Posted on May 23, 2015
Guest Post: Modern families
I am very grateful to the kind, generous, lovely and brave woman who has provided this guest post. As you can see it’s an anonymous post. Please respect the anonymity of this whānau. If you know them, please do not discuss this post on social media using the real names of those involved. I think this is a lovely post about the ways we love as a families, I’m very grateful to be able to host it on my site. If for some reason this post upsets you, you may like to shout into the wind instead of commenting. I’ll only be posting comments that are respectful to the whānau involved. If you have questions, you can post them and the author may or may not choose to reply. I am always keen to feature posts about different experiences in parenting so please email me if you’d like to write something for the site. Please excuse me if I take a while to reply, I am a bit slow this week due to lack of sleep!
I’m extremely lucky – or just greedy, depending on how you look at it. I have a boyfriend and a girlfriend. They are married to each other and have been together for seven years.
I started off just dating my boyfriend. It took him a long time to convince me it was a good idea. I’m not “polyamorous.” They had an open marriage, which I didn’t approve of. I thought I was settling for being second best. It all sounded complicated and painful. But – I fell in love with him. I spent time with him and his daughter, Lily. She was three. I fell in love with her. And then I met his wife.
We are pretty open about our relationship. We’ve had varying reactions, particularly from our three sets of parents. They have their own opinions about us and about how we should raise Lily. We respect those opinions but we make our own parenting choices.
I don’t live with my partners right now, but it’s on the cards. I see them almost every day. We eat meals together, I help put Lily to bed, I read her stories. We say “I love you.”
One of the main criticisms we’ve had is: “What is this teaching Lily? She’s not going to have a normal family!”
We consider Lily in every single decision we make. She is always our first thought, and always will be. It makes no difference that we are three parents instead of one or two. She is our priority.
We absolutely dispute the idea that our relationship is damaging to her in any way. As I said, I have been around basically since she can remember. She is used to my presence, and to the relationship dynamic. As she grows up, she has more questions for us. “Why does Hannah stay the night all the time? Where does she sleep? Can’t she sleep with meeeee?” I imagine these will get more complex as time goes on, as she realises her family is different and what that means, and she may get questions from schoolmates or other families. We always answer with the truth.
What is our relationship teaching her? As far as we’re concerned, she’s learning that there is all kind of love in the world, and that there is a lot of it. Love isn’t a finite resource. You can love lots of different people, in lots of different ways, and all just as much as the other. I hardly see how that’s a bad thing.
And the “normal family” question – I do struggle not to laugh out loud at this one. What’s a normal family? It’s hard to tell if this sort of prejudice is driven by traditional views of marriage, homophobia, or genuine concern for our child.
And she is my child. For public understanding I usually refer to her as my stepdaughter, though unfortunately that isn’t legally true. Sometimes I say she is the daughter of my boyfriend and/or my girlfriend, though that doesn’t feel like it conveys what she means to me, and it’s not the whole truth. I love her. I parent her. She’s mine.
It can be an interesting dynamic having three parents, especially when two sort-of take higher authority as the bio-parents, though they rarely contradict me, nor I them. I know their parenting style and ensure there is consistency of care. We all have very similar codes of ethics so it’s no big chore. Occasionally there are times when I discover I am more strict than they are. I figure this is because I’ve had less time to be worn down haha.
For example – dinner time. I grew up in a household where you eat everything on your plate. If you didn’t, you didn’t leave the table and you didn’t get dessert. To me, that’s a harsh but good lesson. I learned to be grateful for the food that was made for me, and the dessert I was rewarded with for good behaviour. I learned discipline. I learned that I didn’t always get what I wanted, and I didn’t always like what I got. So I make her stay at the table and finish her vegetables. And when she’s done, she gets chocolate, which is the best thing in the world.
She’s getting sneakier as she gets older. She knows if mum and dad have said no… Hannah might say yes! So she tries the same question on all three of us. And she’s adorable, so saying no is hard!
I know that some people will disagree with me, but I think she’s lucky. I know I am. I’m so incredibly lucky to be part of her life, to watch her growing up, to be part of the team that will guide her. Yesterday she told me she loves me more than cats. That’s pretty huge.
She gets three parents. She gets three pairs of arms to hug her, three voices for bedtime stories, three choices of who to ask when she wants to know about birds and bees and outer space.
Most of all, she’s loved. And that’s just what any child deserves.