Poly and Parenting

It’s kind of funny – as I write that title I’m like…  uhh I can’t write this, I’m not a parent yet, duh! But then again, not being a parent, let alone a parent in a poly relationship, has not stopped a single person from sharing their thoughts so hell, why don’t I give it a try.

We get a TON of questions about how our relationship affects our plans to be parents.  It’s not the questions I mind so much – actually we welcome more or less all questions because we’d rather people ask than assume.  The annoying part of these questions is the number of people who ask and then immediately tell us what they feel is the correct answer.

Can I just pause for a second here and tell ya’ll something? We’re not “trying”. We want kids to be a part of our future not our right now. So whatever we haven’t figured out, we’ve got time.

But I’ll be honest. When you get serious in a relationship you talk about the future. You talk about values, what kind of lifestyle you want, what your big life goals are, and what a family looks like or means to you.

If you want to be pessimistic you can imagine a different future for us than what we imagine for ourselves but ya’ll know it’s rude to root against someones love life and what makes them happy. And I know ya’ll aren’t rude.

So let me answer some questions:

Yes, we want children.

No, we don’t know how many but 2 is a good bet.

No, at this point we don’t plan to plan who the biological parents are. Oops – there’s a controversial one. Here’s the thing, we all plan to be the kiddos parents. I’m not going to parent a child any less because they are biologically Maggies or more because they are biologically mine. We all live under one roof and we operate as a family unit.  We plan to keep it that way as we think about bringing children in to our lives. They will be loved and looked after by all of us.  Like any other couple, when we’re ready, we’ll be throwing out the birth control methods and carrying on as usual. What happens from there happens.

I know people think it has to be pretty simple to just plan who you’re getting knocked up by, but it’s not.  I’ve tried to talk on this blog about how each of our relationships is unique and no one relationship gets to set the rules or boundaries for another. For me to say I wanted to have a baby with one man specifically would be allowing my relationship with that man to limit my relationship with the other man in order to ensure the biological parentage of the child. Given that we all expect to parent equally, setting those kind of boundaries doesn’t make sense for the relationships we’ve built.

On a related note, we won’t be announcing the biological parentage of babies born in our family. I mean, why would we need to? We’re assuming that our family and friends who will continue to be a part of our lives as our family grows will love our growing family for what it is: a family.

The world is a confusing place, we’re pretty sure that having 4 loving parents is not going to be a huge problem for our children. I mean, we had this conversation about same sex parents, right? There were a bunch of people who could barely fathom same sex relationships and so were completely unhinged at the idea that a child might not understand having two moms or two dads. But children understand love. Time and time again they’ve proven this to the world. Even the young children in our lives now – children of friends and family – handled us coming out better than most. It goes like this:

“Hey, you know how you have this Aunt and Uncle?”

“Yeah”

“And they love each other?”

“Yep.”

“Well, they also love this other man and woman.”

“Okay.”

“And basically the four of them just all love each other and they’re very happy together.”

“Does this mean I get extra gifts at Christmas?”

That is the most vital question a child has asked about our relationship. Does two more people coming into a relationship they’re familiar with mean that they get more Christmas gifts.  Whoa – so confused.

You can stop worrying about our childrens confusing home life now. They’ll be fine.

We have similar values about raising children. That’s a big part of how we know our children are safe from the concerns of others. We believe in raising children in a loving environment.  We believe in rules and routine.  We agree when it comes to dicipline. We believe in teaching them about the whole world, not just our world. We agree with each other on the important things.  They’ll be loved beyond belief.

These hypothetical children will be ours. No really, like any parents, parents to be or hypothetical eventual parents the bottom line and most important fact I can possibly provide you: who to have children with, what our household looks like and how to raise them is entirely up to us and absolutely doesn’t need your opinion about what’s best. You might feel that opinion passionately, you might even be a little bit not okay with the idea of us raising children as a polyamorous family. That’s fine. But if you think that your discomfort or opinions are a factor in our family plans I’m not super sorry to inform you, you’re mistaken.

Carmen

 

 

Polyamory and Staying True to Myself

I realized the other day that delving into this polyamorous lifestyle has expanded my world and made me feel more complete in a few ways.  I think it’s true for a lot of people that even when they have different interests than their partner, they still rely on that partner when going on new adventures and we might hesitate to stray into interests that are really far from theirs.

