Mothers everywhere know what it means when their husband is traveling for work: All the parenting, 24 hours a day, falls to you.
Such was the situation I found myself in, with my husband across the country on business, and I was discouraged and exhausted. The days were long, our routine disrupted, and the children tired of not seeing their father.
My son blew the shofar to call us to our evening family time, where everyone has a chance to show something or tell about their day; we lovingly call this time “Shofar & Tell” (a play on “Show and Tell” — get it?).
We gathered in the living room of my sisterwife Melissa, and as I routinely do, I pulled out the family Happy Book to write in while we shared our lives and visited together.
My son disrespectfully jumped on my case and told me I shouldn’t have a “toy” during Shofar & Tell (referring to my writing in the Happy Book). He’d been nitpicking and criticizing me a lot, so the uncalled-for criticism was especially frustrating.
We officially got started with Shofar & Tell, and when my daughter’s turn came to hold the shofar and show/tell us something, she took the opportunity to complain about me.
I was hurt, and since I had been struggling for some time with those two children disrespecting me, questioning me, and dishonoring me, it got to be too much.
I said to my sisterwife Melissa, “Why does everything come down to criticizing me and complaining about me? Everyone in this house seems to be starting from a place of ‘Mom is wrong. Mom has wronged me. What is Mom doing wrong right now? What can I criticize Mom about right now?’ I feel like everyone is assuming my guilt until I’m proven innocent.”
Melissa saw the problem, recognized my need for support, and she truly stepped up.
She launched into a scolding lecture about about how lucky the children are to have me; how lucky they are to have a mother who stays home with them and focuses on taking care of them; how they shouldn’t be rude to me; how they should treat me with respect and love; how they ought to show gratitude for me and the good life they have.
She went on and on. A couple of the children got teary-eyed over it. When she was done, she gave every child a chance to say something. To me she said, “I want you to write down in the family Happy Book what they say: I want you to recognize it and embrace it.”
Each of my children expressed their sincere gratitude for me and came over and hugged me. Melissa even had her young child say something nice and hug me, and then she also expressed her love and gave me a hug.
I felt extremely validated and supported. Someone saw me and wanted me to feel appreciated. Someone wasn’t going to stand by and let me be treated with disrespect by my children.
I wasn’t doing all the parenting by myself after all. Melissa and I were together, taking care of the children, trying to teach them, being a good team.
If I had been the only parent home that week, things would not have gone so well, I can promise you that. I would have continued to be sad, and I might have lost my temper with the children and just made things worse.
If our husband Joshua had been there, he certainly would have shushed the children to keep the peace and given me moral support later in a private conversation.
But Melissa took it further and worked right then and there to truly change the hearts of the children and let me know how much she supports me.
This is one real-life example of the benefits of a polygamous family.
My children are lucky Melissa is invested in them the way every mother should be invested in her children, and I’m grateful to have her as a co-parent.
I’m excited that the next season of Seeking Sister Wife has premiered! I was pretty surprised to learn that the Brineys weren’t going to be on this season. I knew April was living in Utah again but I assumed that her leaving Oregon would end up being nice juicy gossip for the TV show to capitalize on. Well, despite the Brineys not being on it looks like the show will have no shortage of interesting material.
I don’t have cable TV so on Sunday night I was trying to figure out how to watch. Luckily Amazon video has it, altho Season 2 costs a lot more than Season 1 did. I guess that’s how it goes when a show is more established. Either that or it’s the 13 episodes we’re expecting versus the 7 episodes we got in Season 1.
This season has our familiar Snowdens and Alldredges and we also get to meet the McGees and the Winders. I don’t personally know the Snowdens or the McGees at all. I know the Winders from Facebook but we’ve never met in person. I personally know the Alldredges as well as the Brineys. Last season I thought knowing both those families would be an advantage when it came to writing my blog, but as it turned out, I always felt the need to censor myself for the sake of our friendships. In fact, one time when Joshua wrote his opinion about a Briney situation, he ended up writing a follow-up apology post for the sake of his friendship with Drew.
