There are dozens of parenting books that are published each year, but Dr. Ian Jenkins' upcoming book Three Dads and a Baby: Adventures in Modern Parenting is a special story about his unique family. The book explores the ups and downs of in vitro fertilisation, legal battles, and ultimately the story of how Ian and his partners Alan and Jeremy brought two beautiful children into their lives. The three men became the first polyamorous “throuple” to win the right to have all three of them as their children's legal parents, setting a precedent for other families like their own.
Your Money Geek chatted with Dr. Jenkins over email about parenting and his upcoming book launch.
Dr. Ian Jenkins Discusses Life and his New Book Three Dads and a Baby
Maggie Lovitt (ML): First off, how are you hanging in there with your work on the frontlines during the pandemic?
Ian Jenkins (IJ): Thanks for asking! We’ve been lucky, enough PPE, not overworked, and my hearts go out to higher intensity areas, affected families, and my ER and ICU colleagues. Hug them… like six months from now?
ML: Have either of your partners found themselves balancing the work-from-home life with the kids?
IJ: Parker is a frequent and welcome guest on my zoom teaching of a medical school class that I direct and teach every February. Also, the dogs. Honestly, it’s a welcome break from the “zoom gloom” of distanced contact we’ve all faced.
ML: How is your oldest handling not being around kids their age? Are they excited for the prospect of normalcy?
IJ: We lucked out! She gets to see her peers five days a week since we are “essential” employees and she’s gotten to continue pre-school. Crucial… and it’s a brutal challenge having older kids missing their friends and distance middle schooling, etc. A real mental health emergency for many kids. Piper is young enough that a pandemic is just her normal right now.
ML: Are you prepping for pre-school life?
IJ: Piper’s already been in pre-school for over a year and it’s great for her. I view our job as making independent adults out of these kids, so I welcome their independence. Admittedly, she crawled into my bed at 4 am today, and we cuddled, so I still get plenty of time. I might feel different when she leaves home!
ML: Has your oldest entered into the picky-eater phase yet?
IJ: She went from “eats everything” to “carbs please!,” but with direction (“you can have your mac and cheese if you eat four baby trees,” aka broccoli) she still does well. And Indian lentils might still be her favorite.
ML: It’s hard enough to make disciplinarian decisions with two parents, how does it work with the three of you? Who is the “good cop/bad cop” in the scenario?
IJ: We work really hard to provide consistent parenting. We’ve seen enough Caesar Milan (the “dog whisperer”) to know consistency and clarity is crucial for smaller mammals. The kids know they’re getting the same response from all of us. Poly hasn’t made this harder—two parents need to be consistent, there’s just one more perspective at the table for us, and we’ve all agreed on our style, including no physical punishment, constant reminders for politeness and sharing, and respect for others.
ML: I’ve got to ask, with the names Piper and Parker — were any of you fans of the show Charmed?
IJ: You’re going to love this… I just went out to interrupt Jeremy’s soup-making and asked, “Did you just suggest the name ‘Piper’ or was there some reason that came to you?” His reply: “You’re not allowed to tell this to anyone, but I knew the name from the extremely classy and high-quality show Charmed.” (I subsequently disclosed the reason I asked and obtained permission to share the story.)
ML: I know you’re working on two upcoming books. How did you get into writing? Is your fantasy story something you’ve always been working on or something that you’ve been recently inspired to write?
IJ: When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a novella about a stuffed animal dragon I liked. Is that too old for a stuffed animal? Possibly. But I loved writing from then till now, with a brief pause for what you might call “a career in medicine.” So now I’ve written two books that you might call lower quality “Young adult Tolkien if he thought about women, same-sex relationships or minorities” and now I’m working on a fantasy with a biracial bisexual magically bigender mostly female protagonist at the center, and planning a medical memoir. I start with things I care about, and then the stories just grow based on my personal experiences with love and loss.
ML: Are you the bedtime storyteller in your household?
IJ: There aren’t any! We are deeply devoted to teaching a love of books to the kids but we’ve had a strict rule about that 7:30 bedtime because both the kids and adults meltdown if it goes later. We do the reading during the day—and Alan is the best, with different accents and backstories for all the characters in stories including the 1970’s “Sweet Pickles” series. I’m teaching Piper to read. She’s a sponge.
ML: During the surrogacy process, what is something that you wished that you had known before getting into it?
IJ: Some, one thing? Gee….. I can’t. 1) Plan for the future. We had to redo multiple contracts because the lawyers only planned for one cycle. 2) Don’t put off parenting too late—multiple friends, and us, got into parental age problems. 3) Advocate for yourself. Get as much done with your primary doctor. IVF doctor will bill you, primary won’t, for much testing 4) Get the meds from Israel, or at least, shop around. 5) You can find surrogates outside of expensive agencies if you do some legwork. And 6) Confirm your doctor/lawyer isn’t going to have issues working with you before starting; be “out.”
ML: As for your personal story, what do you hope that your family’s unique “origin story” can inspire for other families?
IJ: That other nontraditional or chosen families seek legal rights and advance the frontiers of family law. If people hadn’t pushed, it would still be illegal to marry someone of another “race” in many states. Quotes, because race is a fantasy. We’re not all in Leave it to Beaver style homes, and the law should respect that. Also, you don’t have to live in the box society makes for you. Not all, or few, people desire or love only one person. Talk to partners early on about your needs, be honest and respectful, and create the life that you want.
ML: What sort of advice would you offer to families who may be embarking on a similar scenario to your own?
IJ: Apart from what I mentioned above, it would be that nothing is as important as working with partners you trust. We were overwhelmed by the love shown to us by our surrogates and egg donors. Maybe there’s an amazing couple down the street who also wants kids and is willing to consider a modern family arrangement—there have been lesbian couple/sperm donor three legal parent scenarios, for example.
ML: What is the most important take away from Three Dads and a Baby?
IJ: Love makes a family. The family next door to you might look different, but give them a chance. Do the parents love their kids? Are they giving the best parenting they can? If you find yourself second-guessing an arrangement you don’t think is optimal, and saying you’re just worried about the kids’ well-being, remember that the federal government purposefully separated moms and small children at the border to deter migrants from seeking a better life for their kids, or to save their lives. It’s really hate we need to worry might hurt kids, not love, and if anyone wants to protect kids, let’s make sure they’re all fed, housed, educated, parented, and loved.
Pre-order Three Dads and a Baby today. The book comes out on March 9th