Traditionally, most North American families comprise of two adult partners who would share parental duties if they chose to have children. However, nowadays, we know that families can be created in a number of different ways. These include same-sex couples and polyamorous relationships.
Although it’s considered a taboo in our culture, for many people, the idea of living a life with just one lover doesn’t make sense. And, as many of these AskReddit responses prove, it does not come in the way of fostering a healthy household and a productive child.
Source list available at the end.
My childhood felt typical. I had a dad and a mom, and they had a girlfriend that lived with us. Their girlfriend did not really act as a parent to me. It was more like having one of my parent’s friends around all the time. Being a child without any concept of sexuality (until puberty), it seemed pretty normal to me that my dad would smooch my mom and then smooch Janet when he left or came home. It just [looked] like love and it never bothered me. Kids at school didn’t really know about it. My parents tended to tone it down around my friends.
There was a lot of love in our home. That’s pretty much the only thing that [seemed] different to me. Compared to my friends whose parents were divorced or always fighting, I wouldn’t change a thing about how I grew up or my parents poly relationship.
That’s pretty much exactly how my parents were. Over the course of 15 years, my dad had three significant girlfriends (at different times) all while he was still married to my mom. It just seemed normal to me, [and] it wasn’t until 6th grade, that I realized that everyone else’s family wasn’t like mine. Around that time, my friends all of a sudden weren’t allowed to come over to my house anymore, which is [because] their parents had found out about Kelly, my dad’s GF at the time. I don’t have any qualms with what my parents did. They were always very open [and] honest about the whole thing with us kids. But the way everyone else reacted felt like [terrible] to me as a child. It forced me to get pretty good at lying [and] taught me to put walls up [and] not to trust others, which is probably the most negative thing about the whole situation.
From [around] 7 [to] 17, my parents were in a polyamorous relationship of sorts. It was my mother, my father, and another woman [who] I’ll call “D”. She lived in the house with us and was romantically involved with my mother at least. She did [sort of act as a] third parent in many ways and, throughout most of that time, I would say I had a happy and loving childhood. I didn’t feel strange about it, and I don’t remember ever being teased until I got older, [so] I would just tell my friends she was my parents’ friend who was living with us. When she left, my mother was very upset and did not want her to communicate with my sister and I anymore, so I have not heard from her in years. I’m 24 now, and my parents divorced about 3 years ago.
My dad has a few wives. I have a lot of half brothers and sisters. I don’t like it one bit. He doesn’t treat my mom well. I was always embarrassed about it when I reached high school. I never told anyone about it. Hope we can get out [of it] soon [and] away from his control. Personally, I don’t like the lifestyle, but that is just me. I know [this is] corny and cheesy, but I hope I find my true love/ soul mate one day. I want to have fun too.
I was in a polyamorous relationship for a couple years with a woman who already had kids. Her other partner lived in another country so it didn’t feel as ‘wrong’ to me. I’m pretty vanilla. The kids themselves were various ages, up to 18, and they were all used to their mother’s lifestyle and were open to different sexualities. When you grow up with it and your mother is frank and open about it then it seems to work. It seemed to work for them, but [it] just wasn’t for me. I hung around because I genuinely cared about the mother, but I wanted something more ‘normal’ in the end. I hope it worked out for her in the end.
I have friends in a triad who have a couple [of] young kids. From what I’ve seen, it’s like having three parents, which is great for them. [The kids] probably don’t think so though. Having an extra parent means a lot fewer incidences of no one remembering to ask if they’ve done their homework and cleaned their room before they’re allowed to play video games. Those kids almost never [got] away with anything (and not for lack of trying).
Not my parents, but I was a daycare worker for some poly parents. [There] was this lady (who had three kids) her husband and her girlfriend, and they all lived in the same house. I had no idea how to address their relationship, so I [never did]. It did confuse me at first because the lady was obviously in a relationship with her husband and with her girlfriend but, in the end, it [doesn’t] matter. The kids had just another person who could pick them up from daycare.
My parents were in a long-term polyamorous relationship while I was growing up. I didn’t really realize it, and [once] I did, I think I just blocked it out [cause] it was normal.
When I was 8 and my little brother 5, one of my parent’s friends was visiting more often and that was cool. Then, she [started] staying with us a lot, in [the] spare room, and that was cool too. We liked her. Eventually, she moved in and so did her cat. I liked her cat. She always had her own room although she never seemed to spend too much time in it, I didn’t question it.
She was our border as far as I was concerned. It was completely normal to have another random adult just live with us and be semi aunt/parent/thing ish because she paid board [you] know? [It] was a business arrangement. My dad tried to talk to me about it once, but we’re both very awkward people and we [got] awkward over it, [so] I blocked it from my memory.
