One of the biggest challenges in a polyamorous person’s life is how to balance good parenting with multiple relationships. As you often hear, “Love is limitless; time is not.” But more than that, how do you handle the concept of being polyamorous in a monogamous world, and how does that mesh or clash with being a parent?
I got the idea for this column from my son. FWB was coming over to visit and we were going to go out to eat. My son, who is in his late teens and is experimenting with manly condescension, patted me on the head and said, “You have a fun date and be good.” I kicked at his shins and told him if was a condescending little heathen again, I was going to knock him winding. I swear, I don’t know where the boy gets that behavior…
But the point is that yeah, I’m poly, and yes, my kids know. In our case, that some people are poly is simply an accepted fact of life, and it’s just not a big deal. However, sometimes you do have to discuss matters with the kids.
What do you tell the children?
You’ve heard the term “age appropriate,” yes? Certainly it applies here. It’s unnecessary and foolish to batter our children’s ears with too much information, but on the other hand, some context is useful in relationships.
For a very small child, there’s always the analogy of the parental relationship, presuming it is still intact, of course. “Mommy and Daddy love each other very much, and Mommy also loves Mr. Adam, and we’re all happy together.”
You’ll find you don’t have to ramp this up too much with older children. While vocabulary might be a bit more sophisticated, basic semantic content is going to remain the same.
Answer questions if your children have them. The older they are, the more likely they are to have them. They might be concerned about what it will mean to their own lives, and rightfully so! Think about this and answer carefully. Be especially careful to follow through on any promises you make. I hope you’ll be able to reassure them that they’ll get the same love, care and attention as ever.
The Monogamous World and the Polyamorous Household? Communication is still the key
Depending on where you live, this might be a big deal or a small deal. A very conservative area might have some problems with polyamory and might use your children as a control technique. I wish it were otherwise, but that’s the simple truth. You want to know how you’re going to handle it before you come out to your child.
While not into secrets, necessarily, I am strongly in favor of considering need to know fairly carefully. What you don’t want to do is indoctrinate your kid that your household and what goes on in is secret. Laying that kind of burden on a kid is not only mean, it makes them vulnerable to people who might want them keeping less benevolent secrets than who their parents are dating. That’s not to say that kids can’t volunteer the damnedest information at the most embarrassing times, but I consider the “secrets” bit dangerous to future boundaries, which is why I come down on it.
What can this look like with your child?
I’d love to be able to tell you that all children are always cool with their parents going poly. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not. There are instances when a kid is just against the idea because it freaks out his world view. It’s sad. It happens. People really sometimes don’t accept things, and ya know what? Kids are people with all that entails.
But before you blow that off, I’d caution you to examine yourself. Yes, of course being a parent doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to have a life, but be honest. Is polyamory causing a lot of processing? Is this processing interfering with your parenting? Yeah, I know. I go on about it. I go on about it because I really did, no kidding, spend some time letting relationship processing distract from time I needed to spend on parenting. I hope I caught it soon enough, but I suppose only time will tell there.
So, don’t fool yourself about that. It’s not that poly and kids can’t mix. It most certainly can, and can be a good thing, but only when you’re ruthless in your self-honesty.