Take Ben and I for example.  He is a computer scientist and a musician.  His hobby time is taken up with Dungeons and Dragons, programming and band practice.  I on the other hand, don’t have the patience for D&D or the skills for music. I like reading, blogging, and yoga.

It seems like we’re very different, and we are.  However, these hobbies have been with us since before we started dating.  Ben was in a band when we met, and has always tinkered with whatever tech he can get his hands on.  Likewise, I’ve always been a reader and enjoyed yoga.  Since being together we haven’t strayed away from these core hobbies in a big way.

We’ve explored some hobbies together.  There’s a mutual love of food, a desire to travel, tv shows and events we’ve fallen in love with together.  However, there are always things I might enjoy that I know Ben would hate and things he’d like to explore that I have no interest in.  That doesn’t mean we want to explore those things alone. In some cases that’s meant just sticking with what we know and sticking with each other.

More relationships, more experiences

Until now… with Maggie and Tom in our lives, we all have more opportunities to pursue new hobbies without having to do so alone.  In my life right now that’s demolition derbies for example: In the last two years, we started going to more and more derbies to watch both Maggie and Tom have fun destroying some cars.  While Ben really enjoys watching the events, I’m fascinated by the cars and with every heat I watch I’ve wanted to be a part of it.  I wouldn’t have dared though – without Tom, I have no way to build a car, for one.  I have no knowledge and would be totally lost without a partner in crime.  It’s my relationship with Tom that has allowed me to start learning more about all things derby in a way I never would have before.

Meanwhile, Ben and Maggie have found all kinds of craft beer festivals to enjoy.  Neither Tom or I drink beer (we barely drink at all) so these events hold no interest for us.  Maggie and Ben’s relationship has given them a partnership where they can explore those interests without dragging uninterested spouses.

I never felt incomplete or unhappy in my relationship with Ben.  There are still things that we love to do together and everything we built in the last seven years still holds significant value.  We both could have lived happy lives continuing to find and explore things we enjoyed together.

As it happens, polyamory has given us the opportunity to broaden those horizons and live more true to ourselves, not just ourselves as partners to each other.

The Importance of Unique Hobbies

Not to mention, having activities and hobbies we enjoy with each partner helps differentiate each relationship so that it develops to be unique and independent of the others.  While the four of us enjoy our “pod dates” for activities we’re all excited about (usually food or go-carting related), we also enjoy having our own time with each other.

It’s important to us that each of our relationships is allowed to develop naturally and that in each of our relationships we are focused on each other, not just each other as someone else’s.

Having hobbies and activities that are unique to each couple helps with this natural development of the relationships and with the sense of each relationship being independent.

A more independent Identity

Honestly I believe when we settle in with someone for the long term – whether that’s getting married or just moving in together and planning a forever kind of life – we start attaching our identity to each other.

We become “his wife” or “her husband” or “their partner”.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this but it does affect how we make decisions about hobbies and interests.  Will our other half be interested? Will they want to go to that event? Will they enjoy this?

We do it to ourselves even without a partner – we get an idea of ourselves and who we are in our head and then start ignoring things that don’t fit that box without really thinking about it – but that’s another post.

With three partners I can’t totally attach half my identity or decision making to what I imagine they’ll think of an event or activity so instead I start recognizing my own interest first and then figuring out if I might have company – who would be most interested? Who could support me best for this interest?

Focusing on my own interest and following my own inclinations rather than filtering them through a partner’s interests has changed how I think about my time and what I enjoy – for the better! It’s made my identity more independent without making my life more lonely.

How about you? What hobbies do you enjoy with your partner?

What Commitment means when you’re Polyamorous

With Valentine’s day around the corner I wanted to put something out there:

Polyamory is the belief that we can love more than one person. There’s no reason why the love you give to multiple people has to be any different than the fairy tale love we’re familiar with.  Polyamorous romances can be just as intense, long-lasting and committed as monogamous ones.

The thing is that when I fell in love with my husband there was a script for what to do with our feelings as a young, monogamous couple. We could easily google, for example, what we legally needed to do to become wed. We could find out about the process of applying for a marriage license, where to send it, what documents we would need to complete this process.

