Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Constitutes a Family?

I've been scouring the internet for blogs lately. Thank God for I've found so many fabulous blogs out there. However, so many of them are focused on, well, mommy-hood. Now, I am not totally dissing mommies. Obviously being a mother is one of the most sacred things a woman can do (if you do it right. Octomom, I'm looking at you, yeah, you.)

However, I haven't seen too many blogs out there about families that don't have children. Families, like mine, that consist of a loving relationship between two people. I've been wondering why that is. I've seen blog badges that purport "I belong to Mommy Blogs!" or "I'm a Blogging Mommy!" Awesome! I'm glad you have your community. Maybe us bloggers without children don't need badges to show who we are; however I think it's important to recognize that "family" is not always a mom, a dad, and two kids. I'm tired of that stereotype: a man and a woman who are married and have children seem to be what a huge chunk of society considers a real family.

Apparently, Wikipedia (or whomever wrote the entry) defines a family as thus: In human context, a family (from Latin: familiare) is an exclusive group of people who share a close relationship —a unit typically (or "traditionally") composed of a mated couple and their dependent children in co-residence. If this is the case, my husband and I don't constitute as a family. Neither do my gay partnered friends who don't have children, or those who do have children. Actually, it seems, from this Wikipedia entry, anyone without the traditional dependent children in co-residence is not a family.

When Sir Grump and I were first married I heard this phrase over and over again: When are you going to start a family? I honestly thought I already had! I mean, I got married right? Isn't that starting a family? Aren't we to be considered a family because we're married and living together? The people in that picture, at the time, were closer to me than my own family.

But apparently, to some people this doesn't actually mean we are a family. We're just, well, honestly, those people asking when I was going to start family never defined for me what Sir Grump and I were and are. So we've subconsciously made a point of defining what a family is to us.

We've made our version of family over the years, even before we were married, we created our own family. Our theater department at Troy University was a group of tightly knit student and professors and sometimes, yeah, we lived in co-residence. We didn't have kids, but we were there for each other. (This is us at an informal semi-reunion back in 2002, I think.) Sir Grump (there on the far left) lived the smiling guy in the middle. I lived with the chick in the hat. The girl with the glasses dated the smirking guy on the right. At some point I think we all lived with Super Smiley (guy in the middle) because of a hurricane. I still keep in touch with all of them, except for Super Smiley.

At one church I attended, the pastor asked me the dreaded question, when were Sir Grump and I going to start a family. He told me about how he had to "pray" his wife into wanting to have children. She originally didn't want any. I was so shocked to hear such a thing.

Funny enough at another church is where Sir Grump and I met another awesome couple whom we became fast friends with, mostly due to the fact that they had a truck and we didn't and we liked to move to a new apartment every year. Regardless, we stay in touch and when she's in town for work, we always make sure to spend time together. We're able to pick up from wherever we left off and always have an enjoyable time together. Isn't this what family should be?

We've since created more relationships with other friends that don't mind that Sir Grump is competitive at board games or that I am quite flakey. These are people that I love and adore. People who I trust my home and feline kids with when we travel. People I care about and know that they care about me.

So no, we're not going to have children. Sir Grump and I enjoy our family as we have defined it. I guess I don't need a badge for my blog that says, "I am a Non-Mommy Blogger" but I don't have a problem with Mommy Bloggers with that badge, it's a signal to other Mommy bloggers - kind of like saying, "I hear you, girl!"

I honor my girl friends who have decided to have children and I grieve with my girl friends who want children and can't conceive. I don't even define myself as living a "childree lifestyle" as I don't care for some of their militant views about people who have children (I don't think it's polite to call parents "breeders.")

However, I'd appreciate the courtesy of my family (the husband, the three cats, and the cockatiel) being recognized as a family and that our choice to not have children to be as good as others decisions to have children.


  1. Thanks for this post. I think this has to be said, and often, but there seems to be a "political" aspect to defining family that keeps many of us from questioning, at least publicly, the status quo. A-Dubs and I, my blogging partner, were just talking about what it is that defines family and I think you have captured it very, very well.

    And I have to say that I detest people who animate their disappointment about the fact that I am partner-less and child-less in ridiculously theatrical ways. I am not disappointed so why on earth should they be? And I really don't believe that people can be talked into having children any more than they can be talked out of it. I am concerned for your pastor's wife.

    And I too have two fur treasures who have sometimes kept me going when I thought I couldn't. If that isn't family, then what is?

  2. Thank you for reading and commenting! I support your happy fur filled family! My friend Curly has taught me the lesson about personal happiness. She, too, has a fur family and is content being by herself. The funny thing is that it is she who adopts the rest of us into her ever expanding family. Even at 35, her parents adopted my husband and I as their third and fifth children! She may not be married with children, but she truly knows what a family is!

  3. Single, happy, NO kids, never wanted them.

    I tend to see far too many families, you know, couples with kids, move into homes around here, grump at their kids, yell at them, never laugh, and get divorced and move out 5 years later.

    I'm not convinced the "American Dream" is what most people imagine it is. ;)

  4. Agreed! All through my teens and into my early 20s I had this ideal: I would date a boy in high school. We would go to college and then get married. It's similar to my parent's story and I thought that that was what I was supposed to do. Luckily for me, my mom is a feminist and refused to let me follow in her footsteps (the only thing she taught me to cook was was brownies, Sir Grump does all our cooking!)

    As I've matured and expanded my view of people and the world, I realized that there is no traditional family anymore. There probably hasn't been a "traditional" family since the 60s but people are too afraid of embracing this.

    Single, straight, gay, surrounded by cats or dogs, if you are happy with you and those around you, isn't that the definition of family? And my American Dream is as individual as I am. We cannot all be expected to be heterosexual couples raising two children living in the suburbs with our Golden Retrievers and driving our sedans to a stable job that we enjoy. It's just not realistic anymore.