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This is a guest post by reader CT. I met CT through OKCupid back when I was pregnant as he is a fellow polyamorous parent who was happy to offer advice. We have been chatting online for over a year now, and though we have yet to meet in person, I consider him a trusted friend.

Here, he offers his experience and insights on dealing with some of the tougher aspects of being polyamorous.

Published in 2008, Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up attempts to be a simple guide to the not-so-simple subject of navigating a non-monogamous relationship.  It’s been reviewed fairly widely since its publication so rather than a review, I’d like to use Opening Up as a springboard for discussing two topics explored by Taormino – honesty and coming out.

Honesty is an essential ingredient for non-monogamous relationships, and this is a view that Taormino endorses. But Taormino has a particular kind of honesty in mind, and it’s not the “radical honesty” promoted by Brad Blanton. In criticising ‘radical honesty’, Taormino claims it is:

an egotistical and confrontational style of communication. It isn’t fair to or useful to share everything with someone who doesn’t want to hear it, is not ready to hear it, or doesn’t have the skills to process the information.” Opening Up – Chapter 4.

In place of radical honesty, Taormino proposes honesty with kindness and compassionate communication. As one of her interview subjects explains, in a relationship:

There has to be a kind of gravitational pull toward each other. If all of your focus is on yourselves you’re just going to fly off in different directions, and there’s not going to be a relationship. I think a commitment to kindness can be the gravity that keeps you in orbit.” Opening Up – Chapter 4.

However honesty with kindness isn’t just something to practice with one’s partners. It’s also something to be considered when thinking about coming out as non-monogamous.

Coming out earns a whole chapter in Opening Up. Taormino guides readers through the benefits and risks of disclosing one’s non-monogamy, addressing topics such as how best to come out and finding support during this challenging process. Arguably, one of the key messages of this chapter is that being selective in coming out, or not coming out at all, can be a legitimate and valid choice.

Which brings us back to the question of honesty.

If you’ve signed up to radical honesty and not hiding your true self from the world, one can imagine a lot of internal angst being generated by not being ‘out’ to family and friends. But as Taormino’s interview subjects highlight, coming out carries the risk of causing a lot of hurt if not handled carefully.

There is the risk of hurt to oneself through rejection by family, friends and community.  There is the risk that one’s children, partners or family will also be subject to ridicule or ostracism. Finally, there is the risk of hurt to family or friends who may struggle with having their perception of a person or relationship turned upside down.

It’s this last area where I imagine ‘honesty with kindness’ can make a big difference. Both questions of who to come out to and how to have that conversation is something that arguably needs to be done  with not just one’s own welfare in mind, but also with kindness for the recipient.

Who to tell and how has been a big struggle personally, and one that’s been guided by a principle similar to ‘honesty with kindness’. There have been times when it has been tempting to just relieve the weight of secrecy by telling everyone and expecting them to simply  “deal with it”. That temptation has been tempered by a desire not to risk hurting those who really don’t need to know about the openness of my marriage. The decision not to be more openly poly is also, of course, driven by fear of the potential backlash against my family and myself.

And so it is that those who know about my poly lifestyle are mostly new friends made since we opened up, and neither of our families.  Whilst being able to be openly honest with more friends and family is appealing, I think my wife summed up our situation well when she said:

“I like the friends we’ve got, they don’t need to know to be our friends, so why take the risk on telling them?”

Thus, through a combination of kindness and fear, it’s a relatively small circle that knows the nature of our marriage.

And so dear Polymomma readers – I ask you for your experiences in coming out? How “open” are you? How did you weigh up the desire for honesty with the risks and the need for kindness? And what has been the outcome of your decisions?

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A friend of mine recently posted on her Facebook status about her frustration with people who call those of us who choose to reproduce, “breeders.” It’s used in a derogatory fashion by those who choose to remain childfree. If I recall correctly, it started out as a derogatory term for straight people used by members of the gay community. Now that the gay community is fighting for the right to marry and have children, the term has fallen out of fashion.

