The morning light is bright in your eyes, waking you from a peaceful sleep alone. Your Will husband offered to join you in bed last night, but you had just spent the entire day with him and didn’t want to make your Will wife jealous. You do your best to be fair to all eight of your spouses, but with so many people vying for space in your heart, one was bound to get a bigger chunk of it. That’s not how it should be, but it’s precisely how it is. According to the ancient texts, every family is made up of nine adults with one child shared among them and all are to be loved equally. You head downstairs for breakfast and there he is, stirring a cup of tea while sitting at the dining room table with your Heart wife. Because of your caste, the woman and her male counterpart, are off limits to you except on special occasions, but remain available to your Will husband and Will wife at all times. Seeing your Will husband smiling while making small talk and laughing with your Heart wife does not illicit any hurt or jealousy within you. He loves you the most as well and only fills his bed with the other wives when you direct him to do so. He is loyal to all in the family unit, but loyal to you the most. The man smiles up at you, a knowing twinkle in his eyes, and you instantly know that you will do your best to avoid him all day so that no one can accuse you of favoritism when he shares your bed all night. You glance at him in passing, but press a chaste kiss against your Heart wife’s cheek. Sex maybe out until your anniversary, but affection is always exceptable and you do love her deeply.
Your other spouses file in, one of which is holding your sleeping daughter who’s just beginning to stir. The man hands her to your Will wife and you watch her longingly as the baby nurses. You couldn’t love your shared child anymore than if you’d birthed her yourself, but you sorely wish that you had. The law of Ten clearly states that despite being the matriarch of the family, the Will husband must endeavor to impregnate the Will wife first. You’d fallen pregnant only days after her pregnancy was confirmed and were forced by the weight of tradition to terminate your own. You cried. You weren’t supposed to cry. Your Will husband cried. He wasn’t supposed to cry. Publicly, you both rejoiced with the rest of your family unit, but in private, he comforted you through your bitter tears. But, your Will wife is a beautiful woman with a kind heart. You’ve never been able to hold a grudge against her in the past and with the arrival of your shared child, you still can’t.
Welcome to the world of Escaping Exodus were polyamory is not only the norm, it’s a requirement. The premise behind this is that if nine adults brought together for the purpose of forming a family unit raise only one child, then the population’s growth will slow drastically. Since the space beast that they call home has only but so many resources to go around, this sounds like an exceptable solution to a daunting problem. Operable word, sounds.
Seske (the main protagonist) mentioned that although it was taboo, her Pai (Will father) was her favorite parent, and later found out that her Ama was her Head mother’s favorite spouse. But due to her Ama’s caste (I believe she was a Heart wife), Seske’s Head mother is only allowed limited contact with her, even within the confines of their own home. Seske herself has reached the age where she must pick a suitor, but because the love of her life is of a different caste, she must choose another. Here are the benefits and disadvantages I found with this system.
First, the benefits. Shared work. With nine adults in a household, six of which guaranteed to be working, the financial load of the family unit should be low. All bills would be paid on time, food plentiful, and educational costs handled without any obvious burden. Next, child care. With so many competent people around, the old adage about it taking a village to raise a child, should ring true. The Will parents would teach any historical or secular education, while the Heart parents would teach their given trades, leaving the remaining set of parents to assist the child with learning life skills. Depending on the child’s gender, the Head or Matriarch would give instruction on how to one day be either a good head or a productive member of their own family unit once old enough to make one.
Now for the cons. Uneven distribution of responsibilities. In a polyamorous relationship, all household chores would be shared, but who’s to say who will be washing the dishes, and who will be taking out the trash? Putting a chore rotation in place would probably be fair, but those seldom work in relationships consisting of only two people, let alone nine. Someone would eventually end up feeling overworked and underappreciated. Next con, too many cooks ruin the soup. Nine adults all having to share a life, a child, and constant space, would at some point become wearing. Nine people, nine different opinions on a thing that only the Head of the family unit has the final say on. Seems like a recipe for a sticky situation.
That being said, arguments are nearly guaranteed. Loving someone means allowing them to be themselves and have their own mind. Nine. Different. Minds. Disagreements are sure to happen, causing some in the polycule to choose sides. It can be hard to make up with one spouse after a heated argument, but can you imagine having to make up with eight, some of which you can’t even sleep with? What if an argument gets out of hand and turns into a fight? Some would try to defuse it, I’m sure, but what if hits are laid? One against one can be daunting odds depending on the strengths of both people involved but what about six against three, or five against four, or worse, eight against one….
On to the slippery slope of favoritism. Multi-partner relationships have existed since ancient times and even when they were socially acceptable, there was still jealousy. Who is the favored wife? Who does the husband love more? Who is the prettiest? Who can produce the most children? Picking favorites is a part of the human experience and even if we don’t want to, subconsciously we all have done it. A sibling who is just easier to get along with, a parent who’s cool to be around, a friend who out of all of your others, is the best… Human nature. So in a relationship filled with nine humans, it would be fair to say that someone would become someone else’s favorite. This is not necessarily a bad thing, unless the person with a favorite is the head of the relationship. Would that favoritism cause them to side with the spouse that they care for the most, even if it leads to situations with unfair outcomes?
The nine party family unit doesn’t seem to be something that would work in the real world on a continual bases. Even in Escaping Exodus, it didn’t seem to work well, but it did lend itself to one interesting will they/wont they dynamic.