This episode had plenty of interesting things to talk about. I made 4 pages of notes while watching, and I only had time to turn a fraction of them into a blog post before the next episode aired. Here are some of the thoughts I had about it while watching.
The McGees call themselves “Hebrew” or “Messianic.”
I find this interesting because we are somewhat in that category as well. We are a unique blend of Messianic and Mormonism so I’ve taken to calling us “Messianic Mormons.” We believe the Bible cover to cover, as Bernie McGee says they do, but we also believe the Mormon scriptures cover to cover.
How sad that the McGees’ house burned!
We once had a house fire, altho not nearly as devastating. Ours was 100% my fault. I left a batch of beef bones boiling on the stove while we went camping for several days! Obviously the water boiled away long before our return, and the bones smoldered, causing what’s called a “protein fire.” The professional from the disaster clean up company had been doing his job for decades and told me it was the worst protein fire he’d ever cleaned up after.
We came back from our camping trip and walked in the house and it smelled like a thousand burnt dinners. I realized immediately what had happened and I ran over to the stove, carried the pot outside, and set it down on the cement pad in the backyard. I removed the lid and what was left of the bones burst into flames! The lid had fit so tightly on the pot that no oxygen was able to access the bones. If we had been less fortunate, very likely our house could have burned to the ground while we were out of phone service. I have always said my guardian angel was sitting on the lid, keeping it tight-fitting enough to keep any air from accessing the smoldering bones.
Some of the cleanup included cleaning everything (and I mean every single book and toy and other items), replacing the countertops, repainting the entire house, “ozoning” all of our clothes and every room, and replacing items that were too close to the stove or stubbornly refused to give up their stench.
I can scarcely begin to describe the smell that permeated our home and everything in it. I used to hate the smell of smoke. I would avoid campfire smoke, and the minute we arrived home from a camping trip, I kept everyone from relaxing on couches or beds (because they would contaminate them) and instead they had to strip down in the laundry room (without their clothes even being dropped on the carpet) and get right in the bath or shower. But the smell of our protein fire was so much worse (not just stronger but much more terrible) that, I kid you not, campfire smoke now smells pleasant to me.
Not only did the protein fire smell awful, but it permeated everything like you wouldn’t believe. When we got home, we were in the house for half an hour with the doors and windows open and fans turned on, imagining that the house would air out and the smell would eventually dissipate, but instead the smell only grew stronger in our nostrils. We realized we couldn’t sleep there that night and we arranged to go to my parents’ house for the night.
When we arrived at my parents’ house, we learned that simply from being in the smelly house for a short while, we had picked up the offensive smell. I had brought some unworn clothes from our closets, planning to launder them in my parents’ washing machine before wearing them, but the smell traveled from the laundry room up to the kitchen and I was asked to move the clothes outside until washing.
The smell that got transferred from our contaminated bodies to our car during the hour-long drive took weeks to disappear. A rubber ball that had marinated in the fumes ended up getting taken to my parents’ house by one of our children. It was kicked around my parents’ backyard for a year, never losing its disgusting odor, before someone gave up on it and finally threw it away.
The experience was educational and in many ways it could have been worse. When we first bought the house, we had opted for a $10,000 deductible on our homeowners’ insurance, mostly out of habit, since we had liability-only car insurance and high-deductible health insurance. Some time later, my parents’ bedroom ceiling caved in due to unseen water damage, and I realized that even tho we might use doctors and car insurance less than the average person, our chance of needing to make a homeowner’s insurance claim was not lower than average, and when the time came that we needed to use it, we would be sorry about having such a high deductible. So, we called the insurance company and lowered our deductible to $1,000. Not long afterwards, the protein fire happened, and the cleanup required 2 weeks’ professional help, hotel stays, and replacing personal items. I don’t remember what the total bill was, but it was probably close to $10,000. Luckily we were only responsible for the first $1000.
