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 12...is 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.