Friday, November 27, 2009

Notice from Redbook: This is NOT a Family

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate. I hope you did like me and ate everything in sight because this is the one day of year where it's not only acceptable - it's encouraged! This year I am thankful for many of the things you'd expect - my hubby, my health, my adorable furboys, the fact that I have a job. The list goes on. I am also thankful for you, my dear readers - for reading my rants and through your feedback, validating my feelings and making me realize that there are way too many people who share my feeling for me to be crazy. I hope my blog provides a little validation for you too.

On Wednesday, I left the office at 2:00, but before I did, I stopped by the waiting room and grabbed a magazine to read on the train. I really don't care for our office's selection of magazines - it's the usual tripe, and the women's magazines usually end up annoying me more than entertaining me, but I went against my better judgement and grabbed the November issue of Redbook to read on the way home.

In addition to finding a yummy-looking recipe for cranberry apple chutney, I learned something very interesting while reading Redbook. Hubby and me are NOT a family. Redbook is very clear about this in their article entitled What's the Right-Size Family? The tag line to the title is "Sometimes you build your family by choice, and sometimes by chance. These eight couples share the stories of how 1, 2, 6...even just the right number of children".

So against my better judgement, I tortured myself and read through the entire article just to make sure they really didn't present a couple who chose not to have children. Heck, I would have even be happy to see a presentation of a childless by circumstance couple who, in the normal feel-good Redbook fashion, overcame their circumstance and came to embrace their life as-is.

Ah, but alas, this was all just fantasy on my part. As would be expected from such a typical rag, the usual assumptions were made: first, that all couples have or want children - that it's not a matter of whether a couple will have kids but how many. Second, that a couple who does not have children is not a family and of course, the underlying sub-message to that - that if you desire to live and create a family lifestyle for yourself, you'll need to pop out at least one kid.

I got to read heartwarming stories of blissful families like Jody and Chad who have come to terms with the fact that they will only have one child together (Chad already has a brood from a previous marriage and had a vasectomy before meeting Jody). Of course, it never occurs to them to adopt, but that's another issue. And then we have Aly and Jay who started with one but ended up with five and talk about how "awesome" it is to have this many kids, even though, Aly admits, there are days when she doesn't sit down for 12 hours straight. Lisa Renee and Russell opted to have 2 (and no more) because having 2 is manageable enough to allow them to "put their marriage first", for example taking 3 trips per year by themselves (yeah, we childfree couples know all about putting marriages first, if anyone's interested).

Then we get to the "faithful" family of Kate and Ray who allow God to determine how many kids they have. No surprise, they're up to 12. While saying it can be difficult, they mostly stress how blessed they feel and how the local business just love to see their van pull into their parking lots (can you imagine the carbon footprint of this family?)

The article goes on to feature 4 more families: one with a big age gap between their 2 kids, one who opted for just 1 child, another one with a big brood. Some of them (like the only-child couple and the couple with 6 children) describe the judgements they suffer from others who think their choice of number of children is wrong. Ha! They haven't seen anything. Try stating aloud that you have chosen not to have kids and then you can talk about judgements.

I guess what irritates me the most about this article is the title itself and the one obvious missing answer: What's the Right-Size Family?" The question begs for at least ONE of the answers to be "2 - just the couple" and yet, despite the fact that 7 - 10% of all couples opt to be childfree and very much consider themselves a family, not a single sentence in this article mentions this option as an answer to the question it presents.

I don't know about you, but I consider hubby and me (with or without our furry boys) a family. I always have. Hubby is my family. He's more family to me than my parents and siblings. He is the person who loves and understands me the most. He is the person I have built a life with - who I share and run a household with, who I go through all of life's joys, trials and tribulations with. We grow and develop together and make each other better people. If that isn't a family, I don't know what is. Frankly, I am sick and tired of being marginalized and treated as though we do not exist when the truth is - not only do we exist, but we flourish because of our chosen lifestyle.

Rags like Redbook (and the media in general) love to expand the boundaries of what constitutes a family and for the most part, I think that's a good thing. Today, family is no longer narrowly defined as a married couple with children. We have blended families, single-parent families, even families with 2 moms or 2 dads. The idea of family has been stretched so far beyond it's original definition that almost anything will be defined and embraced as family - that is, except for childfree and childless couples. For some reason we cannot seem to earn that title. We've come a long way baby, but we haven't gotten there yet.

So what do you think? Is a couple without children a "family"? Cast your vote on my new poll.


sara star said...

I always call my household "our family". It consists of my husband, our roommate, my cat, and myself. We make decisions together, spend holidays together, eat meals together, and share joys and sorrows. I think that is what make a family.

Unknown said...

Of course a couple is a family! Hubby and I pay taxes like a family (just without the dependent deduction), own a home like a family, provide care for family members. But do we get the same respect as our brothers and sisters with spouses AND children? NO.

Erin said...

