How Do They Do It?

 Posted by on April 26, 2011
Apr 262011

By Micah Schneider

Two weeks ago, my family welcomed the newest member of our family. He’s a beautiful little boy, and we’re happy beyond belief. But I can’t keep shaking the same thought, every single day. I look at my son, and shake my head.

I don’t know how they do it.

Monogamous parents, I mean. To be really specific, monogamous parents of newborn children.
There is so much bloody work to do! Feeding and diapers and changing and feeding and cuddling and bathing and more changing and laundry and more diapers and more comforting and yet more feeding and none of that takes “regular” life into account. Where do they fit in cooking their own food, their own laundry, their own sleep, for Gods’ sake?

Babies are hard work, everyone knows that. Even if you are blessed like we are, and have a pretty happy and very healthy child, there’s so much to do. Our little bundle of joy is quite a handful. He doesn’t like not being held, and let’s us know it if he’s put down for more than a couple of microseconds, but overall, he’s a really good baby. Doesn’t cry unless something is wrong; generally he’s hungry, cold, dirty or some combination thereof. He eats every few hours, needs new diapers or clothes slightly less often, and frequently needs help relaxing into sleep.

Nothing unusual for a two-week-old newborn, and I’m not complaining about any of it.
But I simply cannot imagine doing it with only two people, or worse, alone as a single parent!

Because there are four of us, we’ve been able to trade off housework and sleep and baby duty, so none of us are wandering around looking like overwhelmed, exhausted zombie parents. Every third night, someone has baby duty, staying up with the infant so mommy can sleep (“mommy” here referring to the biological mom, who is the only one of us that can feed the little guy at the moment, since we’re exclusively breastfeeding and she cannot pump yet). We’ve all been working together to keep all of the balls in the air. We’re eating regular meals, the house isn’t a total disaster, we’re not running out of clothing, errands are getting done. Mom is the most tired of us, but she’s got a good excuse. Giving birth is hard, and nursing is literally a drain on your body. Couple that with only being able to sleep, at most, three to four hours at a stretch, maybe twice a day, and cat naps in between, makes for a tired woman.

There are a lot of advantages to being in a poly relationship. There are lots of advantages to living in a polyamorous household. We suspected that having multiple adults around to care for an infant would be great, but I don’t think we had any idea just how great. Unlike the rest of my family, I can speak from direct experience. My ex-wife and I had two children, and when they were babies, we raised them without additional partners, pretty far from our biological families.

It was hard to juggle everything. We did pretty well, I thought, but it was a struggle.

It is so much easier to do it this way. If someone is tired, we have backups. If something unexpectedly comes up, we have options. If someone can’t do something they said they would, someone else can step up and make it happen.

Real life is about to intrude. This week, one member of our household (the primary breadwinner) went back to work. Next week, another one does as well. In a month’s time, mom will have to pick up her job again (she works for herself from home, which is good, but her business cannot wait forever). Of all of us, I have the most flexibility. I’m about to finish grad school, and in this economy, it might take a while for me to find work. In the mean time, I get to play Mr. Mom. I have no doubt that taking care of our son is going to get a little more difficult for us as we are forced to go back to our regular lives. But even so, I feel sorry for all of the people in this world trying to take care of an infant with two or fewer sets of hands.

It is often said that polyamory isn’t about sex; polyamory is about love. Maybe the general public would be more interested or sympathetic to our lifestyle if we added to the second part:

Polyamory is about love and family.