This post is by TheNotMom team writer Laura LaVoie:
There are so many times that I talk to people who judge me for not having kids simply by the way they use the word family. To many of them, “family” distinctly means parents and children. My 2-person family doesn’t fit their definition. I don’t know whether they feel superior or threatened, but something reflects negatively in their attitude toward me.
My husband and I are about to celebrate our 18th anniversary, and as far as we’re concerned, we are a family. We support each other. We have each other’s best interest in mind. We have similar goals and values and we are truly partners. I don’t understand why this isn’t considered a family.
Why should a woman and her partner who couldn’t have children be denied the status of “family”? Childfree and childless women may have come to this place by different roads, but we end up in the same neighborhood. According to traditionalists, we are women without a family.
Language has power and the words we choose are important. By insisting that “family” must include children, there is a large demographic of people, not just women, who are left out.
There is a series of Kay Jewelers commercials that play around the holidays. In one a husband gives his wife, who is holding a newborn baby, a beautiful piece of jewelry with the declaration that they are celebrating their first Christmas as a “family.” I’m not one to get overly emotional at commercials, but this one actually had the opposite effect on me. It makes my blood boil just a little bit. It implies that Baby equals Family. And it implies that before the baby, they were not a family.
I think there is room to expand the definition to include all types of families. Can a single woman who chooses to spend time in the company of her best friends call her them her family? Can a couple and their beloved dog be a family? Can a close neighborhood be a family? What do you think of when you consider what “family” means to you?