rosefox: Lots of hearts with lines connecting them and the caption "Love begets love". (polyamory)
Rose Fox ([personal profile] rosefox) wrote2015-08-03 03:08 am

"I'm not your only friend"

Hey poly parents: my pal T is in a stressful situation and would like some reassurance/info from people who've been there. They're married and newly pregnant (a first, planned pregnancy, which both T and their spouse are very happy about), and worried about how this will affect their relationship with their non-resident boyfriend. The boyfriend was fine with the thought of a hypothetical pregnancy but now is likewise anxious about how an actual baby will change things. T wrote to me, "I think it's tricky for [boyfriend] because he has friends with babies who seem totally swept up in BABY and we don't have models for any poly folk doing this to point to.... I would love to hear about people in a similar situation to mine. I'm sure they must exist more often than not but I don't hear much about them. And so many poly people that I know believe babies ruin relationships/friendships. But I'm sure there must be people with non-parent partners whose relationships stay good throughout."

Any advice or reassurance for these folks?
phi: (Default)

[personal profile] phi 2015-08-03 03:16 pm (UTC)(link)
No advice, but I'm tracking replies on this since I very much hope that this will be a thing for me in the next year or two.
juliet: (Default)

[personal profile] juliet 2015-08-04 12:23 pm (UTC)(link)
My non-co-parent partner (P) is resident which has made some things easier, but maybe experience is still helpful? L (child) is 3.5 now.

Being a new parent, i.e. when the baby is new and very small, is indeed kind of all-consuming, and I think the non-parent partner needs to be prepared to roll with that a bit. They can still be included and the relationship can still be strong but it is going to look a bit different. If there is a breastfeeding parent then it may be particularly hard for that person to be physically away from the baby (not all people get on with pumps, and anyway pumping is not 'free'; it takes up time!).

When P and I had dates in the early days, they were all in the house, usually of the sofa-chat-DVD-food variety, and L was either snoozing on me, or with D elsewhere in the house, and D would bring him to me if I was needed. L was a not-being-put-down type of kid, and we used slings a lot. Some babies might be happy in a basket or crib, in which case whoever's having a date could negotiate accordingly with the other parent about what happens if the baby wakes up.

If the non-parent is happy just hanging out with parent + baby then that is lovely, especially if the parent is stuck on the sofa a lot (e.g. with a frequent feeder or a baby who will only sleep on a person), but again they do need to accept that baby-related stuff is unpredictable and has priority.

In my experience/watching others, it is harder for the primary carer, if there is one, to be away. The more equally both parents can be involved in care (nappies, carrying them, soothing them -- I breastfed and very rarely pumped, but D did all the other stuff and it really helped) the easier it is for both parents to get some time out. That may be worth discussing in advance, if they aren't already thinking about that sort of thing. Slings/baby carriers are great for bonding.

D & I did go out e.g. to restaurants with L in the sling in the early days, and I just fed him if he woke up. (This is way way easier before 6-9 months & I kind of wish we'd done more of it!) I could have done that with P as well, but we chose not to for various reasons.

As they get older you have more options, though that will depend on parenting style & the kid's personality. It becomes easier to go out for the evening, leaving the kid with a babysitter or the other parent, depending on preference. The non-parent partner might be up for a bit of babysitting if the parents want to go out (doesn't quite address T's boyfriend's issue but can be an advantage of poly for the parents and there's a reciprocality thing, I guess). Overnights away become possible (again depending on parenting style and child, but it will eventually happen!).

I guess being flexible is probably the most important thing. There will inevitably be change, as there's a whole new, and very very needy, person in the equation. (Unless they are up for the "one parent does all the work and the other carries on as if nothing happened" model, or the "paid help for everything and both parents carry on as before" model.) Libidos often change (especially for gestating/breastfeeding parents). Everyone will be more tired. But I think with good-will and awareness you can work through it. I don't think mine and P's relationship looks exactly like it did before; but it is maybe stronger in some ways partly because spending time with him helped me not sink into "baby all the time" stuff. It was/is at least a night a week where I might have to *deal* with L at some point, but we wouldn't *talk* about him much, but about lots of other things. Which has been really positive for me, anyway.

I'd be happy to chat to T on email if they wanted. As they have observed there aren't that many poly folk in similar situations!