Eventually, [they] broke up. [It was at] about the [same] time [that] I was moving out of [the house] at 18. She’d been part of my life for 10 or so years. I still keep in touch occasionally. We [even] had a good chat a few months after it happened where we talked about it from her point of view, how she’d always said coming in that we were a family unit and if anything happened she always knew it [would be] her that would [have to] leave. I don’t know all [of] the details, and I don’t really want to.
My parents have a new lady now that they’re seeing, a few years later. They introduced her one day when I went round. “Hey, you know how X was a thing? Well, this is Y, and she’s a new similar thing.” Doesn’t live with them. Is a cool [woman]. Happy for them [if it makes them] happy.
I was the third person in a polyamorous relationship for about six months. I was the girlfriend to a married couple. Between the two of them, they had three kids, all from previous relationships, none together. I actually bonded really well with the kids. I’m still in touch with the two girls, one of whom is an adult now. Unfortunately, that relationship was not at all a good example of what polyamory is. For one thing, there was deceit and that’s poison to any relationship, but especially to a polyamorous one. Basically, everything is exponentially greater in poly relationships, whether it’s good or bad. So, the bad stuff was really bad. Neither of them told me that their marriage was already on the rocks, that they’d been in counseling and given themselves a year to work it out or they’d divorce. So, I felt like bringing me in was a very poorly thought out bid to revive their relationship, and I very much resented being put in the middle of their very melodramatic and hysterical arguments.
I stuck around as long as I did basically for the kids because I felt like I was the only one trying to shield them from their parents’ craziness. The youngest had no clue what the true nature of our relationship was, but the older two did. It never seemed like much of an issue [to] them. I would have liked to sit down and talk with the older two, but the parents insisted they didn’t want to do that. So, everyone basically acted like I was a friend who slept over. Their marriage wound up falling apart and they divorced. All around, it was a bad experience for everyone, but again, it was because it was done all wrong. There was no honesty and openness, and that doomed the relationship from the start.
Now, I’m in a wonderful, happy, loving, honest marriage. He and I have threesomes fairly often, and there’s one woman we’ve been seeing regularly for several months. She’s become a good friend. I don’t know that we’ve labeled it polyamory, but we definitely all care for each other. It’s working out well because we’re all very honest and open and able to talk to each other when things come up, as they inevitably do. My husband and I have a son who’s three, so he’s too young to understand more than that we have a friend over. As he gets older, I plan to scale back so that it’s not quite so obvious what’s going on, and then when he gets old enough to understand, answer any questions [that] he has in an honest and age-appropriate way.
I hope to show him that relationships don’t have to be one thing or another. There is no “right” kind of relationship, just the one that works for you and your partner(s). As long as there is love and honesty, you can make it work.
I didn’t even know my parents were polyamorous until a few years ago (mid-20s). Growing up, I just had a lot of “uncles” and “aunts”, and I thought it was funny my parents had so many close friends. It was a running joke for my sister and [me], then it turned out to be real, and [it] got funnier.
My partner and her husband had their first child at the start of this year. While it’s too early to draw anything long-term out of this, what I can tell you is that having three primary caregivers seems to be much easier than having just [one or two]. Two feels like it ought to be the minimum. I [have] no idea how single parents cope!
My dad married two wives. My mom is his second wife. It’s [going to] sound horrible, but my dad married my mom because he wasn’t happy with his first wife. Growing up, I was always pressured to be my best (I try, but I’m pretty average) because of my half siblings. My half siblings are leeches. I don’t even acknowledge them as my own blood. Dad is retired, living on [a] pension, and they [are] grown adults with their own families and kids and still asks for my [Dad’s] money.
Dad and first wife married because he [got] her [pregnant], and back then it was a taboo [topic] to be pregnant before being married so they [had] a quick ceremony. I only recently knew this little tidbit when my mom told me, but I wasn’t surprised.
Overall, I’d say I’m an okay kid. I’m 23 now. No one else knows about my dad having two wives other than my ex. Growing up, I never really cared much about my other family. My mom taught me well. My dad’s first wife pretty much let her own kids run amok. My half sister got [pregnant] at 16, married and divorced with five kids by the age of 32. My half brother got married twice – and twice my dad had to pay for the wedding because he couldn’t afford it. [My] half [brother] still [didn’t] pay him back a single cent, yet tells him sob stories about how he can’t afford to pay xx bills with his meager salary. My other two half siblings are no better.
Weighing in as the parent:
It is really going to depend on [a number of] things. The type of relationship between the adults, the type of relationship between those adults and the child, the adults’ fitness as parents regardless of the relationship, the support of the connected families, etc.
I believe our situation will produce a wonderful child.
There are three total, in a V relationship. The [third] is the biological parent of the child with one of the married couple. However, the relationship well predates the child. We had lived together for several years before the pregnancy and had time to bond as a family. Now that we have a baby, everyone acts as a direct parent of the child. Someday, we will have to tell her all [of] the details and we haven’t yet made a plan for that, but hopefully, by the time we get to that point, it will not matter. We all love her and show her affection regularly.