However, I am quite impressed that she is willing to live in a camper while looking for a sisterwife, for the benefit of being flexible enough to move if that’s what the potential wife wants. In the cases of polygamy I have seen, the new wife joins the family and in doing so chooses to join the family culture and whatever setup the family has. When Enoch Foster married Lydia (a little of their courtship was shown on Three Wives, One Husband), she got to become a part of an amazing family with organization and resources that had been in the process of being set up for 2 decades. In her case I could see the real benefits of being the 3rd wife! I’ve never heard of an established family being willing to join the new wife, rather than the other way around. That part of this episode was pretty interesting to me.
I loved hearing the story of Paige’s conversion to polygamy. I want conversions to come from something inside or from God, not from another person using logic or scriptures to convince us.
The McGee boys are extremely charming. I love the conversation they have where younger brother Kyle says he’s looking forward to having another mom, and older brother John tries to figure out what that role is called.
Very often we hear about wives’ jealousy over their husbands. Much less talked about is the jealousy over their children. Paige McGee says it could possibly be hard for her to see her sons develop that relationship with her sisterwife.
In a country where so many children are raised by only one parent, I think it’s beautiful and extraordinary for a child to actually have more than two parental figures that love them and are invested in them and help raise them. I believe this has the potential to be a powerful advantage in the children’s lives. I would hope any jealousy over that issue wouldn’t keep a wife from pursuing polygamy. Moms ideally do what’s best for their children, consistently, whether they enjoy it or not.
Vanessa’s molar pregnancy is mentioned. I wrote about it in this post, which includes ultrasound images and details about Vanessa’s experience. If you’re interested in what happened, go ahead and read it over there.
The Alldredges discuss their “dream” home and the lodge they’re finishing.
They ideally want each wife to have their own bedroom wing (to “provide for some privacy”) but to share the main living spaces.
This is one example of many possible housing situations. The Winders have another housing situation of living in completely different towns. Our current house has separate living spaces but they’re connected on the inside, so family members can freely move about and be where they want to be, but the wives still get to be queens of their own castles. Personally, I prefer this and so do Melissa and Joshua. (We lived in different counties for 5 years before moving in together last year.) Joshua discusses housing arrangements in this post about the Brineys’ living situation in Season 1.
We don’t entirely fit into that category (for several reasons, but partly because of the whole “Messianic” thing mentioned above), but we have enough in common with Independent Mormon Fundamentalists (IMFs) to have some close friendships with people who consider themselves IMFs. “Mormon Fundamentalists” describes the belief system and “Independent” simply means they’re not a member of any organized group.
I find Colton’s story interesting — I’m paraphrasing but he basically said that since the early LDS Church believed in polygamy, it didn’t make sense to change that belief, so he had to either give up on the Church or really embrace the fundamentals. Colton goes into more detail about the different flavors of Mormonism and his family’s beliefs on the Winder family blog in this post and this post, the second of which includes some nice Winder family photos (including Colton with a beard).
Tami’s story is interesting as well, how she believed in plural marriage but thought it was something she wouldn’t get to practice until heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story of a couple who found out after marriage that they both believed in polygamy, were pleasantly surprised, and then started living it.
In the episode, as Colton’s second wife Sophie approaches, Colton says to his daughter Sadie, “Is that Aunt Sophie?”
The Snowdens have a conversation about what happened “last time.” Joshua wrote a post about it.
There were many other things I wanted to comment on, such as Vanessa propping her phone up to take a family photo, even tho they were surrounded by professional cameramen. And the charming comment Tami Winder gave about how she was initially attracted to Colton for “his looks, obviously.” And the sad fact that our friends the Alldredges ditched us and moved to South Dakota. :’-( And Bernie’s overly optimistic statement that he doesn’t want to see hurt in his wife’s eyes again. And how I love that Ashley Snowden was nursing uncovered and then was wearing her baby on her back. I was also planning to give some observations about the obvious video editing that ended up making things awkward and unrealistic.
Well, I only had time to write up about a tenth of what I planned to. Such is life, but I want to move on to the next episode, so I’m going to go ahead and publish this post, incomplete as it is. See you in the next one.