However, it got me thinking. I’ve felt for a long time that the 1950’s ideal of the nuclear family is problematic. After I had my baby, I felt this even more strongly. So many things about motherhood would be easier if I shared the burden with a larger community. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to breastfeed! How did we survive as a species when something so basic is so difficult? Well, we didn’t do it alone. A new mother was surrounded by other mothers: sisters, cousins, aunties and so on. There were plenty of people to help out, plenty of other women who could fill in.

I sympathise with the feelings of those who think we shouldn’t have so many damn kids. Living sustainably means not overpopulating the Earth. But if we didn’t insist on maintaining the model of the nuclear family, would we feel the need to have so many kids? If we lived in larger groups, extended families, and poly-fidelitous clans, we’d spend lots of time assisting in the raising of children, who aren’t necessarily our own. People who want the experience of a large family would get it, without having to have eight or more kids on their own. There would be less need to buy so much crap because toys, clothes, etc. would get re-used many times within the group.

“Breeders” aren’t necessarily to blame. I, personally blame the nuclear family, based on the patriarchal, individualist ideal of modern, western culture. I hate the suburbs, where we all live in nice, neat little individual boxes, isolated from our neighbours and removed from the community. We’ve been programmed to think that this is the “dream” we’re supposed to achieve: to have our own little patch of land for our own tiny little family unit.  The reality is that it’s not doing us any good, and it’s not doing the planet any favours either.

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(Should that be “Merry” instead of “Happy”? Nah…)

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit shut-in. I live waaay out in the suburbs and it takes me at least 20 minutes to get ANYWHERE. My husband takes the car during the week and to get anywhere I either need to walk or take the bus. It’s a pain and it’s very, very isolating.
I have a mothers group, or at least I had a mothers group, but they tend to get together in places that I can’t get to without a car. We used to meet in the park, but now that it’s winter, that’s not practical.
And now some of them have gone back to work full time. I’ve been considering putting my son in childcare one day a week so I at least get a little ‘grown-up time’ once in a while. But childcare is going to be expensive, and I’m pretty sure what I’ll be making at a job won’t even cover the cost. It’s frustrating at times, and very lonely.
Yesterday, however, I had a lovely afternoon. My husband’s girlfriend’s other partner, with whom she co-habitates, works evenings and has a car. He told me last week that if I ever want company, that he can come by and hang out. I’m totally out of his way, but it was a nice offer. Yesterday, I was starting to get the lonely crazies and so I took him up on his offer. He came by, looked after my son so I could take a shower and we played a card game and chatted while my son crawled around. It was such a nice reminder of the benefits of having a poly family.
Next week, my husband’s going to be away, and his girlfriend has offered to babysit so that I can continue my activities. And my secondary partner will be coming by in the evenings to keep me company. We’re all part of one big, happy, poly family.

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Just ran across this article that @PolyWeekly tweeted today.

Here’s an excerpt:

…why did I suddenly find myself building a nursery for a 4 year old and a 2 year old? I mean, children normally come into your life in predictable stages. You have 9ish months to build a baby nursery and then age it gradually as the child grows. But I never saw these kids as infants. They sprang fully formed into my life. After knowing them for a little less than a year, I figured it was time they had their own room in my house.I am not their stepmother. Even though I am Daddy’s girlfriend, I am not even a potential stepmother. Daddy doesn’t live with me. He lives in a small town in rural Georgia with his loving wife and beautiful young boys. I live three hours away in Atlanta with my amazing husband and a strict budget that does not (yet!) allow for children.

It’s great getting the perspective on the role of a secondary partner of someone with kids.

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A child brings a new dimension to my lifestyle. It means there must be a great deal more precise planning when engaging in any shenanigans, but if one of us goes out, the other can stay home with the baby, so each of us gets a break every now and then. I’m lucky to have found a secondary that loves babies, but when my husband and I originally announced our plans to reproduce, my husband’s secondary didn’t take the news very well. She has since come around, and has a healthy relationship with our son. She even babysits for us occasionally, so we can get some time alone together. We have a happy family and things are going well.

