Families of two: You don't need kids to "start a family"

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I come from a big family who came from big families. My grandfather was one of eight siblings, my mother is one four siblings, and my mother and each of her siblings has had three kids. Now those three kids are all starting to have four kids.

Except for me.

I'm married, and, if things go according to plan, we won't ever have kids. Or, as some of my family members have put it "start a family." Now, I take issue with that phrase…

When the last time one of the members of my enormous family asked me, "So when are you and Aaron going to start a family?" I couldn't help but reply, "We already have!" For a moment, I almost felt bad for getting snarky, because her eyes lit up while visions of babies danced in her head, "Really!?" "Yup, you were there when it started." Her glee turned to a look of confusion, slightly startled. "Remember when Aaron and I got married? Done!"

Family. Fucking. Started. No kids necessary.

Which is not to say you have to get married to start to family, but my particular family unit happens to be just me and that guy I married. Does that make MY family any less "familial" than my cousin, his wife, and their three-going-on-four kids? Because I'm pretty sure I feel as crazy about, and as close to, my family of two as anyone feels towards their family of five or six.

The members of my little family are not related by blood, but the same can be said for adopted family members! Also, apparently neither was I blood related to the woman I called my "aunt" all my life. When I got old enough to learn she wasn't blood-related, related-by-marriage, or anything like that, I was shocked. But afterwards I loved her the same, and didn't consider her to be anything less than my aunt. Hell, I also have blood relatives that I wouldn't even pause to throw a rope to if they were drowning on a warm day and I was wearing an uncomfortable jacket MADE of rope.

Blood… children… a family needs not these things.

Just like any family complete with kids, Aaron and I have our rough times, and we both tough it out. We, at times miserably, stick together, and work on the relationship. Because we're a family and we love each other, gawd-damn-it. In fact, I actually fight harder to keep our family together and in healthy working order than I will with my family of origin, because he and I are my favorite family — the family that I got to CHOOSE.

And when I think about what's best for my family, yes, I'm really just thinking about what's best for me and that guy I married (and, yes, the dogs too sometimes — but that's a totally different familial post). But I do actually think, in my mushy little brain's inner monologue, "What's best for my family?"

Because, even if there's only two of us… hey, that's all it actually took to start my family.

  1. Great article! I try to make a conscious effort to use the phrases "grow your family," or "expand your family." As in: "I'm so excited for you guys to be expanding your family" when receiving news of a baby-to-be.

    37 agree
  2. I'm so glad this is being re-published. My fiance and I are also childfree and will stay that way, and I'm bracing myself for the "when are you going to start a family?" questions that I'm sure will come up after we get married.

    Sometimes we'll be snuggled up on the couch, and our two cats will both jump up to cuddle with us. We specifically call that "family time," and it's one of my favorite things. For us, just two people and a couple of fur babies is all it takes to make our family. <3

    56 agree
    • My husband and I are the same. We don't want kids. We just want to get one more bunny, a bird and maybe some rats. Family complete! The "baby" questions do start after marriage, but we think our families are starting to understand that children are not our thing. Small critters are though!

      17 agree
      • Oh man, I get "baby animal fever" like crazy. It is, I would assume, what it's like to have "baby fever" — but I wouldn't know exactly because I've never felt a longing for a baby. But small critters? GET IN MY LOVING ARMS!

        43 agree
        • RIGHT?! And then whenever I meet someone who doesn't ever want to have animals I'm all WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? And then I think about them asking me the same questions about kids. PROBLEMS HAVE I.

          22 agree
        • OMG YES. If I lived in the sort of time or place where there were stray dogs following you home, they would alllll live with me by now. The only thing that keeps me from adopting an insane amount of puppies is the fact that they cost money to care for and we live in a tiny house with two asshole dogs who hate making friends.

          9 agree
          • We just fostered a litter of 5 cats & kept 2 of them. That brings our total household pet count to 4 (another cat, 1 dog). We have no room for any babies, sheesh.

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        • Here's what I tell people: The love, excitement, the "get in my loving arms!" feelings I have for baby animals is more intense than I have ever felt for human babies. Unless that changes I'm not having children. Someone tried to convince me that when I had a baby and saw it for the first time I would get those feelings. I pointed out that really ought to have those feelings BEFORE. I fall to pieces over the ducklings in our pond but I shudder with annoyance at the toddlers who throw whatever their little hands can get at at the ducks, ducklings, bird, turtles, fish, etc. that are in the same pond.

          18 agree
          • "Someone tried to convince me that when I had a baby and saw it for the first time I would get those feelings."

