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Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

polystory

I was re-watching Toy Story with my little one recently and I couldn’t help but notice, there are a few lessons in there that are applicable to conversations about polyamory.

Woody says at the beginning “It doesn’t matter who Andy plays with the most, so long as we’re all here for him when he needs us.” Which is easy for him to say when he’s Andy’s “primary” toy. With the inevitable arrival of Buzz, Woody loses his status as Andy’s favourite. He loses his sense of ‘specialness’ when Andy is playing more with his new toy.

For all his speeches about being “there for Andy,” he acts selfishly because of our favourite foe: Jealousy.Woody’s jealousy gets the best of him when he tries to get Buzz out of the picture.

The rest of the movie, he tries to redeem himself by rescuing Buzz and restoring him to Andy’s toy collection. Eventually, Woody’s love for Andy allows him to see Buzz’s value: Buzz makes Andy happy. We the audience also see Andy’s side. Sure he takes Woody for granted, but when he can’t find his oldest and dearest toy, he’s distraught. Andy is able to love more than one toy. By the time we get to the end of Toy Story 3, we see that Andy too is able, finally to share his treasured toys with someone he feels he can trust.

Next time you are having trouble explaining how jealousy works in a polyamorous relationship, just turn to our good friends at Pixar.

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Lego Family

In the past, when I’ve dated someone who is new to polyamory, there has been a period of helping them come to terms with the experience. Polyamory is still an exciting new thing, and often it is misunderstood, or even scary to new people. However, it is not entirely alien. When you think about it, dating a poly person is a lot like dating a single parent. Not everybody is up for the responsibility of dating a single parent, and similarly there are challenges when dating a poly person. If you were dating a single parent, you wouldn’t expect the same things as when dating a child-free person; a single parent’s responsibilities don’t disappear as soon as you enter the picture. The same is true of a poly person.

So, as a service to the next person interested in dating this Poly Momma (hint: I’m available!), I’ve assembled a list of advice, adapted from these lists of advice for dating single parents.  (Warning: Although I’ve tried to make this advice general, I have a primary relationship and a young child, and my list may be biased toward that experience.)

1. Ask yourself: Am I willing to be in a relationship with someone who has other relationships? (Duh.)  Am I willing to enter into a relationship with these other people (metamours)? This is important because you cannot separate the poly person from their other partners. If you are dating a poly person, their other partners will be part of the picture at some point. This doesn’t mean you have to be best friends, nor do you have to date them (unless that’s specifically what has been arranged), but it’s best if you can, at the very least, sit down to dinner with them (or better yet, play Scrabble with them!). If they insist you stay completely separate from their other partner, that is a huge red flag, as it really limits the relationship you can have with your partner. Make sure you know what their boundaries are, and really ask yourself whether those boundaries are fair for you.

2. Check your neediness quotient. Often, the attention, time and resources that a poly person devotes to their other partners can make one feel jealous or resentful. Are you self-assured and independent enough to accept that their other partners will need time and attention too?  In other relationships, you may have been able to gauge a person’s feelings for you by how much time and energy they put into your relationship. When you’re dating a poly person, this isn’t necessarily the case. Poly people may not have the time to see you as often as they’d like, and it’s not always as simple as synchronising Google calendars (ha! simple). Instead of taking the limits on time as a slight, learn to look for other expressions of their feelings for you. That said, if your sense of specialness is dependent on being the centre of somebody’s world, then maybe you should look elsewhere for affection.

3. Stay clear of any drama with their other partners. If there’s tension with their other partners, let your partner handle it. If it makes you uncomfortable, let your partner know that you’re not going to take sides. Polyamory can be really difficult because so often, there is little support from outsiders, and it can be very easy to lean on the support of other partners. Of course you can support them and encourage them, but don’t contact their partner on their behalf or gang up on the other partner.  Setting yourself up as an adversary only leads to future problems. If things get really bad, try to encourage your partner to seek help from a neutral party.

4. Be supportive and trustworthy. What can you do to be supportive when called upon? Be the kind of partner who can listen to the things they’re going through without trying to “solve” things. If something can be done, think about what you might want if the situation were reversed. Has your new relationship taken any resources away from their existing one(s)? Is there anything you could do to help things along? Showing your partner that you care about their other relationships is a great way to build trust. 

Sometimes, you may need to give them the space to sort things out on their own. If things are not going well in one relationship, it’s best to let the parties involved deal with it, even if it means slowing things down or even stepping away for a bit. That said, if you’re having trouble in your relationship with your partner, sometimes it’s ok to ask your metamours for advice, often, they may be able to offer perspective on the situation that you might not have considered.

Also, if a partner completely shuts down your relationship in order to ‘focus on their primary’, that’s officially a really shitty thing to do and you have every right to be upset about it. And at any time, if you feel your good nature is being taken for granted or taken advantage of, it’s ok to express your feelings about this, and if your feelings are dismissed or ignored, it is reasonable to walk away. You deserve to be treated with respect. More Than Two has a great article going into greater depth on the topic of the ‘Primary/Secondary’ dynamic, including the Secondary’s Bill of Rights. 

