So as I walk across the playground to pick up my children, my daughter catches sight of my-partner-who-is-not-her-father. He has accompanied me. She squeals in delight and shouts to her teacher and in full hearing of 10 other curious parents –
‘Look look, there’s Janus’
‘Ah and who’s Janus?’
‘It’s Mummy’s friend who sleeps over.’
The teacher looks at me and I smile.
‘That’s right.’ I say. Then I turn to my daughter and say ‘Why don’t you go and say hello darling?’
And then she runs over to him laughing as he bends down, picks her up and they hug each other. I pick up the weed-on clothes and miscellaneous ‘art’ from the day’s activities. Janus pushes the pram home at the precise ‘stop’ and ‘go’ commands of the kids. They will be playing ‘party pigs’ on the iPad or watching cute kitten videos on youtube while I get dinner. She will pester him to design a complicated marble run whilst my son will play peekaboo with him and shout dribble in his face to play ‘airplanes’. Later Morten, their father will take care of pyjamas, bath time playing, wiping noses and reading The Cat in The Hat. I will take care of fixing milk, brushing teeth and cuddling. We will all five of us be laughing and joking in the living room together.
We will not (contrary to some people’s opinion) be having an orgy.
This is my life as an uber-out polyamorous person. But coming out has been a long process – it’ll be eleven years this November to be exact – from the misguided kick-off of a full photo spread in Marie Claire (UK), to an open relationship blog on Huffington Post UK (discarded when I started to value my worth) and a few books along the way.
But being out has consequences. Good ones; like being made chairwoman of the National Polyamory Association of Sweden. And not so nice ones. Like being the focal point of hate. Like when your long term ‘friend’ throws out in the heat of an argument that with your new position and allegedly ‘vagina-obsessed’ author site what you are in fact is a ‘professional slut’.
I’m thinking of having business cards made up.
When torrents of abuse come your way, you can duck for cover and hide or you can stand tall and reinforce your position so that those words don’t pierce your soul, whist calling them out. I believe that it’s those topics which push people out of their comfort zone which we should be speaking about. It is these that create awareness and growth. But my stance on taboo topics like sexuality, shame and non-monogamy makes me a prime target for people’s hate.
From the pithy
You dirty pig.
Yes, I had a wife like you. Best thing I ever did was to divorce her…slag.
You try to justify your actions with fancy words and explanations but ultimately you’re just a bit of a slapper.
[Polyamory is] A very long description of being uncontrollably horny and weak in character. Giving it a name is just an excuse to attempt to legitimatize unacceptable behavior.
From what I understand being weak in character is someone who hides their true feelings and ideas to be considered cool. They are lacking in judgement and have an inability to stand up for their ideals. If there is one thing I am not, it is weak in character. It takes enormous courage to go against society norms to be true to your desires/inclination knowing every day, that this is the kind of backlash you will receive.
When you are ‘uber-out’, you have to face the world’s hate. It’s not an easy choice. But it’s easier for me than it is for many–a cis-gender, white woman living in Sweden.
Nevertheless my lifestyle, my journey and the extent of my consequential suffering is my responsibility. It is not my children’s responsibility. So being polyamorous when you are a parent brings greater challenges and insults. Many think that close exposure to non-monogamy is mentally scarring for my children.
I wonder what your children will think of you when they understand what you are?*
What will they think when they realise that their mother is a ‘professional slut’? Chairwoman of the National Slut society.
I will educate my children in freedom of expression and respect for the individual.
I will love them for who they are, not what they do.
And still be proud of them even if I don’t think their choices will bring them happiness.
Children of polyamorous people will have to choose to be happy with their lives, like any other children. But they may learn about discrimination earlier. A lot earlier.
The discrimination against my children is not my responsibility as their mother. Just as you do not take responsibility for a rapist’s rape. It is the responsibility of those who perform the acts. The best thing I can do is to give my children the love and confidence to stand tall. And advise them to be friends with other people who love and respect them. And protect them by talking frankly to other parents, not by hiding from who I am. Luckily I can.
Currently, my children have no knowledge of society norms. Being toddlers years old, they also have no knowledge of sex (although it means ‘six’ in Swedish). What they know is that Mummy and Daddy have boyfriends and girlfriends.
On occasion we have wondered whether it would be safer for them and us to hide our life, our choices and our partners. But polyamory is not a sport you practice on a Friday night. It is – for us – a philosophy by which to live your life. We are all regularly in and out of the house. Our partners are part of the family as we are part of theirs (sometimes we think our children prefer them to us – they are the ‘fun’ parents).
And so asking the children to lie – even if they could grasp the concept of lying – would create conflicts and difficulties in their small lives. Lying, is bad for the soul. Instead we show them is that it is possible to love and relate to more than one person whilst making sure that we provide a continuity in the provision of parental love, care and duty. There is a chance that relationships will break up of course, but this is not the exclusive realm of polyamory.
As to what they will think of us, when they grow older and they learn that their parents’ way, is not the norm I cannot possibly tell. Like most other children’s opinion on their parents, I am sure we won’t come up smelling of roses about a lot of things. But what we will have shown them is that the most important thing in life is to live by core values of honesty, love, and freedom.
And that the life we want for them is one where they can assert their right to choose.
*All insults written in comments section on various articles around the web