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The Ethical Slut Read-along: Childrearing

Posted in Life, Polyamory, and The Ethical Slut Read Along

I am leading a read-through of The Ethical Slut, 2nd editionIf you’d like to catch up on past installments, check the list at the bottom of the series introduction. Comments on the topics in this discussion are welcome anytime, even from people who aren’t following along in the book.

In this installment we discuss Chapter 12, “Childrearing.”

The Ethical Slut, Second Edition by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

This chapter of The Ethical Slut is all about what happens when the lives of children intersect with the lives of ethical sluts and others in open or non-traditional relationships. The authors definitely have experience in child-rearing — when the first edition of this book came out, Janet W. Hardy was forced to use the pen name Catherine A. Liszt in order to protect her children. Although this chapter bears the same title as one found in that edition, it is safe to say it has been updated to reflect on the decade or so of experience they have gained in the intervening time.

I am glad that this series has gotten more flexible since I started. When I began, I was analyzing the book in some detail, but now I use each chapter’s topic as a general jumping off point to share my thoughts and encourage others to do the same. There’s a lot of good advice here — I like that Easton & Hardy encourage careful, responsible openness with kids but also encourage everyone to respect boundaries. However, it’s fortunate that I don’t have to cover it point by point because I have a lot less to say about the specifics of this chapter, and feel a lot less qualified than usual to talk about its topics.

Not only do I not have children of my own, but I probably never will. When I first began writing on the Internet over a decade ago in my LiveJournal, I was one of the rabidly childfree set. I not only didn’t want kids of my own, but I actually actively disliked them. Sometime in my mid-twenties, I got a vasectomy from Planned Parenthood because I was sure that I would never want to create children of my own genetic material.  The procedure was very simple, though the aftereffects were annoying for a little while, and it was very inexpensive compared to the financial burden of an unwanted child.

The strange thing is that not only has being voluntarily sterile improved my sex life by taking away worry, it’s also made me enjoy the company of children a lot more. My childfree stance began to soften almost from the day I got “snipped,” but my resistance melted away when I bonded with my friend Haiku’s children. I can remember a very specific day when her son came running out to greet me. As he hugged my leg and looked up at me through his gorgeous blue eyes, I felt my heart go funny as my paternal instinct awoke for the very first time.

Polyamory allows children to be raised by more than just their two biological parents. Instead, they may experience the wisdom of a larger, more diverse group of adults. Photo of a triad by Beth Rankin.

I’ve still never regretted my decision to get a vasectomy. The reasons for which I don’t want to father a child are still present, and the reality is that polyamory makes far more options available to me. I can still be present in a child’s life without taking on the full responsibility of parenthood. I make a wonderful uncle!

It hasn’t always been easy. A former lover of mine wanted me present in her child’s life when she began planning her pregnancy, but after conception chose to shut out all her lovers other than her husband and the child’s biological father. It caused some hurt on my part, but I respected her desire to build a family of her choosing and have welcomed her friendship’s gradual return to my life as her child has grown older.

I also had some difficulty with a lover in Houston who wanted to introduce me to her teenage son. Something about meeting a kid closer to my own age, and more importantly closer to being an adult, was very jarring for me. It ended up damaging our relationship when I acted distant to her family. It’s clear I still have some healing of my child-related issues to do.

But I’ve really enjoyed the children I’ve been able to spend time with through polyamorous relationships. My pet has entertained the idea of having children someday, and while it may never happen I have told her that I am open to the idea of being a ‘secondary’ dad, if she can find a suitable parent to fill the role of “primary” father and sperm donor. This is a place I never thought I’d be in, and polyamory and my vasectomy made it possible in an unexpected way. In The Ethical Slut, Hardy & Easton encourage their readers to seek out happily nontraditional arrangements like Pet and I may someday find.

This chapter marks the end of Part II of the book, “The Practice of Sluthood.” The Ethical Slut Read-along will return on Thursday, April 14 when we will continue into Part III, “Navigating Challenges.” Chapter 13 of the book is called “Roadmaps through Jealousy.”

If anyone who is a parent and a blogger is interested in writing a guest post for Approximately 8,000 Words about your experiences raising kids in open relationships, please get in touch with me through the comments below or the contact information at the top of this blog. If you’d like, you can also share your thoughts on this topic in the comments — what choices have you made about your kids, or your lovers’ kids? What experiences have you had?