Out of interest, here is the total amount of screentime each family had in this first episode (not counting the teasers like “Coming Up”).
I live at home with my dad, my three amazing mothers and 20 going on 21 siblings, whom I adore!
I grew up in the red rock country, in a beautiful community surrounded by wonderful people, each with a different background.
I have heard many different assumptions about the life of a child with “polygamist parents.” I know that the sad truth is that in some cases those assumptions are true, but what I want you to understand is that the problems that are pointed out in the polygamist communities exist all throughout the world, they are not things caused by polygamy, they are caused by self-focused humans. They are human problems.
However my life as a child raised in a polygamist family was much different than what social media would have you believe.
I had a wonderful childhood filled with the outdoors, adventure after adventure, traveling, family, friends and more love than most people receive in a lifetime.
When I was young, (before I was old enough to know about what the world thought of us) all I knew was that I was the lucky kid who had a dad and two moms to cherish, support, and want me. (My third mother joined our family a year ago.)
I did not see problems in my parents relationships; they all loved each other very much!
Being an adult I now see that like any relationship there are struggles from time to time and there are misunderstandings, but show me any marriage that doesn’t have that.
The important thing is they work through them and don’t give up on each other.
I understand that when you see people such as Warren Jeffs it puts a bad taste in your mouth but just because there was a bad man who had more than one wife does not make every polygamist family bad.
To say that is like saying that because one dog bites you all dogs are wicked. It’s simply not true.
We are not brainwashed.
My parents love education and free thinking.
They have taught me to be full of questions and to observe all ways of living, to choose for myself what I believe and how I choose to live.
Never once have I been told to live that way simply because they do.
They’ve taught me to look at what each lifestyle produces and then to choose my path according to the outcome I desire.
Now I do not believe that plural marriage is for everyone. But this is America, “the land of the free.” Can we not be free to choose that way of life if we want it?
You take away our right to speak, our right to live and believe as we choose, then I ask you, what is so great about America?
If consenting adults choose to live that way why must they be persecuted?
I will fight against opposition!!
I will speak out for the ones who don’t have a voice.
And I will fight for our rights and for our freedom.
Can we please break down the walls that divide us?
We are families, not felons.
My thoughts on plural marriage:
Someone once asked me, “Why would you want to live plural marriage?”
Up to that point I had never really thought of why I would WANT to live the principle of plural marriage, so it caused me to reflect and to ask myself that very question. “Why?”
After thinking about it for some time I came to a conclusion that surprised me: I realized that I wanted to live plural marriage because it would bring out the worst in me.
I know you might be thinking, well why on earth would you want the worst in you brought out?
I’ll tell you…because only when the worst is brought out can I overcome it!
Sure I could live my whole life putting on the act of perfection, allowing people to believe that I’m just a saint of a person but in the eternal run what good would that truly do me?
If I do not face my insecurities and jealousies but instead I bury them, then I will go through life still carrying them. Closing your eyes to a problem may make it disappear temporarily, but as soon as you open your eyes it will still be there.
Face it, solve it, overcome it.
As Henry Drummond said, “This world is not a playground; it is a school room. Life is not a holiday but an education. And the one eternal question for us all is, how better can I love.”
Which brings us to love itself.
This small four letter word that means so much.
I believe that in order to know how better to love you must first understand love itself. I could go on about that but I will leave that topic for another time.
So for now ask yourself what is love? And, How better may I love God, others and myself?
If we go back to what Henry Drummond said and we believe that he is correct, that “life is a school room” then should we not take every opportunity to learn and grow?
At some point in our lives we will learn the simple things, the ABCs if you will, which are wonderful, but as we go through life we are meant to progress, to then take those ABCs and compile them into words, and then string those words into sentences and so on.
Moving from a kindergarten level on and on until you reach a college level.
Now if you want, you are free to choose to stay in kindergarten; however, if you want more you must be willing to apply yourself, take steps forward and go through tests that challenge your mind.
I believe that the same is true in every area of life.
