Hello Zinnia, I am so glad I found your page and your precious advice. I have been contemplating a polyamorous lifestyle for a many years now, but it did not work out with my husband for many reasons and we split one year ago. Now I have a partner whom I deeply love and who wants the same things, plus it is a long distance relationship, so we have plenty of freedom and space for ourselves and for seeing other people if we want to. I have been dating occasionally, but now there is a second man in my life who could be also long term. I'm okay with being in love with two people, the problem is I have two young children. They are good friends with boyfriend 1, and boyfriend 2 wants to meet them because it would mean spending more time with me but I am worried that the children will be upset and confused (their father is in a traditional, monogamous relationship). What do you think is the best course to introduce kids (8 and 6 year old) to a mother's poly lifestyle? Thank you!
I am also a polyamorous parent in a unique co-parenting situation! Welcome to the club!
To be perfectly honest, in my experience, the issue isn’t kids, it’s other adults. Kids that young don’t have a lot of preconceived biases about stuff like this and don't get that confused or messed up. If Chardwick helps with their math homework and Alyxandre brings over remote control drones, they're cool. Having more committed, loving adults in kids' lives is never a bad thing. If they sleep over, or they both kiss Mom, that's something kids just take for granted.
If they have been exposed to stuff like "it's always cheating and bad to kiss other people" or "true love is only one person," that's a bunch of shallow assumptions they just absorbed from the world, and can be gently discussed at an age-appropriate level. You can talk about how they have more than one friend at school, or can learn from both their schoolteacher and their piano tutor. You can acknowledge that "sometimes people do say that, but that's not what I think. I think that if everyone is happy and okay with it, then it's fine. What do you think makes a relationship loving?"
In my experience, having a Serious Sit Down Talk about things tends to confuse kids even more. Just introducing them to my partners and letting things progress organically and answering questions as they come up tends to work better for me. But you know your kids and your family, so this might not be the case for you. You can say something like "Alyxandre is my boyfriend, just like Chardwick is. We make each other happy and we like to hang out together. Because he cares about me, he also wants to get to know you!" You'll also want to talk with both partners about how they want to be introduced to the kids, what concerns and boundaries they have, what your expectations are about how they behave, etc.
You may run into complications, however, if your husband finds it "inappropriate." Lots of people think that polyamory is about sex, not relationships, and therefore, you'd be exposing your children to something "sexual" (just like how it would be deeply inappropriate for a couple to act out a BDSM dynamic in front of children). This is not true, but depending on where you live, he could make things difficult for you in terms of custody or create drama between you and the kids' grandparents and other extended family. So you'll need to work that out with him - how he feels about you having partners around kids, how he wants it explained to them, etc. That would be the #1 pond in which you need to make sure your ducks are in a row.
Depending on how deeply involved your partners are in your lives, you may also have to do some advocacy or educational work to shield them from other adults having questions or judgments. If both of them are at soccer games, picking them up from school - basically, if both partners are doing some parenting - then your family will need a simple way to refer to them and their relationship to the kids ("who's picking you up?" "my mom's second boyfriend" - not ideal). If they'll both be at Christmas with your parents, you'll want to do your best to keep adult judgments from affecting the kids.
Good luck! I'm parenting with 3 partners and an extended support network; I can't imagine how mono couples do it!