(Sorry, this is long, but I have no more time to edit.)
adjectivegail: (lovers tango)

[personal profile] adjectivegail 2015-08-03 12:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Don't know about advice but I can share my experience. I started going out with M when he was in a poly 'V' and the three of them had a then-7 month old baby. He still had a separate residence at that point but spent 5 or 6 nights a week at his partner's/baby's house. We had dates there, I slept over there; she was generally a pretty good sleeper so once she'd been settled for the night (say 6-7pm) we'd have the evening to ourselves and the other members of the poly household could even *gasp* go out! ;-) I was super into babies anyway (broody from a young age) so I was happy to be involved in adventures with spaghetti, to get down on the floor and play with her, have a weekend date that involved a trip to the playground, etc. We did also have dates out ourselves - there was a long stretch where his one night a week at his own place was when I'd come round. When she was 7 or 8 years old M and her mum broke up (not because of the baby, in case that needs saying!), but we live in the next street and are still heavily involved in each others' lives. She is now 11.5 years old and although there are obviously frustrations from having 4 parents, I think she appreciates us all too. She calls my son her brother, and he calls her sister, his sister, too. It helps that I was friends with my stepdaughter's mum before I ever started going out with M. She's very important in my life.

Babies can and do take up a lot of time/energy (I've since had a baby of my own, and for me personally absolutely everything else paled into insignificance for *years* after I conceived - but I also have ongoing mental health issues and I think my experience is more on the extreme end of the spectrum of what's 'normal' or usual). Anyone who's going to be involved in a household with a baby really needs to understand that the simple presence/existence of the baby will change both big things and little things. From the priorities to the rhythms of the household, from whether you go out or stay in to how you feel about certain activities, etc, etc. None of this is necessarily either good or bad, IMO - I think it is what you make of it. For those who are willingly, proactively engaged in those relationships, it's an opportunity for deeper bonding and shared experiences. Personally for me every single step of the way has involved a great deal of communication, communication, communication. Of our thoughts and feelings, changing perceptions, changing priorities, changing emotions, changing ideas, etc, etc. And I think that's why it's worked. Communication and love in the active, verb-y sense of the word.

[identity profile] 2015-08-03 01:56 pm (UTC)(link)
My husband got dumped by a secondary of a few years standing who said that she hadn't realised that he would change as a person once he became a dad. It wasnt the time issue, it was that he was so different when he went for dates. It was a hard thing to hear, fairly thoughtless on her part. She wasnt even spending any time around the baby, the relationship was outside our family dynamic.
Accepting that everything will change, and during the first period , drastically, has to be at the center of it.

[identity profile] 2015-08-03 02:09 pm (UTC)(link)
[ profile] djm4 would be able to give you input from the non-resident viewpoint - he and I have managed because he has been stellar at supporting me and enjoying dates that are mainly snuggling up watching TV then falling asleep. And, in due course, managing dates elsewhere. I'm very glad I made it out with him when Quatlet was 7 weeks, as not only was it a delightfu evening but it was the last time I met his father.

If both resident parents are seeing the non-resident chap, that could lead to jealousy if the given-birth parent is feeling left out as well as having to physically recover, possible body issues, and literally left holding the baby. If T and spouse work hard to have an equal parenting relationship (Conflux says fatherhood means doing shedloads of laundry), and boyfriend accepts neither will have much energy for a year or so, then it can work just fine.

[identity profile] 2015-08-03 05:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Hmm. I didn't acquire a non-parent partner until after we had the baby, so I haven't actually had to deal with the transition. Some thoughts:

If the boyfriend is willing to hang out with the baby, that opens up a lot more opportunities for spending time with T. If he's not, it's possible for him to be kind of a refuge or time off for T, but everyone involved (including T's spouse) should be consciously aware of that and realistic about scheduling and energy constraints.

Both parents will need time off of various sorts depending on personality and ex hobbies. I would recommend that T be sure their spouse is getting enough time off, and also not spend all their own time off on the boyfriend. (Unless they already do that.)

Things will be different with a baby. The logistics change in ways that are not always easy to predict. Spontaneity gets harder, so if that's a big part of things now make a plan around how to deal with that change.

Basically, be aware that there will be changes and be willing to work around them. Both believing the baby will inevitably ruin the relationship and believing that it can go on exactly the same will lead to frustration and poor results. Breathe, relax, and be flexible.
gingicat: drawing of me based on wedding photo (Default)

[personal profile] gingicat 2015-08-04 02:43 am (UTC)(link)
Well, my relationship with B is neither sexual nor romantic, but I think her having a semi-parental role has certainly strengthened our connection.

[identity profile] 2015-08-04 05:52 am (UTC)(link)
my partner Phil and his wife had a baby after he and I had been involved for about 3 years. He and I don't live together and see each other about once, twice a week.

I was pretty anxious about how things would change, but I'm close to his wife and other partner and like spending time in their household. I've been involved in wee one's life since before she was conceived. I'm her auntie, I babysit and she's a part of our dates when necessary. We spend more time at home, we're more tired but the joy of the kiddo in my life compensates me nicely. and I feel closer to my partner and his other partners.