Polyamory Is Pro-Family

Raising children is easier with four adults, according to Micah Schneider, making a pro-family argument for polyamory as a lifestyle.

Last April, my family welcomed the newest member of our family. He’s a beautiful little boy, and we’re happy beyond belief. All four of us. And during the time it has taken for him to grow from a newborn infant to a toddler, I have had the same thought, every single day. I look at my son, and shake my head and think, “I don’t know how they do it.”

Monogamous parents, I mean. To be really specific, monogamous parents of babies.

There is so much bloody work to do! Feeding and diapers and changing and feeding and cuddling and bathing and more changing and laundry and more diapers and more comforting and yet more feeding and none of that takes “regular” life into account. Where do monogamous couples fit in cooking their own food, their own laundry, their own sleep, for Gods’ sake?

Babies are hard work, everyone knows that. And they only get more so as they grow bigger. We were blessed with a pretty happy and very healthy child, but he’s quite a handful. When he was a newborn, he didn’t like not being held. And he let us know it if he was put down for more than a couple of microseconds. He didn’t cry unless something was wrong: hungry, cold, dirty or some combination thereof. He still doesn’t. He ate every few hours, needed new diapers or clothes slightly less often, and usually needed help relaxing into sleep. None of that has really changed: he’s pretty consistent. Nothing unusual for a baby, whether he was ten weeks or ten months, and I’m not complaining about any of it.

But I simply cannot imagine doing it with only two people, or worse, alone as a single parent! Because there are four of us, we’ve been able to trade off housework and sleep and baby duty, so none of us are wandering around looking like overwhelmed, exhausted zombie parents. When he first came home, we set up a “baby duty” schedule. Every third night, someone stayed up with the infant so Mommy could sleep (“Mommy” here referring to the biological mom, who was the only one of us who could feed the little guy, since he was exclusively breastfed and Mommy couldn’t pump at first).

We worked together to keep all of the balls in the air. We ate regular meals (that didn’t come out of the freezer or a fast-food bag), the house wasn’t a total disaster, we didn’t run out of clothing, errands and chores got done. Mommy was the most tired of us, but she had a good excuse. Giving birth is hard, and nursing is literally a drain on a mother’s body. Couple that with only being able to sleep, at most, three to four hours at a stretch, and you’ve got one tired woman.

As our son grew, real life began to intrude. Of the four of us, Mommy works from home, but “Little Momma” had to go back to work, and so did “Daddy.” I think I’m going to be “Dad”, or maybe “Da-Da”. (Our son isn’t really talking yet, so it’s still up in the air.) I finished grad school around the time our son was born, and Mommy works from home, so even though she is busy, she is never far away from the baby, and neither am I. Daddy, our primary breadwinner, arranged things so he could telecommute once a week. A few months ago, I found a job, also working from home, so there is always one parent home with the baby, and usually two or more.

We’ve gone through typical new-baby milestones. When he started to roll around, we baby-proofed the house. Then he started crawling and we learned just how poorly we had baby-proofed the first time, and did a more thorough job of it. When he needed to see the doctor, we made the appointments for days when we knew at least one of us could bring him If someone has a deadline or some pressing commitment, there are three other people who can step in. All four of us are listed as contacts, so there’s no hassle. And at just the point in the day when Mommy and I are completely exhausted from chasing the baby around the house all day plus doing our full-time jobs, his other two parents come home. They get bonding time, and we get a much-needed break.

In a lot of ways, my son’s home life is not so different from the one I grew up in. My grandmother and two aunts and uncles lived right next door. There were always plenty of people around to help out when needed. None of the four of us set out to re-create our own version of the extended family, but that is exactly what we’ve got. Except different.

There are a lot of advantages to being polyamorous. There are particular advantages to living in a polyamorous household. We suspected that having multiple adults around to care for an infant would be great, but I don’t think any of us had any idea just how great it would be. Unlike the rest of my family, I can speak from direct experience of the difference between a more typical, monogamous experience of marriage and children and what I have now. My ex-wife and I had two children, and when they were babies, we raised them without additional partners, far from our biological families. It was hard to juggle everything. We did well, but it was often a struggle.

It is so much easier this time. If someone is tired or sick, we have backups. If something unexpectedly comes up, we have options. If someone can’t do something they said they would, someone else can step up and make it happen. I feel sorry for all of the people in this world trying to take care of an infant with two or fewer sets of hands.