I enjoy analogies so allow me to paint one up for you…we are, each of us these pieces of coal. God loves us just the way we are and if we choose to live our whole lives as the coal that we are that’s all right, but if we want more than that there are certain principles that we can choose to live by, which will push you to become something more.
It’s like asking God to place a mountain on your shoulders, while at the same time asking him to give the strength to withhold the weight.
It will be heavy and difficult but if we stay strong in the Lord then the very pressure that could crush us can also change us from coal to a diamond.
It is choosing to walk through the fire knowing that the purest of gold must first go through the hottest of fire before it can be refined.
I believe that the same goes for plural marriage, along with many other higher principles.
Marriage in my mind is choosing a companion to share in life’s journey with, having a partner to face the hard times with and to cherish the moments with, just choosing to do life together!
My dad has told me my whole life, “Marry your best friend.”
I plan on doing that. And your best friend should be the one who brings out the best in you.
If marriage is choosing a person who you love to share life with then plural marriage is just choose to share life with yet another person.
I once asked my Mom, “Why did you choose to live this way?”
She told me this: “Because your dad is such an amazing husband, father and friend! I wanted to be able to bless another woman with the blessing I have.”
My parents were happily married for eight years before ever even talking about the principle of plural marriage, and when they did it was my mother who brought it up.
She is a strong, kind, incredible woman!
As are each of my moms.
I aspire to be like them.
Seeing how happy and successful my parents are makes me want what they have.
There is a right and a wrong way to do everything.
I think that my parents have got something right that’s for sure!
I have many more thought but for now my time for writing is up.
My hope is that I have brought a new piece to the puzzle, given some new perspective, that I have shed some light and given some understanding.
I hope these thoughts and principles will bless your life!
Note from the blog owner: Natali Dilts is a new contributor to the blog and this is her first post.
The first memory I have concerning my “bonus-mom” plays back in my mind as follows: being excited to see her and then running towards her but then stopping at the tip of her left ring finger. “Your father asked me to marry him”, I perfectly recall her enthusiastic inflection as she urged me to admire her engagement ring. I looked at it in disbelief, I remember thinking “What about my mom?”. Before I could fully articulate my original reaction, I saw my biological mom embrace my soon-to-be mom, and as any seven year old would, I followed my mother’s example and began to welcome this new woman into my life.
Ten years later, I informed my birth mother of this memory. She then asked me several questions, her questions were questions that I already had. One of the questions being: Most of the people I knew as a child were directly involved in a polygamous relationship; why was my initial reaction negative?
Perhaps the engagement simply caught me off guard because of my expectations of what a romantic relationship looked like. The courtship process in polygamy is strict and similar to that of a Christian Baptist dating ritual. No physical intimacy before marriage, apparent family involvement, and the purpose of the relationship to be “to the glory of the one and only God”. To the untrained or youthful eye, such a relationship could easily be determined as a close friendship.
I was homeschooled; my two social groups were family and church so the idea of polygamy was not foreign, in fact, it was incredibly common. I was actually more familiar with the polygamous way of life than the typical monogamous way of life. Though I had mentally understood the concept of polygamy fully and I had seen polygamy my entire life, I think I was surprised at my own family’s involvement. However, I do not think that fully explains why I reacted negatively to my bonus-mom’s engagement.
When I was seven, monogamy and polygamy to me was just a difference between two families. Refrigerating bread versus not refrigerating bread was a more prevalent difference between family beliefs than polygamy was. I would talk openly about my two mothers whenever I came into contact with children my age who were not acquainted with polygamy. I continued on that way until I was told not to do so.
“You shouldn’t tell other children that you have two moms; they might get jealous. You get two moms but they only one. You get a bonus-mom.”
Obviously, this was not the real reason I was not to tell “outside children” of my way of life but it’s the reason I believed. I do not think that the general public’s negative view of polygamy influenced my thoughts that day either. However, the majority of the world is mono-normative, meaning, monogamy is the ideal, typical relationship. This is similar to the idea of a physical relationship defining a romantic relationship. People’s certainty of normality speaks so much louder than people’s active disagreeance in regards to your lifestyle. This concept of normality likely had an effect on me; the effect was not drastic but probably influential.
