As part of my Ethical Slut Read-along, I recently covered my thoughts on child-rearing, but since I am someone who is voluntarily sterile and might never raise kids I also asked some poly parents to submit their thoughts. Shannon from the poly blog Loving Radiance is our first guest blogger on this topic.
We have four kids ages 19, 15, 11, the youngest will be 4 in June. The oldest and youngest are girls, the middle two are boys. All four have been raised in a 4 parent dynamic most of their lives. This has proven to be a huge stabilizing factor for all of them (and us as well).
With four adults it’s easier to avoid daycare or outside babysitters. Because there are four adults to juggle the responsibilities, there’s very little struggle in arranging for kid’s special events, appointments etc. Additionally, they all get frequent “date” times without their siblings in tow.
In September 2009 we came out as officially polyamorous. It wasn’t an easy change. There have been many struggles but the experience has been awe-inspiring. It’s motivated us to improve ourselves, learn about each other and grow in ways we didn’t know we could.
It’s always been our belief that children should be kept “in the loop” regarding our family. We haven’t kept secrets from them about our mistakes (getting pregnant as a teen), our “oddities” (being bisexual) or our important choices (having the last child by alternative methods).
Because of the honesty and openness between us and them, it was obvious that we were going to have to explain our decision to be poly as well. This was a topic of discussion for a couple of months. At first, it was my opinion that talking to our adult child would be easiest. Hindsight being 20/20, they were all a breeze.
The poignant response was from our youngest boy. He was the one I was most concerned about talking to, because he has strong conservative Christian leanings. He came to me about his struggle with being honest about his feelings with his dad (regarding a non-poly issue), because he was afraid of hurting his dads’ feelings.
Explaining that I had to be honest with his dad about being polyamorous and in love with Chris and why was a great lead-in for what he needed to do. It also gave me a way to show him that being honest has positive results, even when it’s hard.
We had a brief discussion about what “poly” and “amory” meant. He pretty much ended the worry of how he’d react when he replied, “that sounds like exactly what Jesus taught mom, we’re SUPPOSED to love everyone equally.” That was the whole of it for him and he went on to talk to his dad about his feelings, found that it cleared up the issue between them nicely and all was well.
Being polyamorous has been a difficult learning experience for us adults. We’ve struggled through all of the typical issues with unclear boundaries, broken boundaries, jealousy, insecurity, lack of communication, not knowing HOW to communicate, etc.
But parenting through this struggle has been fairly easy. We’ve been upfront and honest with our kids almost more easily than we’ve ever been upfront and honest with one another. That honesty has paid off not only in our relationships with the kids, but seeing how well it pays off with them has helped motivate us to greater depths with one another. It’s increased the kids respect for us, it’s increased their willingness to share personal and scary things with us and it’s bonded ALL of us more closely together.”
When asked to describe herself, Shannon had this to say:
I’m 36 years old. I’m in a sexual “V” relationship with Mark & Chris. I’ve been married to Mark for 12 years. We’ve known each other for 23 years. I’ve been officially dating Chris for 18 months. We’ve known each other for 18 years. We’ve all lived together for roughly 8 years. My chosen sister Em also lives with us as a non-sexual partner who co-parents our kids with us. While we are a “V” from a sexual perspective (Em is not sexually involved with any of us), we are a “quad” from a parenting perspective.
You can read more of Shannon on Loving Radiance.