            Yeah… someone tried to give me that spiel too. I was like… that's a LOT to risk, dontcha think? 😉

            34 agree
          • Nah, just take the chance. Because if you end up not liking the baby, it's not like you'll be stuck with it for the next 18 years or anything, right?

            Oh, wait. :\

            12 agree
        • So…um, a friend… adopted a dog, and she started lactating. Wasn't even a puppy.

          5 agree
    • Ditto, except with two dogs instead. The four of us make a perfectly good weird little dog-hair-covered* family and we like it that way, TYVM. I loved this post this first time and I love it again this time 🙂

      *Only two of us are producing the dog hair, obviously. But they are generous.

      15 agree
  3. We do the family cuddle too! Hubs and I both work from home, so at the end of the day, we have a TeamLastname cuddle on the bed with our two canine furbabies.

    Our family has been child free by choice for 11 years, and I've always bristled at the idea that we were not considered a 'real family' by others.

    I've always subscribed to the idea that family can be more than blood. I have had a male best friend since middle school, and I have been Auntie to his children since the day they arrived. Random people have asked us if we are brother and sister. We both grew up with faulty parents and assorted family, so we sort of banded together to raise each other. He is, without a doubt, my family, and blood has nothing to do with it.

    19 agree
  4. YES. Thanks for posting this again. It's such a relevant topic as it seems the media is covering a lot of lady issues lately–particularly feminism & "having it all." I found myself on the defensive recently when a friend with kids asked "well, what do you doooooo on Sunday morning? Do you just sleep in? What do you do with all of your time? Are you just hanging out?" SO insulting, as if to say my life is void without children. It really bothered me–why do I have to explain my choice and why is my choice an empty one?

    34 agree
    • I'm super glad that peeps are happy to have this re-posted! 🙂

      I decided that I wanted to re-open this discussion after seeing a really hurt guy friend of mine expressed upset over being treated like he and his wife were "less than" because they were child-free. Clearly this goes even beyond feminist issues since dudes are getting their feels hurt over the whole "your life is void without children" bullshit too.

      Also, lets come up with answers to "what do you doooooo on Sunday morning?"
      * Fucking nothing, and it's awesome.
      * Watch cartoons… sans kids.
      * Fuck.
      * Get woken up by needy dogs.

      56 agree
      • * Sometimes I have to work. I can work any old hours I please, you see. I took Friday afternoon off to go to the cinema.
        * Watch grown-up TV that would be wildly inappropriate with kids around.
        * Cook a huge awesome breakfast.
        * Get the train home after spontaneously staying at a friend's party all night.

        19 agree
          • *Going into work because being on-call means, well, being on call
            *Working, because academic articles are ALWAYS AROUND
            *Playing board games with friends
            *Playing D&D with friends
            *go grocery shopping together and have our special once a week "we have a morning together" breakfast

            8 agree
      • *Wake up early and take the dogs for a day long hike.
        *Sleep in and then go get brunch.
        *Do the week's grocery shopping and errand running.

        7 agree
      • *Get up late to make it to the farmers market, because we can catch a late breakfast without cranky hunger tantrums.
        *Accept impromptu brunch invitations.
        *Accidentally spend two hours in the garden.
        *Sit my ass on the couch and enjoy hanging out at the cute little house I've worked my butt off for.
        *Sit on my front stoop and watch the minvans parading back and forth on the way to soccer/ballet/tae kwan do/swimming/tutoring…

        16 agree
        • I have 2 kids. But I can't do late brunch because *I* have hunger tantrums, not the kids! Haha

          2 agree
      • Things we're up to on any given Sunday:
        • Trader Joe's
        • Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwiches and a walk through the city cemetery (it's beautiful)
        • Thrift shops and antique stores, ahoy!
        • Hang out at the orchard
        • Cook breakfast slowwwwwly
        • Go on a spontaneous day trip because why not?

        9 agree
      • *Go to the gym
        *Clean my house because there's never time during the week
        *Grocery Shop
        *Quality time with my affection-starved partner
        *Work
        *Try to catch up with friends and family I don't see enough

        Seriously, I'm pretty sure I am a busy, productive person without having to procreate. Yeesh.

        6 agree
      • We're comfortably hanging out on the fence re: whether or not to reproduce for the time being, but it definitely won't be happening in the next few years unless something statistically improbable happens.

        In the meantime, I:

        *eat breakfast and drink a homemade latte
        *do my nails
        *make preliminary to-do lists for the rest of the week in my planner
        *watch television
        *take my sweet time catching up with e-mail and Facebook

        And my husband might be thinking about getting out of bed by the time I leave for church.

