at school, when it’s clear that their home life is not working out,” Dr. Sheff said. “...The parent is the person who shows up. The parent is the person who does the hard work and takes care of that child on an emotional and physical and practical level.”
Dr. Sheff also found that polyamorous parents, biological or otherwise, can help shape their child’s understanding of sexuality by modeling honesty, communication, and mutual respect within their romantic relationships. ...
Despite an increased cultural awareness of polyamory, Ragen worries that “coming out” in her local community could be risky. “The biggest fear is other parents keeping their kids away from our kids, which for the six-year-old would be truly devastating,” she said. ... Keeping her family life hidden from other parents is a constant source of stress for Ragen, but she’s committed to protecting her daughter from potential social stigma.
Writer and advice columnist Lola Phoenix chose non-monogamy because she hopes to raise any potential children with a number of chosen parental figures. She grew up with non-monogamous parents herself, but their tumultuous relationship lacked transparency and honest communication. Various partners came and went, which made Phoenix feel like an afterthought. “One of my mother's partners whom she was with for awhile told me that I was important to them and made a commitment as a parent. After I moved out of my mother's house, I never heard from them again. It was incredibly painful,” she said.
Phoenix advises non-monogamous parents to honor these unique relationships and consider their children’s feelings when approaching a breakup with a partner. “Whomever you introduce into your child's life as a parental figure needs to understand that a child will not know or care that your relationship with that person has broken down.” ...
Though many children grow up with step parents or single parents who date ... family members outside the poly community may struggle with the concept of poly parenthood. “We are open with our families, about who we are and how we love,” Amory Jane said. “They have met our other partners and are generally supportive, although they occasionally have a hard time understanding why Matias and I don't have a strict hierarchy....” Some poly families may face stigma from grandparents or ex-spouses who disapprove of their parenting style, sometimes resulting in legal backlash and disputes over child custody. However, legal rulings in California, New York, and Canada could set a precedent for increased protection and recognition for poly families in the future. ...
Read the whole 2000-word article (August 23, 2019).
To be continued. My next post will give links to many other articles and resources regarding poly and kids.