Activists in our community will point out that polyamory isn’t about sex: polyamory is about love. I would add this: polyamory is about love and family.

Read more from our special “Polyamory” section.

—Photo Paolo Camera/Flickr

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Comments

  1. Wirbelwind says:

    No.
    Why complicate things when you can simply live with extended family (grandparents, uncles, etc.) that are not romantically involved with you in whatever combination ? It is MUCH more stable.

    • @wirbelwind It’s near impossible to describe one huge category of relationships as more or less stable than another huge category. Ultimately, how stable a relationship is depends on the communication skills, self awareness and commitment of the people involved. Speaking for myself, I haven’t seen one branch of my family in over a decade, due to disputes that erupted after my grandmother’s death. If they’d been directly involved in my upbringing, it would have been the equivalent of a very nasty divorce.

      Meanwhile, obviously, there are romantic relationships that have survived for almost the entire lives of.the people involved, and remained healthy through all manner of challenges. If the goal is to raise children in happy, healthy, stable families, then poly families which meet that criterion ought to be included.

    • Anthony Zarat says:

      “Why complicate things …”

      Because they want to. Why NOT? You think our current “system” (what a joke) is better than his?!? Do you know how many parents an American child has? The average American child has 1.63 parents at any given instant (1.49 parents at adulthood). Given how much better children do with 2 parents, compared to 1, it is not hard to imagine that (possibly) children would do even better with 4 parents.

      • “Because they want to.”

        It may be much more than a want.

        Similar to same sex relationships, there is evidence that some or many people are genetically inclined toward polyamory. Thus, it may not be just a choice; rather, they way they are from birth.

  2. Anthony Zarat says:

    Be ready. Few people will understand you (which does not matter, I don’t understand you either), and even fewer will accept you (which does matter, and by the way you have my full acceptance and support).

    One question …

    If you are going to break bonds, why not break them all? The real liberation is when the parent-child relationship is independent of the parent-parent relationship. For example, why can’t four men agree to:
    (i) contribute equally to a child’s genetic make-up (25% each), and
    (ii) contribute equally to a child’s financial support (25% each), and
    (iii) contribute equally to a child’s physical care (1 week out of 4 each)?

    There is no practical reason why crossing over cannot occur two (or more) times, instead of once. Done right, this means that genetically a child can have 2,4,8,16,32, etc parents (any power of two) using (almost) existing technology. With improvements, non-binary fractions should also be possible.

    Add in an artificial womb (coming soon!) and you have the technical capability to totally separate the parent-parent relationship from the parent-child relationship. A child could have 4 fathers who are colleagues and friends, but who are simultaneously in emotional relationships with other persons (presumably, women, or even something more exotic …)

    • Interesting theory on the mechanical womb. What about the contact the the developing child has with the mother through the term of the pregnancy. I do think it is a mistake to believe that a child does not benefit in any way from being inside a real live woman. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of thought about the baby’s well being in this theory of yours.

  3. wellokaythen says:

    The title of an article once again overstates the case in the article. I don’t think polyamory is inherently “better” for childraising or inherently more “pro-family” than other arrangements. NOR do I think it is inherently bad for childraising or inherently more “anti-family” (whatever that could possibly mean.) I didn’t get the sense that the author was saying that polyamorous cohabitation is automatically ideal for raising children, just that in his experience it has some great benefits to raising kids.

    Seems to me like with any of the people in your house, the atmosphere depends on the people themselves more than the arrangement among them. A wonderful single parent could be much better than six totally dysfunctional parents, while six people in a polyamorous relationship could be much better than two horrible parents in a completely monogamous but dysfunctional marriage. Or, two loving parents could be in the ideal situation for their own family, with no need to increase or decrease their numbers.

    • Justin Cascio says:

      Sounds like you’re overstating the case, wellokaythen, because the title doesn’t say “better” or “more,” just “pro,” as opposed to “anti.” It isn’t inherently better, but as Micah Schneider points out, having more loving people around to do the child rearing is pretty great. You’re right, the parents have to be functional and loving. There is a lot that can go wrong, actually. There’s something to be said for redundancy.

  4. Watch two episodes on showtime of their reality show on polyamory. It doesn’t work.

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