5. Appreciate feelings of reservation. Speaking from my own experience, it’s possible the poly person you are interested in may have been hurt before. Their current partner(s) may eve be leery of letting someone new into their lives. They may worry that there won’t be enough resources to go around or have other insecurities. Don’t take it personally. Simply understand these feelings may exist and that it is not about you.

6. Listen to your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right for you, say something. If talking about it doesn’t make it go away, it could be that you are just not suited to an open relationship. This is nothing to be ashamed of! If you can’t find a way for your needs to be met, then there is no shame in saying it is not for you. Sure, it may be that you miss out on your new poly sweetie, but think of how many other monogamous fish there are in that sea! On the other hand, don’t let anyone tell you your relationship is wrong if it feels right to you. You may enjoy the feeling of being in an open/poly style relationship and the last thing you need are people raining on your parade.

7. Have fun! Once you have managed to thread your way through some of these obstacles that are inherent when dating a poly person, relax and enjoy the experience. Multiple loves can be as rewarding and fulfilling as monogamous relationships, and for some of us, even more so!

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Deborah Anapol’s article in Psychology Today, “Group Marriage and the Future of the Family,” was published back in March, but it only crossed my path today. It is a very positive article (I’d expect nothing less from Anapol, author of Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits) and paints a very rosy picture of the benefits of polyamory on children:

“One of the most common concerns about polyamory is that it’s harmful to children, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Multiple-adult families and committed intimate networks have the potential of providing dependent children with additional nurturing adults who can meet their material, intellectual, and emotional needs. While parents may end up focusing less attention on their children, children may gain new aunts, uncles, and adopted parents.”

I find this article timely, as my poly-family has recently had its limits tested and right now looks dangerously close to breaking. I won’t go into details because it’s still a fresh wound and nothing is certain. But it does raise the question for me, what if these adults, with whom a child forms a close bond, decide they no longer want to or are unable to be a part of that family? It could potentially be as stressful as a divorce, especially if there is animosity amongst the adults. What about when the departing adult wishes to maintain a relationship with a child they helped raise, but the biological parents want nothing to do with that person, the pain of loss being still too strong? In cases where the relationship is clearly defined, i.e. the leaving partner is the biological parent or a spouse of one of the parents, there are legal rights and clear custody arrangements, but what about the ‘other’ people? The pseudo-aunties and sort-of-uncles? Is the idealistic dream of ‘one big happy family’ just that? An unattainable ideal?

I worry sometimes that we who practice polyamory and advocate for its acceptance perhaps paint too rosy a picture of polyamory. Sometimes, it’s very, very difficult. Lately, I’ve been facing a lot of challenges in my relationships and they have all come fast and hard, one after another. A friend of mine once asked me, baffled by my emotional pain about a recent breakup, “Isn’t the point of getting married so that you don’t have to go through this again?” and I’ve asked myself the question several times over the last month or so whther it is worth all this pain to keep pursuing polyamorous relationships. For me, the answer is just as easy to answer as if I were single and pursuing monogamous relationships: yes. My relationships are worth it.

Whatever the shape of a relationship, there is always potential for pain, heartbreak, jealousy, anger, loss and more. When it goes wrong, it hurts. Furthermore, you can be doing everything right and still wind up hurting someone else or getting hurt. When you open yourself up to intimacy, you make yourself vulnerable. That’s what makes it intimate. The more people you open up to, the more chances there are for things to go horribly wrong. Is it fair to put children in the middle of that? I don’t know. It’s a good question, and I’m starting to see the benefit in people being closeted to their kids. It breaks my heart to think of taking away a member of my son’s stable network of adults, but at the same time, I don’t know if I can open up myself or my husband to being hurt by this person again.

I still believe that polyamory opens up the potential to a larger network of adults to give children a larger family of which the typical nuclear family deprives them. I agree with everything in Anapol’s article, and I’ve seen examples personally of people forming a large poly household of interconnected and inter-committed adults. Maybe that is the key, that a greater commitment is required to make things work, whether between two people or more. I don’t have all the answers, but I do hope I find them, and I hope Deborah Anapol is right when she says,

“…polyamory may be at least as good as the other options for raising healthy children.”

It’s the least I can hope for.

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I wanted to write a full post about this. 

About the supposed Mommy Wars.

About how completely I do not buy into this adversarial narrative that is constantly shoved down my throat.

About how most attachment parents I know are not competitive or sanctimonious at all and how we’re all parents and should focus on sharing and supporting each other.

About how shifting the focus onto mommy vs. mommy is simply a distraction from the fact that motherhood is still a liability in western culture because patriarchy.

But then I read this. (Trigger warning: discussion of mental illness, bipolar disorder and suicide.)

And I realised that my personal discomfort with the ‘class warfare’ and bourgeois mother goddesses, is nothing compared the the mothers who struggle every day to be a good parent.

Please, read the post. It’s heartbreaking, inspiring and beautiful. 

I need to go cry now.

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Half a year since my last post, and there’s a lot to write about.

