We Asked People in Poly Relationships What It’s Like to Raise Kids
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We Asked People in Poly Relationships What It’s Like to Raise Kids

How do you explain mom and dad’s new girlfriend?

Being poly on its own can mean navigating the comforts and sensitivities of yourself, your primary partner or primaries, your friends with benefits, your hookups, and everything in-between. But when you throw kids into the mix, it can get even more complex.

How do you explain being poly to your kids? If you bring a new partner into the mix, will your kids accept them as another parent? How do you explain that you are going on dates? And how do you navigate dealing with a society that still isn't fully accepting of poly lifestyles in the first place, let alone parenting while practicing non-monogamy?


We reached out to a number of people in various poly arrangements who have kids (or who have a partner who does) to figure out how it's worked out for them.

Mom of One Building a Village

I have three partners. I'm mostly not not out. It's just not everyone's business. My child is nine. I haven't yet told her what poly is. We're still talking about what sex is and what her period is. But she knows Mommy has close friends that come around a lot who love me and care for me. Absolutely I will tell her in the future.

She goes to a very progressive school that has anti-bias education built in, including gender/trans education. There are other poly parents at the school too. She knows people can make relationships in lots of different configurations of people and sees this as normal, even if she doesn't get the labels and politics.

My nesting partner is definitely a guardian/friend of hers. My girlfriend could become that in time. My other boyfriend is a fun grown-up friend who comes over with his girlfriend a lot. She and my daughter are good friends. I'm building a village (cue conspiratorial music).

I try to keep a bubble around my daughter. I protect her "nineness." So any family who might balk just doesn't know how I structure my life. They aren't close enough to know if they're judging me anyway.

My advice to other poly people who want to have kids: First, be unapologetically yourself with your kids, don't hide, and always answer questions honestly, but always keep anything you share with them age-appropriate. Second, make that village! This goes for anyone having kids, but for poly folk, having extended, chosen family around who love you and the kids makes life for everyone safer, richer, and easier. —Dawn, 45


In a Poly Marriage for 17+ Years and Raising a Teenage Daughter

I married in 2000 and didn't know my wife was bi nor poly. But we started dating a wonderful woman two months after we go married. My wife and I's child was born in 2003. My wife has two emotional-only relationships with two of our exes, but no physical relationships. I have one girlfriend I just started seeing, and four emotional relationships with exes. I have told friends and certain family that I'm poly. I have told coworkers in the past, but it causes drama. I live in a small city, lots of gossip.

We slowed down a lot [when we had a daughter], except the two separate relationships that moved in with us. But she was young. We always have had very close friends over, so she isn't sure about which ones we have dated or loved. Our daughter just met our first love a month ago, and she kept tossing out joking things about threesomes. My daughter gives me crap about who I have had relationships with. Not out of anger, just to bust my chops: "Oh it's another on of dad's exes." It is funny, but I find it passive aggressive too. She doesn't approve of the thought of me and my wife being physical… doesn't matter if it's with others. To her it's all gross.

She is highly intelligent and is bi. We want her strong but happy. She played tackle football. She is also opinionated. She has stuck to mono, but it's her deal.

With my wife, I won't have anymore children. I wanted to [with] our first and second live-in partner. But both cannot have them.


One partner who lived with us, my daughter loved spending time with her. She went back to her husband, but we see her once in a while. My daughter likes talking to all if them, they are good people. We have high standards… no flings or fuck buddies. Our daughter knows life happens. But she has an extensive support network if she needs it. And no matter what goes on, we love our daughter and all our partners love her like she was theirs. —Rob, 40

Married with a Girlfriend, Considering Co-Parenting

I'm married with a husband, 11 years. I have a girlfriend of three months we are currently in the talks of co-parenting and moving in together.

My husband is looking at moving to another state, not separate from us, but he would set things up for us before we all moved. Right now where we're at, the education system is really bad, so my kids go to a private school. We're not out to our kids yet, and we're not out to my family. A lot of what they see, they just think mommy's best friend hangs out here every weekend. I think maybe the oldest is starting to suspect, but the littles just think Ms. Lisa is amazing. I have three girls: 12, nine, and six years old.

For living together, we're looking at a year, year and a half. As far as coparenting, whenever she is here, she has just as much access to them as we do. She is allowed to correct them, just like my husband and I do. We all grew up with similar parenting styles—southern, strict—so for us, combining parenting styles is very easy.


Two weekends ago, I woke up to her having a conversation with my oldest, and my oldest was saying, "You know, you really should just move in here. We've already adopted you, and you're already family." Unfortunately, our house we are in right now is very small, and that's the only reason she hasn't moved in yet.

I've been trying to have little conversations [with my kids] along the way, like about how people can love who they want to love. Since they are in a private school, they're hearing things other than what we believe. My mom is also a minister. We live at the tip of the Bible Belt.

My 12-year-old, she's at that age where girls can get a bit snobby, like saying that you can only have one best friend. "Well, why can't you have more than one best friend? You love both of them equally. If I love more than one person, why can't I experience that love with more than one person?" They don't have a good reason why I couldn't, so that kind of starts that thinking in their head.

Out of everyone I've been with, my girlfriend fits the best with our family. It's completely effortless. It's like she was meant to be here. —Christine, 34

Dad of Three in a New Poly Relationship

My wife and I are in a relatively new poly relationship. We have three children, all in their teens. The conversation went surprisingly well with them. In fact, our oldest daughter said she knew something was up! My son and youngest daughter kinda shrugged it off like it wasn't a big deal that their mom was bisexual and had a girlfriend.

