When my spouse and I decided to venture into a new relationship lifestyle, one of our very first concerns was our three children under the age of 10. When we agreed to open our relationship, we had more than a dedication to a 10-year marriage, but also to raising a family. After some reading, researching, and talking we decided to take discussion with the little ones in baby steps. Here is what I have decided is age appropriate for now:
1. My Boyfriend Jim Is My Best Friend
When the kids ask why I like to spend so much time with Jim I tell them because, besides their dad, Jim is my best friend. Jim and I had been friends for a number of years before we ever had romantic feelings for each other and our current relationship is built on that foundation. Not only is he my friend, but he is Allan’s friend as well. I don’t feel the need for them to see him as my ”boyfriend,” but just someone who is very special and important to me.
My son will even take a teasing tone and say ”ohhh..you’ll be with Jim.” Then ask me if he can borrow the man’s camping equipment.
2. Parents Have Nights Out
Every parent can relate to wanting time with their kids while trying to fit in time for themselves and work life, romantic life, and generally staying sane. With my going out with Jim and Allan dating, one of us is usually out for the evening. We each only go out once a week before the kids are in bed, but that was still a bit of a change for them. As Jim and I got more serious, we settled on one set night a week, so Tuesdays mommy is out with Jim and another night, daddy may be out with a friend.
These nights don’t always have to be dating. We could be out with a friend or a family member, but the kids get the idea now that their parents are not just home 24/7.
3. Overnights Away From The Home Happen
Perhaps a little trickier to explain is when I go spend a night away with Jim. I only do it every four to six weeks or so because I want to spend plenty of time with the kids. I’ll still tell them I’m headed out with Jim but that I won’t be back until the morning. This has become a norm for them also, accepting that their mom has somewhere else to be for an evening and will be back to them the next day. They do know I’m with Jim, and for now don’t question it. Will they? Sure, but Allan and I will prepare for that. I try to schedule time with them the next day, sometimes bringing Jim along. Our last outing, we all had a great time and Allan got a much needed nap.
4. You Can Love All Kinds Of People
My life isn’t just about scheduling. It’s also about sharing relationships with the men I love. In being polyamorous, I want the children to realize that love is not made up of limits. They know that I married their father because I love him and wanted to stay with him and raise a family together, but I’ve also told them you can love different people in different ways. True, my relationship with Allan and Jim are both a romantic form of love, but they are still inherently different because they are different people and different relationships. I want to foster in the children a sense that love is something you have and give to whom you choose; it is not dictated by a set of rules.
On a recent visit, Jim was talking to one of my girls when I walked in and gave him a quick hug, and he gave me an affectionate glance. My daughter giggled and then carried on telling him about the latest episode of Daniel Tiger. Affection and love should be normal and everyday parts of a child’s life and I’m glad that my children see adults being warm to one another.
5. The Adults In Their Lives Love And Care For them
As parents, Allan and I want our children to know how much we love and care for them, that we are there for all of the important milestones and moments, and that they come before other obligations that crop up in life. If one of them were to get sick or need me, I’d quickly cancel any social plans, Jim or not, to be with them. Jim also knows that the children come first and cares about them as well. We have even discussed that, if in a pinch, Allan and I could count on Jim to take care of the kids. I know they would be comfortable with him and thrilled to see him.
My middle child still talks about a time I was in the hospital and Jim sat with her in the waiting room while Allan came in to see me. Having another grown up there in that kind of situation was helpful for us, and the kids. Instead of recalling me in a neck brace, and her father anxiously checking in on me, she remembers Jim getting her crackers from the vending machines in the ER.
Lastly, what else will these little offspring of ours need to know? Of course some day sex and intimacy may come up. Some day we may need to full on explain polyamory. But right now, they are little kids, and little kids don’t need to know anything about my sex life; I’d hope they know nothing about the sex life I have with their father, never mind anyone else.
As far as nomenclature — “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” “partner” — the time will come. I jokingly asked my daughter who my boyfriend was while playing princesses (apparently she is “dating” a charming fellow in kindergarten), and while I expected her to say ”daddy” she piped up ”Jim!” I stifled a chuckle. Right now I wasn’t responding to that but eventually I’d like to be able to say ”well yeah, isn’t that great?”