I’ve recently returned from a wonderful but challenging trip with the entire poly-clan, but I’ll save that story for another post, when I have more time to process and write properly about the events that transpired and the issues that were raised.

While on that trip, we met up with several poly friends, including some I’d never met in person but had become rather chatty with on various social networks. These new friends were all members of their own same clan, and they’re unique amongst my poly friends because they are totally and completely out to all their family and friends. They’re also quite political and are very much poly-activists.

On the night of my husband’s birthday, I wandered off with one member (on whom I have a humungous girl/admiration/lusty crush) and her, um, one of her male escorts (I’m still a bit shaky on the who’s with who of their clan) in search of a burrito.*  I don’t recall all the details of the conversation due to a minor amount of alcohol in my system, but somehow the subject veered to parenting, motherhood and feminism. She is one of my feminist friends** so I guess it wasn’t surprising. She is, if I recall correctly, child-free by choice (should that be capitalised?) and either she was asking about my choice to become a mother, or I volunteered the information.

The conversation is one I’ve had before, but this recent iteration was at an interesting time for me. I’m 2 years into being a Poly Momma. I’ve got a great, loving relationship with my husband, a steady boyfriend who I absolutely adore and with whom I have a thriving relationship, and most recently, I’m about to go back to Uni to finish my degree so I can finally start in a Diploma of Education program next year.  On that particular trip, Husband and I left the Little Man at his grandma’s house for pretty much the entire trip, meaning I had a lot of time to be myself and relax without having to be Momma. I was able to reflect on my parenthood without actively being a parent at the time, so I was much more in touch with all the other aspects of me than usual. (more…)

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I took my son for his 18 month growth and development check-up and the nurse seemed to think he was doing rather well. She did, however, recommend sending him to a speech pathologist, as he is still not really talking.  I also am going to book him in for a hearing test.

My little guy has become a somewhat fussy eater. I am going to experiment today with adding vegetable purees (actually just organic baby food from a jar) to things. I made up some veggie ravioli and used ‘sweet baby vegetables’ as a sauce and made some ‘peas and zucchini’ into a tartare sauce for him to have with fish fingers*. I don’t even know if he eats fish fingers* but it’s worth a try.

I may have to start going the ‘Deceptively Delicious’ route and disguise the vegetables so he gets a more balanced diet. Then again, the nurse said ‘Just keep offering him healthy food.  Don’t give up and start feeding him chips and biscuits because it’s “the only thing he’ll eat”.  He’ll eat when he’s hungry enough.’

Then again, when he’s hungry he’s cranky and if I offer him things when he’s cranky, he is pickier. Then it spirals out of control. There must be other tactics.

‘Are you enjoying motherhood?’

‘Um…Sure. Of course, it was just Mother’s Day yesterday, so I’m a little biased.’

‘Oh yes. But in general?’

‘Yes. I’m fine. I have a fairly easy baby, so I haven’t got much cause to complain.’

Sigh…

*Translation for USA readers: fish fingers = fish sticks

UPDATE: The ravioli w/ veggie puree was a hit! The fish fingers were also deemed ‘Yumm’ but the tartare sauce was given a ‘Bleah’ and a :P.  I think it was too cold. I’ll try mixing it with his eggs tomorrow morning. He might like it and if not, I’ll eat it.

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I have made it clear to those who know and love me that I don’t truck with Valentine’s Day. I’m also not huge on anniversaries and, like my husband, I feel it’s not fair to oblige your loved ones to give you gifts on pre-determined holidays. We don’t even do Xmas presents for each other (though we do our birthdays).

We are both pretty against the patriarchical notion of monogamy (duh) and the myth of the nuclear family and I generally think of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as two holidays cooked up to fill the dead retail months between Easter and Christmas.

But after doing a bit of research (on Wikipedia) I found that Mother’s Day has a rich history.

  • It probably started with springtime festivals honouring mother and childbirth goddesses.
  • It was started in the modern sense as a part of a pacifist movement after World War I.
  • Anna Jarvis, the woman who established it in the US did so after her own mother’s death, to create a day for mothers to be appreciated within their lifetime. Paradoxically, she never married and was childless herself. She became disillusioned after its commercialisation:
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
In other words, yes, the commercialisation of this holiday is atrocious.
But…
Being a Momma is HARD.
And today, as I am sleep deprived and at the end of my rope, the thought that just around the corner is a day when someone might bring me flowers, or give me a day to sleep in, or buy me one of these, or these, or these, or (OMG!) this, is just enough to keep me going, however foolish that thought may be.
(I’m not greedy, these are all practical. Well, except for the flowers, and maybe the t-shirt)
I know my son will grow to appreciate me, but I’ve got a few years to wait before I can expect any gifts from him. In the meantime, I’m just going to have to settle for cuddles.
UPDATE: Mother’s Day has come and gone, and my wonderful husband made the day special. I got to sleep in (also thanks to my little boy for actually sleeping through the night), he bought me a new pair of slippers and a Swiss army knife, and I got a garden centre gift certificate from his girlfriend. Yay! Also my paramour bought me cheesecake the day before which I saved until last night – score!

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