 

Ben and I

My Husband, Ben, and I

We could also find endless resources for how to plan a wedding. We could get ideas on how to make our wedding come together from tv shows, pinterest, magazines, friends or family and everywhere in between.

 

It’s a little different when you’re polyamorous and fall in love.

There aren’t tv shows about planning a poly wedding.  And because in Canada where we live you can’t legally marry more than one person it’s much harder to just google what the process might look like.

That’s kind of scary, for about half a second, and then it’s totally freeing.  There isn’t a script – we get to write it!

So here are a few thoughts on commitment when you’re in polyamorous relationships!

 

Living Outside the Closet

I have a great respect for people who keep some aspect of themselves and their love lives “in the closet”. Whether it’s polyamory, a matter of sexuality, or gender identity – it isn’t easy. We kept our polyamorous relationships secret for the first couple months while we all developed our own understanding of what was happening. We didn’t want to tell people what was happening before we had all the answers. At first, we didn’t even know what to call each other, much less if this was going to last. Until we knew those things, we worked on our relationships strictly in private.

It was hard. Given that we’re all reasonably privileged and had never had to hide a

Maggie and I

My girlfriend, Maggie, and I

relationship before it was frustrating and a constant, irritating limitation to check ourselves – not reaching for each other’ss hands or kissing in public.

 

That made the decision to come out easy for us. Make no mistake though, not all of the responses we got were easy to handle. We have a strong appreciation for why some people never come out.

But we’re glad we have and it makes thinking about living together, and staying committed easier to be excited about since we won’t have to hide the true nature of our relationships.

Where Do We Live?

Of course Ben and I had a perfectly happy little home, as did Maggie and Tom, before we all started dating. As the feelings grew stronger we had to start seriously asking ourselves where this could go. When we started dating our spouses that script was there to support us: if it’s going well, make it facebook official. When you don’t want to sleep without them anymore move in, and so on.

 

Tom and I

My boyfriend, Tom, and I

What about us now? Do poly people follow that at all?

 

The answer is – sure, if they want to!

And we do, so we are. Ben and I are moving into Maggie and Tom’s house. We have all acknowledged that this isn’t really for practical reasons – we were all perfectly able to run our own households. But we wanted the time together. We spend more time than we care to admit driving back and forth. Our current houses are about a half hour apart so it’s kind of a pain to always be commuting here and there.

When we sat down and thought out what we all value in our households, the presence of the people we love was number one. More broadly, our priorities and goals about how we believe a household should be run were compatible so the move makes sense for us and is underway.

 

To Ceremony or Not To Ceremony

Maybe we won’t do anything. Maybe we’ll just make our home and keep living our lives, happily ever after.  Then again, just because we can’t legally marry our new partners doesn’t mean that we can’t have a wedding. After all the legal part of getting married is a 30 second moment after the ceremony when we actually signed the paperwork.  It’s still a wedding without that moment.

As far as the ceremony goes… we get to make it up!  We can say vows that make sense to us, involve a wedding party or not, invite whoever we want… there aren’t a whole ton of rules for how this is done!

Just think – when I married my husband there were magazines and a tradition full of must’s and mustn’ts that I needed to follow in order to participate in the tradition.  Now though, commitment means designing something that reflects only us and nothing else.

Kids

At this point, children are probably the most popular thing for people to ask us about. Each of us being a couple years into our marriage, and between us having good jobs and stable relationships people were starting to ask us as married couples when we would have kids even before we got together.

The reality is that any thoughts of having kids have been shifted back a few years. We all really value forming tangible commitments before bringing children into the picture.  Give us time to live together and continue building our lives to match the new family structure before expecting us to add to the family!

That being said, people’s main concern seems to be who will parent the children. The short answer is: it’s not their business.

We all love each other. I don’t know who will create children with who, but I know those children will have 4 parents to love them unconditionally. And I expect that to be enough knowledge for the others who love our children.

 

All in all the most complicated part of being committed and polyamorous is figuring out how holidays like Valentine’s day work! We get to write our own script and I love that about the direction our lives are going.

Comment your questions and thoughts!

Carmen