        I don't hear questions about having babies from my parents. They know me, and if we ever have a kid, they'll probably be more surprised than anybody. But an appointment or two ago, the woman who cuts my hair asked if my husband and I were going to "start a family." I answered "we have a family of two," and she said, and I quote, "Kitty cats?" *facepalm*. We don't have pets either (he had a fish when we moved in together but it died) – we don't even have *plants* indoors. But if we did have two furbabies we were counting towards the total number of members of our family, that would make us a family of four, right? Apparently the adult humans don't count?

        8 agree
        • Sunday (or, as I work all the damn time, "whenever I get a morning off")
          – Drink coffee with way too much Irish Creme
          – Sit in the living room without a stitch on because without children or roomates, my partner and I never really have to wear clothes
          – Watch Southpark untill it stops being funny (which is never)
          – Make whatever I want for all my meals without wondering if my kids will actually eat it.
          – Leave art supplies, craft tools, and half eaten meals unattended for 5 minutes without worrying about disator striking.
          – Perform all my household chores naked with a loud record playing. Freedom is vacuming naked to Bat Out of Hell.
          – Mid afternoon Caesars.

          8 agree
      • I seriously have no idea how people have time for children. I feel like we never have downtime- we sleep in a little on Sundays but then the rest of the day is usually cleaning and grocery shopping and errand running. I do laundry almost every single freaking day already, I can't imagine having more clothes and bedding and towels (let alone cloth diapers, but I am definitely not the type to even pretend I'm going to bother with that.) Our house is constantly a mess even without little hands tearing it apart. Having time to exercise properly is a distant dream. And I don't even cook! As far as I'm concerned, parents are basically superhuman. Good on ya for pulling it off but I am soooo not even interested in trying ;-P

        19 agree
      • It is def not just a woman thing. My loving man friend get harassed constantly at work. He is always getting sent on out of town trips because "he doesn't have kids so doesn't have any reason to want to be home" he is always working or on call for christmas because "he doesn't have a family" it's disgusting. DISGUSTING. GAH! DOUBLE GAH. It makes me so mad.

        Right. Breathe. I'm good. Just had to share.

        14 agree
        • Yes! This came up in the thread on Families and it was incredibly angering. A lot of people got the shit end of the stick on holidays because they "didn't have a family." This is a thing that is super upsetting.

          11 agree
        • This happens to my husband too. His gross good ole boy boss, who is also constantly harassing the both of us to come to his church, expects him to work holidays because we don't have "a family". He has literally worked every Thanksgiving and every Christmas Eve for five years…except last year, when gross good ole boy decided to cut us a big break by allowing him to be off Christmas Eve so he could travel with the rest of OUR FAMILY to take my mother on a special Christmas related beat cancer celebration outing.

          The dynamic has been especially frustrating the last few years, because my mom was battling cancer, and so I had to make a choice about those holidays; would I sit home alone waiting for him to get off work so we could celebrate together, or would I drive four hours away to spend that time with my mom knowing that it might be her last of whatever holiday it was? I always ended up, at hubby's insistence, going to see my mom. So any holiday enjoyment was tempered with feeling like a shit head because such an important part of my family was spending it alone. My birthday is also on a holiday, which he also always is expected to work, because he's the only one of his co-workers without children and it's "not fair" to make them work rather than spend all that magical time with those special snowflakes. And of course gross good ole boy would never for a moment think that hubby might actually WANT to spend time with "the little woman", like totally on purpose and stuff. Gah.

          I'm with you, dear. Oh, the rage.

          6 agree
    • Yeah, that always drives me crazy! 1) as if people without kids don't have fulfilling, busy lives, and 2) as if sleeping in late on the weekends and lounging around if you want is such a terrible thing.

      17 agree
    • The truly wild part of that is that people assume that Childfree adults don't interact with kids or "parent" in any way – and it's not true! One of my roomates from college is a pre-school and daycare teacher. She's also Childless right now (I know she goes back and forth on the subject of having her own). She's encountered so many people who think her life must be "dull" or "meaningless" without having her own kids. They have no idea how much of an influence she's having on their own children and how she's helping shape and direct their lives. So many people think Childfree means living a life devoid of children entirely and for almost all the CF people I've met, that's light years away from their actual lives.

