I'm A Polyamorous Mom & Finally Have The Village I Need
Communication is key.
In my experience, "It takes a village to raise a child" is one of the biggest clichés of motherhood.
As I grew into adulthood, I followed the script we’ve all seen in the media: fall in love, get married, have kids, work to make a home together. And it seems like since we first found out I was expecting a child, every older family member and friend told me some variation of that line. Those same friends and family told me repeatedly that I had their support in anything I needed.
Upon actually embarking on the adventure, though, I lost friendships — with young kids I couldn't always commit to plans and didn't prioritize partying — and the message from family made it clear I should suck it up, that’s motherhood. In other words, my village disappeared when I needed them the most. The first few months of my adventure into motherhood were the hardest I'd ever had. I knew there was a better way, but we needed to find it.
In 2016, my husband and I were several years and two kids into our marriage — nearly a decade into our five-year plan — when we picked up and moved to the biggest city in our state. We were struggling with juggling it all, and we didn’t have enough support back home.
We needed a change and took a chance. One of the friends we met not long after our move was in a polyamorous relationship with a partner and a metamour, or partner of a partner. Their dynamic allowed for more flexibility and freedom in their schedule; they could share their financial and emotional burdens and didn't rely on one person to be their everything.
When we started to spend time with them, their dynamic looked like what we'd been missing. Our new friend, her partner, and her meta shared housing and household responsibilities. It was the perfect blend between living with your spouse and living with your best friend. Hubby and I started exploring this possibility.
We soon found out that with the right group of people, you really can build excellent support systems through polyamory. It allows you to have multiple people around who have a wide variety of skill sets; it allows you to fill in your weaknesses with your partners’ strengths, and offer strength where they lack.
Eventually, my husband and I did open our relationship up; a mutual friend connected with my husband and we were soon together in what we call a “polycule,” the term for a network of romantic partners. Ours consists of our household as well as partners who live in other homes. But we've also worked to ensure that we continue to be supportive co-parents to those with whom we are no longer romantically involved, so we can provide the best for all four of the children who live with us, as well as the children who live in our partners’ homes.
While there are different versions of polyamory, and not every version will fit every relationship, we choose what’s commonly called Kitchen Table Poly, which means that everybody knows about everybody else and we all have a groupchat/regular meetings/open lines of communication. Imagine a family meeting, but the family is much larger, and spans multiple houses. We discuss family topics with everyone involved — as if we were sitting at the kitchen table. This works for us because we’ve found it has the most open and transparent communication style and minimizes the odds of jealousy and emotional turmoil. Plus, because everyone knows about everyone else, we can better maintain our schedules and coordinate events and activities between the adults and the children.
The key to polyamory, in many ways, is that while we may not be romantically or sexually involved with every member of the polycule, it’s critically important to maintain friendships to raise our children together. Communication is the backbone to our successful teamwork in raising our kids. Our village means that we help others raise their children with the same core values. In our village, we have (at the time of writing) 14 adults involved with each other in one way or another. Among those adults, we have 10 kids between 1 year and 21 years old. This is a lot like having close cousins with the polycule branches that aren't in our immediate household, and step-siblings with the branches we collaborate with.
We work together to raise even those children who are not biologically ours (individually) but live in the same home or visit your home. Everyone is coordinated and working toward the same goal of helping our kids thrive. My best friend and roommate now has a one year old, and my three kids consider him their baby brother. I have created my village of support, a closer and more robust network than before in parenthood.
Echo Mayernik is a mom of many, both human and furry kids. She and her family live on an urban farm in Portland, Oregon. She is one of three parents in a polyamorous family unit, practicing "Kitchen Table Poly" and co-raising the children from all the parents as siblings. Additionally, her partners outside of the house have kids that see her as a bonus mom figure when they are around. When she isn't writing or working with the kids, you can find and follow her gardening or crafting adventures at theoakanchor.com.