I have a poly parenting question which is related to the subject in this post.
You say “under the influence of NRE, people have been known to neglect important responsibilities at work, make poor financial decisions, and skimp on sleep and other self-care”.
What if the important responsibility is their children, and they’re neglecting them, and it happens over and over again because, additional partners come and go and the excitement of a new love is, as we know, difficult to control?
Does the community have guiding lines for these situations?
I have no children myself and no plans to have any. My view on the topic of poly parenting is informed by my study of child development theory, my experiences with friends and partners who are poly parents, and what other poly writers have written about the subject. If that disqualifies the opinion that follows for any particular reader, that’s fine.
That said, you raise a VERY important point here.
If a partner is neglecting childcare (or if your partner is a caregiver responsible for some other vulnerable person who is being affected, say, an aging parent, etc), that’s an important point at which it would be MORE THAN APPROPRIATE to step in and put a stop to that.
Neglecting or ignoring another adult is one thing — doing the same thing to a child is another.
Children are incredibly sensitive to their emotional environment in a way that adults typically are not. Their personalities and emotional temperament are so plastic (that is, malleable, easily shaped or molded, changing) that it is a widely accepted convention that clinicians cannot diagnose someone with a personality disorder until they’re at least 18 years of age and most caution waiting until older than that. This is because their identities are still developing, still being set. They are like wet cement that hasn’t cured. The last thing you want to do is jump on them and leave footprints.
A healthy self-identity is crucial, vital to children. And one important way that children get cues on where they stack up in the world is how those in their life treat them.
However, it’s important to note that parents are not the only source of influence within a child’s life. Researcher Judith Harris found in her groundbreaking work The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do that while parents do influence their children, peer groups have an even more profound effect. Of course, parents can actually play a role in monitoring and guiding their child’s social life, and severe deprivation and abuse produce profoundly negative consequences that are borne out well in the research. And neglect, especially in the first few years of life, can disrupt the development of secure attachment, how we learn to be in social relationships.
So parents aren’t a child’s entire world, especially once they start venturing out to school and/or forming friendships, but the research says it’s important that parents do an okay (but not necessarily perfect) job.
So yeah, New Relationship Energy is not a good excuse to be a sucktastic parent.
In her post Poly Parenting 101, The Polyamorous Misanthrope has some good questions to ask to evaluate whether sucktastic parenting is happening or not:
- Are the children fed properly?
- Do they have clothing appropriate to the weather?
- Are they being educated appropriately? (sent to school regularly/homeschooled so that they keep up with grade level)
- Are they getting medical attention as necessary?
Not Basic, But Important
- Do they get appropriate attention? This is a biggie. When there is adult processing, sometimes kids’ needs can fall through the cracks. Be very careful and wary of this one. I wish I could sugar-coat it, but I can’t.
- Are they getting personal growth opportunities? Are they learning an instrument, learning fun skills, learning Life 101 skills?
- Are they getting an opportunity to be involved in the community they live in? Don’t isolate your kids because their household might be different. They live in the real world and need to learn to relate to it.
Additional suggested reading:
Robyn Trask, Loving More – Poly Parents and Poly Kids
Benedict Smith, Vice – I Grew Up in a Polyamorous Household
Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund – Do’s and Don’t to Avoid Custody Challenges
Rebecca Walker – One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Polyamory, Househusbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love
Have a question about a post? Maybe need some advice about a relationship or situation? Write me. I love getting messages from you.