      12 agree
      • YES! One of my best friends works for a state department for children/family services and has never wanted kids of her own. I also have 2 pals who are child free educators–but infertile/want to be bio-partents. So, I'm sensitive to that when I'm all BLAH NO KIDS NO KIDS BLAH when I'm pretty sure my 43 year-old eggs are still nutritious… Back to what was mentioned earlier–it's really nobody's business but yo own! 😉

        2 agree
      • I'm a teacher, and sometimes when people ask me about kids I tell them that I'm covered because I have 160 new ones every year 😉

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    • "all of your time."

      lololololololol ok.

      my phone autocorrected that "ok" part, even it knows how ludicrous that is. actually since it holds my calendar, aka my whole life, I guess it DOES know how much "time" I don't have. and I don't even have an SO or their social calendar to add.

      1 agrees
    • My mother slept in EVERY weekend, and my dad worked. I sort of hate the insinuation that you must be available every waking moment of your child's life, or else they won't turn out right.
      I made cereal or ate breakfast she made the night before.

      28 agree
      • Yep. Woe unto me, if I woke Mom and Dad up early on a Saturday. I don't know what they were doing in there, and I don't want to know, but whatever it was involved me knowing exactly where the damn cereal was and being completely capable of pouring it for myself while rotting my brain with those wonderful 80s cartoons. And yet, I did not grow up to be a serial killer. Imagine!

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    • Haha, that "what do you do with your time?" is such a silly question! I'm sure they didn't have kids all their lives- did they just stare at a wall all weekend?

      8 agree
      • I was thinking this exact same thing! Do they not remember what it was like before? Or do they remember being (for example) 21, but think younger adults are lazy/college students by default, and so can't figure out how an older adult would fill their time?

        3 agree
        • Or maybe they honestly don't remember what it's like to be child free? Personally, I've been a parent since I was 19. My oldest son is now 10.5 — that's a third of my life. I really DON'T know what it's like to be an adult without children. To be fair, I would never ask, "what do you do with all your time?" but I have a feeling the question is not meant to insinuate that you don't have important things to do, or that your life doesn't have meaning, but likely comes from a place of wonder and maybe a little envy. Just my two cents, anyway

          2 agree
  5. LOVED this post and your way of thinking about what makes up a family, Megan.

    Also, I wanted to add that I'm now a "child-free ally" because I might have children one day, but I still support the decisions of those who don't need children to "complete" their family.

    9 agree
    • This totally puts a label to a thing I have been struggling with. I respect the hell out of child-free families, and even fantasize about it myself. Lately I have been working on deciding whether I, myself, want kids – and have been leaning on the "have kids" side.

      A bit unrelated, but earlier this week Lifehacker featured a "flame war" post about the fors-and-againsts of having children. It was really enlightening and entertaining from both sides of the fence.

      5 agree
    • I like that term, heh. I'd be in that category, as well. People should be able to choose how they live their lives. If it involves kids, great! If it doesn't, great!

      4 agree
  6. I'm super happy to see this be published again from when it was on OBF!

    The husband and I are at the starting phases of expanding our two-person, two-furkid unit. When I told my parents, I made sure to use THIS SPECIFIC LANGUAGE of expansion as opposed to fabrication and, luckily, it stuck! No correction necessary.

    I think it's especially important for those who do not choose to be child-free (or childless if you prefer to say it that way) to use this language, as well. If you choose to not have children, you're no less of a family. If you can't have children, you're no less of a family. If you do have children, by whatever means, you're no more of a family.

    16 agree
    • Right! I can't help but think sometimes how hurtful that language would be even to people who WANT to have kids, but can't for whatever reasons.

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      • It's been extra on my mind as we go through our process because I have close family who's struggling with infertility. If the two of them are never able to have a child, I still want them to know they're just as much a family unit as we will be with however many children we have.

        I also have friends who are choosing to remain child-free, which I've known about for longer, and their decision to remain child-free is something I support. They need to know this and this is a small way I can do it.

        Language has power and it needs to be used the best way possible.

        5 agree
      • As someone who struggled with infertility for nearly two years before finally conceiving my (now-3-year-old) son, it WAS incredibly hurtful!

        Hubby and I were married for 5 years before we finally started trying, so we'd already been fielding the "baby bingo" questions for a few years, but the ONLY way I was able to cope with the increasingly painful questions was to simply open up and say "we've been trying. So far no luck, but thanks for asking." which always made the asker incredibly uncomfortable.

        It's amazing how many well-meaning questions can actually be hurtful when the asker doesn't know better.

        Also, I totally consider myself a childfree ally. My best friend is childfree, and perfectly happy to simply be an Auntie to my son and the children of her other best friend/neighbor. Having a childfree Auntie for my son is honestly pretty awesome, I suspect he's going to love her even more than he already does in a couple more years.

