Apparently – and this comes as a complete surprise to me – polyamorists have difficulty convincing other people their arrangement brings about an environment suitable for children. One Gracie X laments thusly:
Six years ago when my husband and new boyfriend all decided to cohabitate under the same roof– I felt pretty smug. I had created a situation where I got to have my husband of 20 years and a new lover as well. We converted our single-family home into a duplex. My husband and his new girlfriend moved into one side of the house, while I lived on the other side with my new man, Oz.
Sounds idyllic. Who’s in charge of the laundry?
But not everyone was thrilled for us. When Oz, told his ex-wife he was giving up his apartment permanently to move in with me, she slapped him with a custody suit. She was determined that their two children would never live in my home. She accused us of all kinds of perversities and insisted the household was unsafe for their children. During the hearings, we were basically investigated for being polyamorous. Thus began my painful education into the fears and bigotry surrounding my alternative chosen family.
Well, yes. Whereas this lady might have been okay with her kids spending time with their father and his new girlfriend, putting them under the same roof as another two adults about which she knows nothing and have no connection to the children whatsoever is a different question altogether. I have a friend who is a single mother, and she would never leave her kid alone with one of her boyfriends, and when the father moved another woman in with him, my friend insisted on meeting her just to get a feel for the sort of woman her daughter would be spending time with. All was fine, but she checked anyway. Sensible woman, my friend.
But even after Oz’s children moved in, we all felt vulnerable. Until there are laws that protect polyamorous people, swingers and those with any openness in their marriage—we are unprotected from people who would use our sexuality to attack us.
They probably couldn’t care less what you do sans enfants, but when kids are involved it becomes another matter entirely. That’s not to say that no polyamorous people should be allowed to have kids, but they ought to expect additional scrutiny of their child-raising environment. That this came as a surprise to Gracie X speaks volumes.
Your sexuality does not determine your effectiveness and goodness as a parent. One mistake we made was trying to justify and explain our lifestyle to the courts. In hindsight this further put our sexuality on display. Better to do just the opposite. Focus on your excellent parenting skills.
Shift the focus off the sexuality, she says. Okay, but:
Utilize local LGBT organizations for legal strategy. Gay rights activist groups have already dealt with the kind of situations and bigotry that you may be confronted with in court.
In other words, make your sexuality an issue. And that’s the problem: polyamory is about sex, despite what its practitioners say. I think these days most people would concede that being gay or lesbian is not a choice, much less a lifestyle choice, but polyamory – which is basically a term to describe how people’s sex lives are organised – can’t possibly be described as a natural condition over which the participants have no control. I hesitate to call it a lifestyle choice because, from what I’ve seen and what others have told me, it is more of a coping mechanism. The reason why people concentrate so much on the sex part of polyamory is because that pretty much defines it: leave the sex out and you have the guts of what most functioning adults enjoy anyway.
Get letters of recommendation from teachers’, friends, co-workers, anyone who has witnessed your parenting and can accurately describe your parental strengths.
I wonder what percentage of polyamorists could get these?
When I look back at this time it was one of the most stressful of my life. I was on edge for the entire two years that we were embroiled with the courts and their appointed evaluator. Reach out to your support network, find ways to calm yourself down and deal with your stress. It’s extremely challenging to deal with the courts and even more so with the potential of losing your children– my heart goes out to anyone going through it.
Makes you wonder if the kids were considered at all, doesn’t it? All of this stress could have been avoided by not getting into a cohabiting polyamorous arrangement. I’d love to see how they turn out.