Try being 40s, SINGLE and childfree!! I've yet to find a word that defines where I fit in (let alone a magazine mention). Yes, I have a family, though fortunately none of them live with me - parents, siblings, etc. I sense these sideways, droopy-eyed glances as if my life(style) couldn't be near as important or meaningful than one that includes an entire brood living under the same roof. Why does society continue to perpetuate that joy and bliss can ONLY come from babies? To me, those things come from within through one's own accomplishments, not from merely reproducing (a feat that doesn't take any skill at all). And yes, definitely, a couple = a family! Whether or not the couple is married / single / gay / lesbian / whatever.

Zazzu said...

My mom subscribed to Redbook for years. I started calling it "Deadbook" because of all the rape stories. Back then, there was a horrific rape story in that magazine every month. I hope that's changed.

Back on topic: Yes, of course a couple is a family. When two people in love are enough for each other, they don't NEED to add children to their lives. If they want to, fine. But it isn't absolutely necessary, regardless of what Redbook is spewing this month.

marin said...

I consider family anything living "under my roof" I take care of or that takes care of me, or both things.
Even with no parents, husband, childrens or pets, the rosemary plant on my balcony would be family to me.

Dave said...

You said it, Erin. I am 46, single, and childfree. I have plenty of close relatives I grew up with but most live elsewhere in the country now. The nerve of Redbook to define a family as a spouse AND child(ren) and omit anything else.

CFVixen said...

That's Redbook for you...

I definitely consider my husband and myself a family. Add our kitty to it, and it's just perfect, thanks!

~Beth~ said...

Only three out of 90 or so votes in this poll have said "no", but this is a childfree blog - I guarantee if you put this anywhere else, there would be a lot more "no" votes.

It's sad that so many people out there nowadays are so ignorant.

Anonymous said...

I saw a commercial this weekend for some jewelry company. The premise is that this new mother is up with the baby in the middle of the night, sitting next to the Christmas tree. The husband wakes up and comes out and gives her a piece of jewelry, saying "it's our first Christmas as a family." Now, maybe they only got married when they found out she was pregnant, but I took it to mean, "now that we have a baby, we're really a family." I looked at my husband and said, "well, I guess we're not considered a family then."

Utterly ridiculous to assume that a family has to include children. I most certainly consider my husband to be my family.

Anonymous said...

Hello, it's me, the breeding traitor. : )

I agree with you. Family constitutes many things these days. I'm bothered by the term "family-friendly" in reference to restaurants or other recreational venues. It screams "Kids are welcomed", which usually means it's watered-down, good, clean fun and who the hell wants that? I'm half-joking.

I remember reading a post on a military wives forum from a CF nurse saying she was forced to work on Christmas, because another nurse had kids and wanted to be home with them. Forget the fact that her own husband would be going to war. I've been in that situation before and it sucks. Although, I do understand how it would be important for children to have Christmas morning with both parents, so I do understand both sides. Very touchy subject, though.
I also think maternity leave is wrong, but I won't say anymore lest the Mother's Guild of America come after me.

Anonymous said...

Some of these comments from single CF'ers are really getting to me. I didn't realize there was such a stigma.

Over the holidays, we stayed with my in-laws. We visited with HawkDad's empty-nesting aunt and uncle. They were able to put their only child through college and he now has a nice job. They have a beautiful home in a lovely neighborhood, plenty of disposable income, and have more than enough time to spend with each other. It's a nice life. When we talked to my MIL about how we wanted to live like them, she - a mother of three - said, "But what do they have to show for it?" HawkDad and I spent the rest of the holiday visit trying to figure out what the hell that was even supposed to mean? Personally, I think she might be a bit jealous.

pamelli said...

I certainly consider my husband and our two adorable 'babies' ( a chihuaua and a cat) my 'family'!
A childfree couple who shares a home and life together should definately, in any dictionary and in any language in the world , be described as 'a family'.
But I think one of your readers here is right: if this poll were posted elsewhere - not in a childfree blog- a lot of people would disagree with that and the results would be very different.
Human beings still have a LONG way to go and a LOT to evolve!

Childfreeeee said...

Thanks for all the comments so far.

Out of curiosity (to see what the general population thinks), I just posted a similiar poll on a non-CF related discussion board I belong to.

I'll let you know the results of that poll soon. It'll be interesting to see how the results compare to the results of my poll here.

Paula Knight said...

I've been pondering this myself for a while now. I feel like my partner and I are a family, but I'm sure others don't. You only have to listen to our government (UK) who often talk about 'rewarding hard-working families' in their tax credit policies. As part of society we childfree/childess folk don't fit easily into our society's political rhetoric.

Gretchen said...

In addition to myself and my furbaby I also consider friends to be a part of my family. My best friend's kids call me Aunt, and I look at her as a true sister. This was also the same for my other best friend before she passed. Family, as said by others, has grown to include so many different aspects of life that it is uncategorizable.

Lovely blog post, I think I will start following you now that I've found you!

Kimmy said...

I definitely consider my husband, myself and our dog a happy family.

Great blog, btw;-)

Chelle said...

Great Blog, just got married last year to high school friend, both never been married, no kids and both 43 years old ~ contemplating kids, something inside me saying, :Wait a minute, not sure if this is for me... as I continue to research I realize that it is OK to have me, my hubby, my dog and cat as my family and contribute in other ways to make this world a better place!!! Thanks for your blog :)