Remember the old famous song that went:
there were never more devoted sisters...
That song has been going through my mind the last day or so, ever since Bernie and I watched the new TLC television series "Sister Wives", a reality show filmed in Lehi, (near SLC) about a guy who is "married" to three wives, and in the season opener, baby #13 was on the way. (You can see clips from the show on the link.)
Oh, and the guy was about to propose to another woman as well, with the full approval of his wives and children.
Kody Brown legally married his first wife Meri about sixteen years ago. She was the daughter of a man with five wives and Kody had recently "converted" to the "original" Mormon thinking, which includes polygamy as a life style. First wife has only been able to produce one child, a daughter who is now age 15. Merri is currently working on getting a college degree to become a psychologist.
Shortly after the first wedding, the couple grew with an addition of a friend, Janelle, who liked them both and decided that she agreed with the life style. She is now a mother of five children, and works full time outside of the house. Her marriage is in the eyes of their church only; no "legal" marriage documents for that marriage. As a working woman, she said on camera that it is just great being able to work knowing her "sister wife" was at home with the kids, and that dinner would be ready when she got home!
Then a third woman, Christine, married in, within a few years of the first marriage. She stated on camera that also grew up in a polygamist household, and had always wanted to be a "third" wife, because she didn't want to be an only wife, felt being a second wife was to likely to place a wedge in a first wife's marriage, and as a third wife, it would be a better "family" situation. She is simply an adorable stay-at-home mom of six, and was the one expecting the family's 13th child in the season opener.
Everyone had contemporary looks about them; Kody even had shaggy hair.
Watching the three women and all the kids working with Kody to clean up the yard, and the women talking on a couch with Kody between two of them, it was easy to buy into what was happening. Kody was vigilant to spend time apart "dating" each wife to stay connected, and kissed each child each night, and each wife had his undivided attention before he left for work each morning.
The guy could be the poster boy for excellence in husbanding and fathering!
The women each agreed that having a sister wife was great. They were "best friends", all their kids were family, yet each wife had her own "apartment" within the family's large home. Each wife had a kitchen, dining and living area, plus bedrooms for each of her kids and herself.
There was one large common dining room for times when the whole family dined together. Kody jokingly shared that he was the only family member without his own space: finding his clothes was tricky as they were in each of his wives's closets.
The children attend a private "polygamist" school, where all the kids have several "moms" in the house. They even have a saying to clarify relationships: "She's a sister by the Mister" and "He's a brother by my mother". All the kids were incredibly cute, well behaved, helpful with chores and eager to run up to Dad for a hug.
OK....so that is the basic information about this family.
After we watched the show, Bernie and I began to talk.
The first thing that I said was "How can this show be happening? It is ILLEGAL to have more than one wife in America. Surely he will be arrested!"
(The next day Kody was being investigated for bigamy by Lehi police. Utah law prohibits bigamy/polygamy either under common law or by co-habitation.)
The next thing we talked about was the fact that the women seemed pretty happy with the set up. In fact, they were the ones who basically encouraged Kody to get married over and over again.
"So many women are lonely" I said "Mother Theresa said the biggest epidemic in America is loneliness. I think a lot of women feel very isolated, they wind up being far from home, or move a lot due to their husbands jobs, or just lack the time/energy to reach out and make friends while rearing children. In other countries, women marry into family compounds with extended family to interact with daily."
Bernie said "Would you consider having a "sister wife?"
I thought about it for a bit.
What would it be like to have your best friend be part of your household? Your best friend's kids be related to your kids?
What would it be like to come home from work and have the house clean and dinner on the table?
What would it be like to be able to trade off child free hours and still stay at home?
Or go on dates without getting a baby sitter?
Yesterday as I drove home from work I tried to picture what it would be like to have a friend cooking, chatting with her about my day and her day after I arrived home.
I was picturing the four wives from the show...
Not so bad....
Later Bernie joked again about if I could handle sharing him with another wife. I joked back that I didn't think he could handle two women, but having two husbands might be handy: one could go fishing while the other worked on my "To Do" list, then the next day they could switch, and lot more would get done around here.