In the future, things are, of course, going to get more complicated. I have spoken to other poly parents about this, and they have had to deal with these issues already. There’s no clear cut answer to how to deal with being poly with children. It’s unique to each couple (or triad or poly-family) and their situation. In our family, we are still somewhat in the closet. My mother knows, my mother-in-law knows, but my father is still in the dark. And I’d like to keep it that way, as he’s somewhat conservative and very protective of me. Also, my husband and his secondary work together and we live in a relatively small town, so they’ve had to keep things somwhat under wraps. So while we plan to be honest with our son, what do we do when he blurts out to his grandpa that “Mummy’s friend slept over last night,” or whatever?

My husband and I haven’t decided how we are going to deal with the specifics, but we know we plan to be honest and keep things age appropriate.  We have more detailed discussions about how to deal with the whole Santa Claus thing (he’s against it entirely, I’m for making it a game) than we do about how to deal with this. We seem to think we will deal with it as it comes along.

This is a pretty good source for answers to the questions other people might have. The bottom line is that I think living this lifestyle means that there is more love around, and a child that grows up surrounded by love is a child that grows up happy.

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Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day in the US. In Australia, Father’s Day is in September, when the weather starts to get a little warmer and a picnic wouldn’t be out of order.

I was perusing the Google News feed and I smacked into this insulting piece of patriarchical propaganda that almost made me lose my breakfast. It is written by some godbag who believes that fathers are somehow not doing their jobs of making men into men and women into cowering doormats.

He paints what I would consider a terrifying picture of his father: An overbearing, abusive, fanatically religious tyrant, who used “the lash” to get his attention. However, this author clearly saw his father as the perfect patriarch.

It’s an obvious reaction to the recent long-term study that lesbian couples raise more well adjusted kids than hetero couples. Perhaps it was the lack of sexual oppression in a home of only women. Perhaps men are *gasp* not necessary to make a child, boy or girl, grow up into a healthy, happy adult person. Perhaps, even, men are a hindrance as a parent rather than a helpful force.

As a straight person (well, bisexual, but in a straight relationship), I am not threatened by this study. I have known several people who were raised in lesbian households and they were no different than people who weren’t. No better, no worse. I mean, they were, of course unique individuals like anyone else, but they were not especially notable as being more well adjusted or anything like that. I think what is important is that a child be praised, given structure and have parents and a loving support system. A child needs that bank of love upon which to draw.

What the sanctimonious godbag who wrote that stupid piece of Father’s Day shaming failed to take into account is that donating some DNA does not give a man the right to call himself a father. He’s seriously begging the question when he assumes that all men are equipped to be fathers. Yes, a child needs parents, but just because some d00d spurts his sperm into a woman’s baby hole, that doesn’t make him quality parenting material. What makes a man parenting material is compassion, responsibility, maturity, the ability and willingness to put in the time and effort to make life as good as possible for his offspring.  What if the child’s biological donor is a complete asshat? What if he’s a kiddie fiddler? What if he’s a Godsmack fan? What kind of father would that kind of man be? What about the dads who are around but who simply suck at being a dad? Like the author’s tyrannical, bible bashing, macho man? Or the guys who do things like this? Wouldn’t a child be better off without a complete fuckwit setting a bad example? I certainly think so.

I chose to marry my partner because I wanted to stay in Australia. I wanted to stay in Australia because I wanted to have a long term partnership with a man with whom I had fallen in love.  I took advantage of the privilege set up in the system for hetero couples and married him according to the carefully heterocentric wording required to get married in this state. I had a baby with him because I thought he would be a good parent and it’s proven true. We have a wonderful baby and a great partnership. We provide a loving household and try to set good examples for our offspring so that he will grow into a loving, responsible adult. And that hasn’t anything to do with the gender of us as parents.

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