Parents: More is Better

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.

Excuse me, ma’am, but Jacob had 4 wives.

I was still an active member of the LDS Church, and I was substituting as the pianist in primary.  Singing Time was over for the Junior Primary, so I had a few minutes to relax before the Senior Primary came in.

The Primary President was in charge of Sharing Time, and she was having the children role play some Bible stories.

Since we believe we are Israelites, Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) is a key person in our story and covenant heritage.  The trouble for a strictly monogamous Church is that Jacob/Israel inconveniently had 4 wives, and each wife was the mother of at least 2 of the sons who would become the namesakes for the “tribes of Israel.”

How does one tell the story of the family and hold Jacob/Israel up as a good example we should emulate without condoning his polygamy???

When trying to role play this awkward marital situation, what is a Primary President supposed to do?

She did what any self-respecting monogamous Primary President would do.  She pretended that Jacob had only one wife, giving her the credit for birthing all 12 of his sons (and 1 daughter).

I wasn’t a polygamist back then — in fact, I didn’t even like the idea of polygamy — and yet I was shocked at this blatant mis-telling of the common Bible story.

(Side note: The famous musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat mentions Jacob’s “wives and states that Joseph’s mother was Jacob’s favorite wife.  As far as I remember, the play leaves it at that; the plural wives are not major characters and they are never explicitly named, so the screenplay skirts around the polygamy issue without either making a big deal about it or being inaccurate.)

Screenshot 2019-10-29 17.21.24

Screenshot 2019-10-29 17.20.46

Back to the Primary President.  She invited 1 boy and 1 girl to the front of the room and let them dress up in some simple homemade costumes.  Then she introduced them to the primary as Jacob and his “wife“, who were the parents of the 12 sons we know as the tribes of Israel.

I was stunned.  I couldn’t let this error pass without comment, so from the back of the room, I raised my hand and opened my mouth and said,

“Excuse me, ma’am, but Jacob had 4 wives.”

The Primary President blushed and hemmed and stammered and couldn’t find a way to remove herself from the embarrassing situation she’d put herself into.  The story was cut short and the children were shooed back to their seats.

I felt bad for correcting the Primary President in front of everyone, and yet, what would you have done?

An hour later, when the same activity was being done with the older age group, I noticed that the Primary President still had children act out Adam and Eve, Noah and Mrs. Noah, Jonah, Daniel, David and Goliath, and so on, but she didn’t dare repeating the Jacob-and-his-monogamous-wife incident, and that story was left out.

Jacob family tree

I don’t want to have a chart on the refrigerator

When I went from 11 years of monogamous marriage to a new polygamous lifestyle, I struggled to know what to do with myself on my nights alone.  All my habits revolved around having my husband with me every night.  I didn’t have a life separate from him, so for a time, I felt as if when he wasn’t with me, my life was put on hold.  There was definitely a transition time for me while I figured out what to do with myself when I was alone.

If a monogamous woman was planning on becoming polygamous and asked me for advice, one of the things I would suggest is for her to have things she likes to do without her husband, whatever that looks like for her.

Women who naturally like having their own autonomy might gravitate towards polygamy exactly because of this time alone. I know my sisterwife Melissa calls plural marriage the ultimate lifestyle choice for feminists.  She keeps herself busy with friends and hobbies, and she even chooses to have a job (even though Joshua is a wonderful provider and doesn’t need his wives need to work outside the home). Melissa considers herself a good candidate for a plural wife because her life is so full despite not having a husband who comes to her house every day.

Nowadays, I have a life with my husband, and I have a life without him.  I’m fine either way.  But some of my activities require planning, so I like to know in advance what Joshua’s schedule is going to be.  His schedule does end up changing at the last minute at times, but generally I know what to expect.  If I didn’t know each day where Joshua was going to land, it would cause unnecessary frustration in this whole plural marriage gig, because it would make it difficult for me to have a life separate from my husband.  I need that separate life because otherwise it feels like when he’s not here, all I’m doing is waiting for him.

In episode 4 of Seeking Sister Wife, Dimitri Snowden and Joselyn are on a date at a restaurant.  Dimitri brings up the topic of “splitting time.”

Dimitri: So, splitting time.

Joselyn: Yes.

Dimitri: You know, listen, I’m wondering…

Joselyn: I wanted to ask you.

(They both laugh.)

Dimitri: So I’m one man, um, you know, with one body, you know… How do you feel about that?

Joselyn: As long as we feel that we make the best of our time, that there’s no problem.

Dimitri: Mmm-hmmm.

Joselyn: So how would you go about that?  Like, do you have, like, you think like days, certain days, or just…?

Dimitri: I ideally don’t want to have a defined schedule. I don’t want to have a chart on the refrigerator, where it says like Ashley and then Joselyn and then Ashley… Like, I’m not interested…

Joselyn: Yeah, me either, you know, because…  It feels so generic to me, like I think that’s really generic.

Dimitri: Yeah.

Joselyn: I just want it to go naturally, like you said.

Dimitri: Right.

Screenshot 2018-02-13 01.19.10
“I don’t want to have a chart on the refrigerator, where it says like ‘Ashley’ and then ‘Joselyn’ and then ‘Ashley’…”

I think this is an interesting idea, but frankly, I don’t think it’s very realistic.  I laughed when I saw what the Brineys said about it on Twitter because they seem to agree with me:

Screenshot 2018-02-15 23.23.19

Not every woman likes to plan things in advance as much as I do, so I suppose Dimitri’s strategy might work for some polygamists.  But in most of the plural families I’ve seen, the schedule is pretty predictable.  Either they simply alternate nights (like the Alldredge family on SSW) or each wife takes a fixed set of weekdays (like the Briney family), or some combination/variation.  One plural husband I’ve seen on YouTube spends 2 nights with one wife before switching and spending 2 nights with his other wife.  Brady Williams from the reality TV show My Five Wives simply rotates through his 5 wives, 1 night with each wife, but gives each wife an extra night for her birthday.

Some time ago I read a novel called The Lonely Polygamist.  In the book, the man and his 4 wives have a torturous meeting every Sunday where they decide on that week’s schedule (in particular, the sleeping schedule).  The husband doesn’t take control at the meeting; it tends to be up to the wives to duke it out.  The most aggressive wives end up with an unfair portion of his time, while the newest or most passive wife might go weeks without her husband coming to her house.  This seems dysfunctional to me.

In our family, Joshua’s schedule is totally up to him, which makes sense, since he’s the one going back and forth between the houses.  He’s the one that best understands his own scheduling needs as well as those of his wives and children.  We give him our preferences and we can request changes to his normal schedule, but we wives don’t have to hash it out between ourselves.

And, no, we don’t have a chart on our refrigerator to keep it sorted out.

What do you think?  How would you want to do it if you were a polygamist?