Interestingly, the second wife was the one who felt that after 16 years or so of their current family situation, it was time to stir thing up and add another wife. The wives were approached for their thoughts on the idea before Kody began to pursue the idea, and the children were approached for their thoughts before he proposed to his fourth wife Robyn. The oldest kids thought it would be weird, but that they could get used to have another "Mom" in the house.
Also interesting: The sister wives felt uncomfortable with Kody dating and "courting." Some how that was emotionally harder on them as it wasn't happening in the house so they didn't really know what was going on.
The fact that Robyn lived four hours away must have been taxing on their family dynamics. Plus Robyn was divorced from another polygamist relationship, and had three children.
That's adding not only another wife to the situation, but technically another father too.
(About the sexual part: As a middle aged woman, the sexual part of the equation doesn't seem like such a big deal...I know that sounds not quite right, but seriously, Kody sleeps with each wife in turn, which now means he is having sex with each wife about once every four days. If it has been a long day...and sleep is more appealing than sex, they would have sex once every 8 days. How "frisky" are most women with five or six kids anyway?)
Bernie and I also talked about whether having only one wife was simply a US law that was culturally demanded, or if it was really Biblically proscribed. The verse about having only one wife was specific in the job description for pastors, not all male believers. And of course in the Old Testament all the guys seemed to load up on wives.
Did God really proscribe only one wife per husband?
Like the old joke about marijuana: It may or may not be good for you, but it sure is illegal.
That old joke doesn't work anymore; California and Colorado have legal pot for sale all over the place.
A few years ago I read about the polygamy sensitivity training that was being done by law enforcement in Texas. That shocked me: The police were being trained to understand polygamy as a life style?
Then the television series "Big Love" hit the airways: the fictional story of a modern polygamist with three wives. They were portrayed as modern personalities, with regular clothes and hairstyles (not the Fundamentalist style with long braided hair and ankle length clothing.) The show received acclaim, and no one seemed concerned that the life style was totally illegal.
I did some thinking then too: Why would the subject of mainstream people living a polygamist life style suddenly be getting so much positive attention?
Suddenly it hit me: The Muslims practice polygamy. If they want to become American citizens, they have to shed a wife or two or three. This has actually become quite a problem in some churches when African Muslims become Christian, and are told they can not have more than one wife. What is such a man to do with his extra wives, whom he loves and who are the mother of his children?
I just don't know the answer to that one. It is illegal, but is it always a harmful situation? Is it more harmful to children than a divorce, and step moms? (From what I can tell, usually a "good" polygamy situation is better than what goes on in homes after a divorce.)
Kody said that he knew he was risking legal action against his family by agreeing to do this television series, but also felt strongly that it was time that their life style be accepted.
I salute him for being willing to stand up for what he believes.
I also know that a lot of polygamist families have the non-legally married wives apply for governmental assistance for food stamps, medical care etc. Currently Kody's family numbers at 21 members; Kody works as an ad sales man and Janelle works outside the home. Their house is ENORMOUS...his car is new and the other family SUVs look pretty new too. Either he is wildly successful in his sales or something else is happening here to keep this group afloat.
I've always said people should have as many kids as they are willing to support and have never blinked at the idea of large families. I do blink when I hear of families planning on using the governmental resources for the support.
Could I vote to make polygamy legal if governmental aid would treat the family the same as it does legally married families?
Do I agree that polygamist that "arrange" marriages to minors to be wrong?
(I chatted with a divorced woman who is my age the other day. She said she didn't want to get married, but the church elders overruled her, saying that they had wisdom from God that superceded her preference. The marriage produced one child and a divorce...)
Gay marriage is a hot topic across the country. There is clear Biblical prohibitions against same sex sexual contact. I think it will only be a matter of time before polgyamy laws will likewise be challenged. As a Christian, I think I had better do some deep thinking about this.
Right now...I am not sure where I stand.
I just know that I believe in strong families, with men who deeply care for their wives and children.
From what little I have seen so far, I'd rather have a family like Kody's than some of the traditional family train wreaks that I have seen.
But laws are not made for case by case situations. There in lies the rub.
(And no...Bernie and I are not looking for a "Sister Wife" or a "Brother Husband" for that matter. We do however kind of wish we could get back to having three cats!)