        1 agrees
  7. I think I went a little further than this! Before my husband and I got married, I realized that his repeated use of "start a family" bugged me. He kept saying that when we got married, we'd finally "start our family." And it bugged me for a while until I finally realized why it did – because it felt like it prioritized marriage over other familal structures, firstly (I had a family already, as did he). Secondly, it felt like we were prioritizing married exclusivity over the relationship we alrready had (full story: my husband and I were together for almost 12 years prior to being married, and I felt like the "language of marriage" disregarded all that time we had before making it 'official').

    Near to the wedding, we started saying (at my request) that we were "joining our families through marriage." Now that felt right. It acknowledges that both he and I had loving families before the marriage and they remain with us now. Thinking of that way, it was a lot easier to bring our daughter into the mix because we felt so good about thinking of her joining an already quite large family unit as opposed to "just the three of us."

    It's a funny thing that I was thinking of this very issue a few days ago since we finally brought home the "family portrait" that we took since my daughter is old enough to reliably sit for a picture now. We really wanted something to reflect the "joining families" idea, so our family portrait has 17 people in it – 4 grandparents, 2 parents, 8 aunts and uncles by birth, 2 uncles by marriage and one baby. That reflects what I really want to show.

    I think it's awesome that people are pushing back against the idea that childfree couples can be their own family (and it amazes me that there's any resistance to the idea). I suppose a lot of it is rooted in this (oddly new) idea of the nuclear family as the ideal (even though my sister-in-law has educated me about how bogus the idea truly is!). The more people push back against it, in whatever way we can, the better off it will become for everyone – whether they be families of 2, 20 or more. Mutual respect and love are the most sufficient familial bonds ever invented, and the quicker we get to that realization, the better off we'll be. So thanks for the reminder.

    10 agree
    • Mutual respect and love are the most sufficient familial bonds ever invented, and the quicker we get to that realization, the better off we'll be. HIGH FIVE! 😉

      15 agree
  8. Thanks for re-posting this. I, like many other childfree folks get flack for (mostly from older relatives that want babies to play with) my views of what makes a family. I'm happy to be an aunt to my friend's children, but I get to hand them back when they get fussy! And as a side note, having children does not guarantee happiness and fulfillment. I have taken care of many elderly patients who had children who they were estranged from for one reason or another and felt like they had no family at all 🙁 "family" can be interpreted in many ways!

    6 agree
  9. Yessss! I've been married going on a year this coming October, and we got our first house last month, so the "when are the kids coming?" is starting to trickle in. It's a bit different for me, because I *LOOK* like I'm 16 years old even though I'm 25, so I think even my family, who all know very well that I'm adult, still see me as sortof child-like. My Hello Kitty shoes and MLP shirts do nothing to refute this. And I have never shown any interest in children ever, so.

    When it does happen, it happens in subtle-not-subtle ways. For instance, we got a three-bedroom house. People instantly were like "OH SO YOU ARE PLANNING TO HAVE CHILDREN!!!!" and I was like what? No! There's a communal master bedroom, spare bedroom for when friends crash, and then an office (haha it's totally a fancy room for me where I do my makeup, let's be honest) for me. They're like "Oh, well that office will be your kids room eventually." And I'm like what? no! So I painted it from baby blue to blood red ;D

    13 agree
    • aren't 3 bedroom houses the norm? I wouldn't buy a 1 or 2 BR house since I don't feel they would sell well.

      1 agrees
      • Totally. I might make some assumptions about family size if you got like a 5 or 6 bedroom house because I can't imagine what my husband and I would do with that many bedrooms. We have a 3 bedroom as well with a master bedroom, a library for all my books and an office. We also have a game room because we play a lot of board games. I guess some people would need a craft room/sewing room, others might need a room w/ a pool table, but how many rooms can one person fill with their individual interests?

        I have to say that even if I was making those assumptions inside my head, I would still have the good sense to shut up about them unless they said something to me first.

        3 agree
        • I dream about having a room for each of my categories of art and craft supplies…and maybe one set up as a photo studio… I guess my husband can have one too, for whatever it is he does ;-P

          5 agree
      • I think it depends on the house. My in-laws' house is only a two bedroom house, but there's a full attic and basement as well. The attic was large enough to be a bedroom that could fit my husband and his brother when they were growing up (with room to spare). One of the actual bedrooms ended up being the guest bedroom, and there was actually enough room in the basement to convert one section of it into another bedroom if needed. That being said, the kitchen and bathroom situation is pretty awful and was not designed well, but they made it work.