My wife and I have played around with threesomes. This is what I consider to be our first real poly relationship. My wife and a woman are in a relationship. Her girlfriend and I are friends, but that's the extent of our relationship.


The girlfriend has met our children, and my wife has met hers. We are keeping things very open. My wife even posts about her relationship on Facebook for everyone to see. I'm quite proud of her. As for parenting style, we have always taught our children to keep an open mind. It seems that lesson has taken hold.

Sometimes one of the kids will ask where mom is, and I still feel a bit awkward telling them she's at her girlfriend's. It has gotten easier over the last few weeks. In time, I imagine that awkwardness will go away. So far, no issues from school or work. There are a few knuckleheads who started pestering my wife. They got real quiet when I told them she has my support. Then again, they may have gotten quiet because I'm a big Bear of a guy too [laughs].

Kids usually don't have the same hang-ups as adults. Don't stress too much over every little thing. Some poly families are close-knit, some aren't, and it's all OK. If you have a close poly family, you have help that many parents might not have. I can't emphasize enough about open, honest communication. If there are children involved, always put priority on them. No matter what, don't ignore them. Don't worry about how society sees you. Worry about your happiness and the happiness of your family. —Bear, 40

When Your Kids Are Poly Too

I have a primary relationship and two long distance relationships—a girlfriend and a boyfriend. We have four kids, they are 21 (girl), 19 (boy), 18 (girl), and 16 (boy). My oldest two are my step children from my ex. My oldest was living with her grandmother and came to visit. She asked if it was odd for her to have feelings for two people. My ex and I looked at each other and just told her. She felt so relieved. Our son was told in a very abrupt and rude manner by my ex after we were separated. He has come to accept it and embraces my primary and others. My oldest is poly too: Her and her husband's girlfriend are about to make me a grandma again in a few months.

My second daughter came to my primary and I and said, "So… I kind of have two girlfriends and a boyfriend, is that OK?" We assured her it definitely was OK and we would support her decisions. Our youngest boy is special needs, and we told him as we were on the way to Missouri to visit my ex-boyfriend. Other than staring at me and my ex when we kissed, he took it very well. My youngest girl talks to my girlfriend almost daily. My oldest boy chats with my boyfriend quite often—both of them are into computer games.


My father refuses to accept it and states that I need to find Jesus. (I am a Christian, just not a monogamous one.) My primary's grandmother says we're immoral and disgusting and what we're doing is harmful to the kids. But all our kids love us and our partners, so we're going to keep doing what we're doing you know? The schools don't know. We're discreet with the school because our youngest has enough problems being different.

Kids can handle a lot. Plus if you normalize it, they won't see it as weird. It's just a bigger family. More people to love that child—and more presents for birthdays and Christmas. —Meghan, 31

Mother of Three with Two Partners and Multiple Friends with Benefits

I'm poly with three children, ages 20, 16, 14. I've been out as poly for about seven years now. My 20-year-old also practices ethical non-monogamy. I have two partners at the moment and then some friends-with-benefits situations. One of my partners and I have been together nearly seven years. He lives a couple miles from me. He's been with his wife for 20-something years. When I knew things were serious with him, I finally let him meet my kids after about six months. Once I really, really knew this was going somewhere I simply said, "Hey kids, come here. I want to talk to you." I've always been matter of fact, straightforward with my kids about everything. I've always provided a consistent and open and disciplined environment. I'm not their friend; I'm their parent. We're close and transparent with each other. I said, "You guys know I've been dating [this person] for a while and that we have a lot of love and respect for each other. Our relationship is a bit different though because he's married and has been for a long time. His wife knows, she also dates other people, and her and I also have a close relationship. We all choose this because it's what feels right for us." They just looked at me. I asked if they had any questions: "Yeah, can we go back to playing Legos?" And that was that.

I don't think it's as much a poly thing as a parent thing. Having a strong foundation with your children is all that will ever matter. I have such an amazing relationship with my kids; the feedback they've given me in having such great communication is because I've never set arbitrary rules, that I've always been willing to listen, that I hold them accountable and responsible for their choices and let them make their own choices. There's no topic off-limits in our household. My kids didn't grow up with television. Reading, creativity, and conversation is huge in our family dynamics. I think that's been a huge contribution to allowing my kids to think for themselves and not be programmed with preconceived social norms. —Brandelle, 41


Monogamous in a Relationship with a Poly Person Who Has a Young Child

I've been coparenting very little, moreso as the relationship grows. My partner's child is five. He's always been open poly, [the kid] always had "family" or "friends." I'm family. "Ms. Trish." He knows when I'm there, I am in his room and he has to knock. He just started school, so it might be more of an issue soon. I worry that the school would attribute the son's behaviours to his parents being poly. The school year has not gone well so far—he is not adjusting well to school, but it's getting better.

We have talked about how we will explain the poly thing to him. I think it will be generic if he is young and asks about the family unit being "different." All families are not the same: some two mom, two dads one mom, and us. When older, the deeper meaning could be explained.

I thought it was strange at first that my partner would bring me around his son so early in the relationship. About four months in, one of his other relationships broke up. His son missed her and the kid. He doesn't talk about them anymore, but it affected him. His son is sweet, loves me. But it's not easy. My kids are older, 18 and 15. They know. They don't really say much; they say it's not for them, but they "don't care."

Wait to introduce your kids to "friends," don't let your poly relationships be a revolving door of people for your kids. I wish I had known myself better. You don't know what you can or can't handle though until you're in the thick of it. Sometimes it's too late, too in love, too invested to turn back. —Patricia, 40

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