Maintaining Flexibility as a Poly Parent
‘We’d just have to “come out” to the baby.’
“When we have children, we will…”
My Love and I talked heaps about parenting before our daughter was even conceived. For one, she isn’t only going to be the cutest baby at Pride, she is also an actual Rainbow Baby with a very large gap. So parenting has been a topic for a while.
One of the things we talked about (but on reflection, not very much) was about other partners and how they’ll fit into our lives as parents. Back then, I was in a few serious, long-term relationships. Mostly with people who expressed a disinterest in having their own children but didn’t seem to express that me having my own children would be a deal-breaker. That seemed like a point of compatibility. Until it wasn’t.
I imagined that my relationships post-baby would take place mostly outside of my home and I’d be a sort of “weekend partner” for some time. Maybe with a few people, we could get away with them coming around as a “friend” and reserve any affection for after bedtime. It seemed to work for others. It seemed like it would work for me. Until it didn’t.
The first thing that happened is that one of the few partners that would be a good fit to share our home and lifestyle became available for that option. When Dil moved in, my Love was in early pregnancy and it quickly became apparent that my idea of feigning platonic affection all day while dealing with the sheer intensity of parenting wasn’t feasible. Not for me at least.
In the mid-term future, my Love will venture out and practice non-monogamy in a different way than she has been in the past. Our kink dynamic and her desire for a transfer of authority/power exchange with other partners mean that may look a little different to “vanilla polyamory” but it will still require at least as much flexibility to get right. It will likely necessitate interaction between all of us as well as sensitivity and some sense of compersion or at least, mutual gratification from all the intersecting relationships to achieve the ideal.
While all of these changes are either scheduled or currently occurring, we were/are also having many discussions on and offline about the ethical issues surrounding flexibility (or lack thereof) in non-monogamous relationships. Can your inflexibility to the evolving needs of others become unethical? I decided that it can be. On a selfish note, a likely consequence to our inflexibility would be a reduction in intimacy which opposes what we ultimately want from non-monogamy.
Poly 101: you can’t control feelings.
The reality of parenting after she was born also changed our outlook. We aren’t parents in theory or mourning anymore, we are active parents so we have some idea how our everyday will look. It became rapidly obvious that our initial plan for total compartmentalization of our family life and non-monogamous life would have left us unavailable to fulfilling relationships for years. Too many years for that to seem like a viable option. We’d just have to “come out” to the baby.
Some people did sort of naturally fade away as the pandemic and then the pregnancy progressed. It felt worse with some than others. Conversely, some people who I would have thought wouldn’t have wanted to interact with us as a family made it clear they were ready to adapt to the new changes and solidify their presence in our new chapter. Roles changed. A Friend with Benefits has stayed over with us a few times since she has been born. One night, we took the night shift together and my Love slept in the spare room undisturbed. Our baby didn’t wake up if I remember rightly. Just her mother’s luck!
Dil became very attached to our baby before she was born and has marveled at her ever since. While Dil is not a co-parent, they are family and Dil has written our baby into their long-term future as a child to be cared for and guided. This was not expected by any party, but it has occurred.
Trust Your People Picker
So I guess we have said that we will just play it by ear. Nothing moves quickly at the moment. We’re not going out and bringing anyone home. Our lifestyle and the current world situation mean meeting people online and talking enough to establish firstly a common understanding of civil obligation during a pandemic and then mutual compatibility in all the traditional ways. By that time, you may as well exchange sexual health information too. You go on a few dates after building that foundation and you know each other at least as well as you know some of your neighbors. Then is it such a big deal if they spend some supervised social time around your child?
I think it can be easy to forget that most people have a somewhat similar understanding of acceptable conduct. Reasonable people in vanilla, monogamous relationships would not typically make out in front of their children, even if they did show some casual affection. There isn’t anything inherent about non-monogamy that opposes those norms.
A rule forbidding PDAs with other partners seems unnecessary and imposes a level of restriction/hierarchy we don’t want on our partners. We want to trust that they are similarly-minded people who will behave both authentically and in the best interests of all of us. They’d avoid behaviors that would confuse, alarm, or embarrass our child(ren).
I’m no expert.
We are a mere six months into being actual parents. Right now, we are still trying to put down the groundwork for the sort of flexible poly future we want. The first step for me? Making sure I’m doing my bit at home and with the baby. This will ensure we both have the spoons and ability to offer the other some freedom to go and be poly away from the baby. For my Love, it is especially important that her future potential partners can see that the entirety of the work of a young baby/child is not going to be solely on her.
Someone I respect greatly once mentioned the idea of children consenting to being raised within a polyamorous household. It doesn’t seem like a significant issue to me. I see it the same as being born into any inherited cultural or religious identity and better than acquired identities you end up inheriting through a lack of exposure to conflicting views. But I digress.
As I said, I’m only six months in. I’ll let you know how it all goes.