        On top of that, from my experience in the mortgage industry (working for an appraisal management company), I heard from quite a few appraisers who stated that overall GLA was a bigger concern for buyers today than the number of bedrooms. I think there's something to that, because we've seen a lot of posts even here that show great creativity in finding different ways to use space in a home. Heck, my husband and I have talked about moving into a townhome once we pay off our condo, and I'm hoping for one with a basement that I can convert into a darkroom (or at least part of it).

        1 agrees
  10. THANK YOU for re-posting this; I missed the original.

    By our fourth date, my husband and I let each other know that we don't want children; it was a sweet relief for us both to find someone who shares our stance on having kids ("no f*cking way"). We've been married for three months and adopted our kitty two weeks ago. And we both consider our family complete.

    Still, I'm constantly barraged by the "when are you going to have kids" question—even from the girl who runs the local deli. It's rude. People have always told me that I'll change my mind and want kids, but I'm 37 and still have zero desire.

    But what irritates me the most is the follow-up "who'll take care of you when you get older?"

    Few people in my family are on speaking terms with their parents, who will most likely be on their own when they get older. I'm witnessing firsthand how having kids in way guarantees you caretakers for your later years. Hell, even I'm estranged from my own mother right now.

    People don't ask how much money I make, why do they feel it's okay to ask about my reproductive plans? It's none of their business and they have no idea what kind of emotional buttons they might press.

    15 agree
    • People don't ask how much money I make, why do they feel it's okay to ask about my reproductive plans? It's none of their business and they have no idea what kind of emotional buttons they might press.

      THIS is why we, at the Empire, like to run a lot of posts about being child free and infertility. Asking about peoples' reproductive plans needs to start being considered as intimate a question as asking about how much money someone makes. The more we air these perspectives, the more people might think twice before inquiring into WAY too personal topics.

      18 agree
      • Abso-freaking-lutely. I have this conversation with people at work all the time. I go back and forth on the kid thing. I'm 31 and I'm still not sure. And that's none of anyone's freaking business. If people didn't get so defensive and angry, I'd say "That's actually none of your business" when they ask me. I shocked the hell out of my sister-in-law when she asked "How long until you can have one of these?" as she held her 24-hour-old baby in her arms and I said "I'm not sure I will.". People just need to stop asking with the assumption behind it. I don't mind talking about it if someone asks me IF I plan on having children, but don't assume that it's my plan.

        7 agree
        • Yeah, your last point really resonates with me. A coworker of mine asked if my fiance and I were going to have kids, and I said no, and I didn't really mind that she asked (it helped that she didn't press me for WHY or anything, just accepted my answer). "Are you going to have kids?" is usually a harmless question and it's probably not worth it for me to get annoyed at. But the assumptions–"when are you gonna start popping out babies???" are very very frustrating.

          2 agree
    • Trying to leave any snark out of my comments (I had a really, really bad dream last night about my mom and it's tainted how I currently feel about parents and such) but even after 17.5 years of marriage and me about to turn 40 I can still see the wistfulness my mom has about having grandchildren. I'm an only child. So if I don't have them no one will provide them with grandkids.

      I want to be totally respectful of her feelings. She has done a really great job of not saying anything about wanting grandkids. She and my mother-in-law both. I just hate that it makes her sad. And being a woman who has mastered the fine art of Throwing Guilt Without Saying Anything every sign or turn away from me when something about her sister's grandkids (and great-grandkids) comes up it tears me up. I want to shake her and say, "OMGOSH woman, you're the one who said on the day I got married that you were not ready to be a grandmother! We hadn't even thought that far! We were young and just wanted to be married so we could be together all the time!"

      So 17 years of marriage and turning 40 and on a bevy of medications that very much could hurt a growing embryo later I still feel the need to justify my decision to everyone. Not just her but everyone. A friend once commented that maybe because I talked about not having kids so much I must want them – you know, the lady doth protest too much. But I said no, that's not the case. Whenever children come up I feel immense pressure to explain that my need to not have children is my decision.

      It's like someone else said, people don't ask how much money I make why in God's name do we have to justify having children, not having children, getting married, staying single, etc.?

      4 agree
  11. I finally managed to get the kids questions to stop, at least for now. My family pushed really hard when my sister got pregnant. With my sister going so far as to tell me she didn't like how I had changed after marrying my husband because I'd "always" wanted kids before. Which yeah, 16 year old me was totally baby crazy. But 24 year old me fell in love with a guy who wasn't certain he ever wanted them. And I chose him without question over some potential future with possible children.