Additionally, we have support from our families. I’m certain they have their own views about it as they are all monogamous but, as far as we’ve seen, everyone is happy to have an (or another) child in their lives. They have all been very loving and accepting.
Then, to top it off, we are all educated with a variety of interests and a large group of friends of all sorts who expand the types of possibilities that our daughter will be exposed to, and two of us have experience raising children, though none of our own.
Our daughter is very happy (at almost one) and [is] well attended to with the support of a family that will encourage her to excel in whatever she chooses to pursue, a family who will expose her to a large variety of skills and interests, and a family that will be by her side through whatever may come.
We are lucky to have such a situation and I am not [at] shame to say that I expect we will end up with a bright, happy, well rounded, contributing member of society. Not all children of a polyamorous relationship will be [delt] such a wonderful hand in life but, likewise, neither will all children of monogamous relationships.
I’m in a triad with my husband and my BF, and we have all been raising our son for long enough that he does not remember having only two parents. Some days, he has three people, in ten minutes, checking if he took his medication. Other days, three people forget to tell him to go to bed because he is suddenly magically silent downstairs, and we all think the other person told him.
My dad has two wives.
It’s not that different to any other household. I don’t mention it to other people. The wives live in different houses, so I never see his second wife. I see my half siblings once or twice a year. My dad spends more time living with us, but it wasn’t like that when I was younger.
EDIT: Actually, he has three. I forgot he got married again last year when he went back to his home country. However, he married this girl to provide for her as she had no family (I think her parents recently died). I don’t think it’s sexual. It’s frowned upon for a woman to receive financial help from a man who is not [her] family or husband. So, he married her to help her out.
My brother and my mother [have] met her. My mom likes her because she [would help] her around the house when she went to visit her home country.
Well, I’ve been polyamorous for about 15 years, with my second wife and our shared girlfriend, then again after she passed with my current Fiancee.
My 4 kids have always known [that] we are polyamorous, and frankly [they] don’t care at all. They have never thought much about it and are perfectly accepting of various people they’ve been introduced to that we have sex with or that we engage with amorously.
I know all that because we’ve all had good long discussions about polyamory, and I’ve always made sure my lifestyle doesn’t impact theirs negatively. They feel perfectly comfortable asking me questions about my relationships with other people, sex, and any other question they might have because I simply do not hide the truth from them.
My parents are accepting (as is my Fiancee’s parents) of our polyamorous lifestyle. Although, I know they secretly don’t understand it themselves.
In my house, my husband and I had two kids before our partner joined us, so they call him by his first name. Then again, they called their father by his first name for a while [too] (no big deal here). Now, we are expecting a baby, and this will be my partner’s first offspring. We are all very excited and have not [yet] decided exactly what everyone will call each other. But we all love and respect each other, so we will work it out.
I always think it’s sad that polyamorous families feel they have to tone down their affection to avoid being judged.
I’ve been poly 15+ years. I always ask the children of my [partners] and other poly friends how they feel.
Well, for the young ones, they don’t know any different. I mean their school friends are different, but there are now families with two mommies or two daddies or gramps and grams or a ton of other permutations. They just seem to accept that there are more people at home to play games or go sledding or talk incessantly too. They get to go to parties with tons of adults to complain to or dote on them or sneak them extra goodies- and lots of kids that they have something in common with.
Now, the older kids (10-ish to 20-ish) have a more colorful spectrum of opinions. Shockingly, being embarrassed was not something I heard. They were worried about what divorce would mean- How would the dynamic work? Would they lose their non-legal parents? They [were] worried they might feel pressure or jokes or other such embarrassments when they enter the dating world. Would their parents tease them about being mono or poly? Would becoming poly mean turning their lives into their parent’s lives?
“My mom was so broken up after her 6-year relationship ended. She has never had those problems with dad. I never want to go through that. I am only falling in love once.”
“We are so happy when DeDe comes to visit us or calls us, even though she is no longer with our parents! We love her and miss her!”
“I wanna have two boyfriends and a girlfriend. I think that would be the right ratio. Mom didn’t get it right. She needs another guy in her life.”
So, the thing is I have gotten very similar answers from monogamous couple’s children. In the end, it comes down to the quality of general parenting, an open door policy when it comes to answers that the children have, and always encouraging children to pick their own paths when it comes to their romantic relationships.
Oh, and it shouldn’t have to be said, but introducing new love interests too soon or having unhealthy and/or abusive relationships are bad for the children involved. Physical violence, emotional manipulation, sexual predatory behaviors, and [a child witnessing] drug/alcohol/partying behaviors can slant a child away from wanting [anything to do] with anything their parents do, including a number of romantic partners.