To be completely honest, I am not exactly sure what prompted me to think this way, there is likely a combination of several things both seen and unseen. I recognize that trying to understand my seven-year-old psyche in order to explain the immediate, sympathetic jealousy that many children of polygamy have felt in defense of their biological mother, will not provide many if any concrete answers. However, opening the discussion may lead to more concrete or evident answers and it may inspire “plyglets” to come forward and tell of their experience in polygamy. I do not claim to speak for all children of polygamy, I also know many “plyglets” who have formed a closer bond to a bonus-mom and felt jealous for her instead of automatically empathizing with their bio-mom. Nor do I claim to be an expert in psychology. These are mere theories of why some children of polygamy may feel jealous in the name of their biological mother.
Transition to siblinghood is similar to the transition into polygamy.
A common explanation describing how one man can love many women is described through how one woman can love many children. Psychoanalytic theorists such as Freud have emphasized the stressful nature of this transition for firstborn children, often citing it as one of the most traumatic experiences of early childhood (Adler, 1957; A. Freud, 1946; Winicott, 1964). Parental attention, once the sole province of the firstborn, must now be shared with a sibling rival. Winicott (1964) considered the distress of first borns during this time to be normative; “it is so usual as to be called normal when a child is upset at a new one” (p. 133). Since several children experience this, they are likely to relate to their mother and be empathetic. I personally experienced this with my mother. I am the oldest and I remember how I felt at the birth of my younger sister, not incredibly positive, I projected the emotions I felt towards my sister onto my mother and how she may have felt about her sister wife. Whether or not my predictions were correct, it caused me to empathise with my bio-mom and her struggle to accept a new wife.
Many neonates demonstrate a stronger connection to their biological mothers in contrast to their additional caretaker (father). It has been concluded that the main reason for this phenomenon is the physical dependence of early life. Emotional bonds are created and called “womb bonds” while there is a physical growth of the fetus. Then following the birth of the child, the first moral development stage of life is termed “trust vs mistrust”, where the child learns to trust their mother through physical care or where the child learns mistrust through neglect. The intimacy of this relationship does not extend to the additional caretaker until around the age three. To extend this trust to even more caretakers it could take an additional amount of time and it is not guaranteed to have the same intensity.
It is estimated that until around the age of eight children are completely egocentric. Many interpret this as “a lack of sympathy until the age of eight years old” but this is not the case. Children are able to comprehend the difference between positive and negative emotion by the age of twelve months and they typically respond accordingly but they do not see the emotion felt by others as important as their personal emotions because it is not a central part of their world. It would be fair to assume that their biological mother’s emotion is of more importance to them than the emotion of their additional mother. Simply because, their bio-mom typically plays a more central role in their lives, thus she is more important and her emotional state trumps the emotional state of her sister wife.
In what I have observed in my personal experience and through the basic childhood psychology that I have studied, I conclude that it is likely for a child to feel jealousy out of empathy for their biological mother when the possibility of polygamy is proposed. It is likely for the following reasons: societal influence and expectations help to dictate which ways a child may think of polygamy, there is a closeness to a biological mother that cannot be recreated, and the child is more likely to know of the emotional effects of their biological mother than of their additional mother.
This topic is important to present to the general public and the polygamist public because it highlights an important emotional process that “plyglets” experience. Further psychological speculation or anecdotal information from children of polygamy could be useful in defining polygamy’s place in the modern world.
References and Bibliography
Adler A. The progress of mankind. Journal of Individual Psychology. 1957;13:9–13.
Affonso DD, Mayberry LJ, Sheptak S. Multiparity and stressful events. Journal of Perinatology. 1988;8:312–317. [PubMed]
Alter JK. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Columbia University; New York: The relationship between language maturity and the adjustment to the birth of a sibling.
“Biomental Child Development: Perspectives on Psychology and Parenting” (2013).
“Envy Theory: Perspectives on the Psychology of Envy” (2010).