    Our family is the two of us and our two awesome dogs. My coworkers talk about baby fever and I respond with my puppy fever. Our family also includes our families of origin and the many friends we've made in our four years together. We don't need children to be a family – we just need love.

    8 agree
  12. YES. My partner and I "started our family" when we decided that we were it for each other and began functioning as a unit in our major life choices (which was either two or four years before our actual wedding, depending on who you're asking). Do we want kids? Probably, eventually, sure…but who knows? When and if we do have kids, we'll welcome them into our immediate living-together family unit, and into our extended all-over-the-country families, and into our not-actually-related families of choices…all of which will still function perfectly well if we never have kids.

    3 agree
    • You bring up something that I had forgotten: my husband and I were family a long time before we got married. In fact, our family at the time was the two of us and the theater department at my university. All but a couple of us were on our own (our families not living in the same town or over two hours away, mine were over two days drive away) and we really looked out for each other and took care of each other. My then boyfriend and I were the core of our family with our friends extended family.

      I saw the same kind of kinship when I attended Lavender Graduation – a special recognition ceremony and all around good time for LGBT community at the University I work with. Some of our students have no blood family anymore – after coming out some of them lost their families. There is such a connection those students have with each other that the only word I can describe the feeling of being with them was family. They had created this safe haven of acceptance and love and encouragement – what better word to use other than family?

  13. Agreed! I make the conscious effort… and realized just how hard that is to do during a targeted discussion of parenting last weekend, while I filled out our adoption questionnaire without saying either "start a family" or "raise a family".

    • It's so, so easy to fall into the trap of "starting" a family when talking to people who have expanded theirs. I have found that not correcting them, but still sticking to my preferred wording has worked well.

      And that paperwork is extensive, no?? At least, it is here.

      • Oh yes. This was really just the beginning. It was 40 essay questions (each!) on our childhoods, our families and their dynamics, what we think about parenthood, what our specific plans are, why we want to adopt, etc. So lots of future-speak about "When we add kids to our family" or "I would like to do X before we grow our family" or "We chose a house in this neighborhood with our future family in mind."

  14. I have been single most of my adult life and with menopause over and done with – now I get the "Oh you will never have grandchildren". Really? I was the queen of birth control, I knew by 24 that I wasn't going to procreate and have never regretted that decision. I am a family of one and the relief I feel at night when I go to sleep in my bed, by myself, it is so quiet and peaceful, I can't quite fathom anything different.

    When I was briefly marred (22-24) to a handsome, smart man, who also happened to be an abusive alcoholic – people would ask me when we were going to start a family. In my mind I always answered "Not with him".

    Do I have extended family, yes. Do I see them often, no. I am good with that as well. I have one sibling in the city I live in and if I never see her again in this lifetime, I am good with that!

    8 agree
  15. I didn't come from a cookie cutter Norman Rockwell painting family. I don't think most people did. My family growing up was just me and my mom most of the time. There was also my grandma, and step-grandpa, bio grandpa lived in another state but dropped by from time to time. At one point my aunt (who is only slightly older then me) and her husband lived with me and my mom.

    Now my family is me, my dog, my mom, and whatever hodge podge of friends I've assembled. Eventually I might add a husband or wife. I am in no way ready to make that commitment yet. And I've got no clue on kids. I like holding other peoples' kids and I like buying shit for kids. That's the best, really, cute clothes and fun toys. But actually taking a tiny human and like raising it into a functional member of society…I'm not totally sold on that plan yet.

    I'm at that age where it seems like every single person I know is either getting married or getting pregnant. And they keep saying to me "Don't you want a family?", well yes I do want a family. And I have one. Sure, my family might be really small and consist of someone with four legs and fur, but it's still a family. And yes, it will change and grow and evolve over time. Family is one of those ever changing things in life. But not being married, not having a kid, none of that means I have no family.

    6 agree
  16. Thanks for posting this. My FH and I are also child-free (we have cats, thats enough) and were JUST discussing tonight at dinner how we're going to handle the inevitable questions that are going to start when we get married about kids. Most of our friends know we're not having kids but its the family we both worry about.

    And one of our favorite times of the day is when we're laying in bed and both cats jump up and we have family time. <3

    2 agree
  17. Hey there! Great post. I authored the book, Families of Two, in 2000! Interviews with happily married couples with no children by choice, and hands down All of the couples see themselves as a family…a family of two, sometimes with furry members of the household 🙂 Check out the book and the one since, The Baby Matrix, which looks at why people go – Family of Two – what? And more…..http://lauracarroll.com

    1 agrees
  18. Since I got married a year ago, several people at work and elsewhere have asked (as politely as they could think how, for the most part) if we were interested in having children, or if we wanted to start a family, and so on. I answered first that we already are a family, as I am in total agreement with this post on that point, but it got awkward from there. The truth is that we do want to have a child or children, and we just started trying to conceive a couple of month ago, but I consider this *extremely personal* information and I don't want to tell most people right now. I almost wished they'd been rude about it so I could feel justified in telling them off or refusing to answer. But they asked so politely! Not realizing that asking even politely is putting me in a difficult spot. And if I'd been struggling with infertility or not planning on having children it would have been even worse.

    I understand wanting to ask! I've been tempted to ask people too. But more and more, I'm coming to the conclusion that it's nearly always a rude question to ask, and it nearly always puts the person you're asking in a difficult, awkward, even painful position. Whenever someone asks me some variation on if I'm planning to have kids, I have to suddenly try to figure out what is the minimum necessary answer I have to give to avoid being rude without losing control of information I want to keep private, and wondering how to say it so as to avoid feeling like a liar but also avoid the other person reading too much into my answer or taking the wrong message from it.

    Public service announcement: Before you ask someone if they are planning to have children, however you word it (or worse, "when" they are planning to have children), think about the possible situations you'd be bumbling into.

    (I'm going to use "she" here for easier writing, although I believe this applies to people of all genders …forgive my shortcut, please, I'm not yet comfortable with the unisex pronouns)

    -Maybe she is happily child-free and may be offended at the implication that her family is incomplete.
    -Maybe she just had a miscarriage and hadn't told anyone and you're pouring salt on a open wound.
    -Maybe she is pregnant but not ready to tell people.
    -Maybe she is pregnant and wants to tell you and you just stole her thunder.
    -Maybe she is still trying to figure out the answer to this question herself.
    -Maybe she wants a kid but her partner doesn't (or already has some and doesn't want more).
    -Maybe she doesn't want a kid but her partner has been trying to change her mind.
    -Maybe she wants a kid and has been working with her therapist to overcome significant trauma in her past regarding trust in the parent-child relationship.
    -Maybe she gave a child up for adoption years ago and feels guilty and confused for her current interest in having a child.
    -Maybe she lost a child years ago and it's too painful to consider trying again.
    -Maybe she's afraid she's going to lose her job if she gets pregnant right now.
    -Maybe she and/or her partner is infertile.
    -Maybe she and/or her partner has genetic problems that could make childbearing a complicated and ethically complex issue.

    This is, of course, only a tiny sampling of the possibilities. Point being, there might be lots of reasons why they don't want someone to ask that question.

    Preaching to the choir here, I know… working up the bravery to post this on facebook…

    21 agree
    • That's a great list! This stranger from the internet is cheering you on to post it on FB and spread a little awareness!

      3 agree
    • Thank you A Person! You've summmed up many of the reasons why it's not really a topic to be broached unless you know someone well. As someone who is trying for kids with their partner but strugging with unexplained unfertility on both our parts, I get increasingly angry / upset etc when people just assume they can ask details about our sex life – because lets face it that's what this comes down to, how often and how well you're bonking 😉
      Another thing that winds me up is when people find out you're not able to conceive and your approach and then try and convince you otherwise – i.e. FH and I have made a decision that IVF and adoption is not something we will pursue but 'well meaning' individuals often pressure you on both of these points, as if it's something else you've never considered, and to the point above that you're not a proper family unless you have kids, which I do find insulting.

  19. Kinda burns my biscuits when people replace the concept of kids with pets, when it comes to considering a couple a family. Yes we have a pet, but if we didn't we'd still be a family. A complete family.

    "Starting a family" reminds me of the term "first home." It kind of suggests there's more to be had and stinks of discontentment. It's just how people talk but words carry weight.

    1 agrees
  20. I too agree with the fact that two makes a "family". In addition to that I believe that ANY two or more people, whether they are married, partners, friends, or whatever, if they are involved in one another's lives, then they TOO are "family". Also, I find this, "When are you going to start a family" nonsense offensive because I HAD a "family", and still do as far as I can tell, BEFORE I met and married my husband. Maybe I'm just weird, but I consider the following people my "family":

    Mother
    Father
    Sisters
    Brothers
    Grand Parents
    Aunts and Uncles
    Inlaws
    Nieces and nephews(Blood related AND by marriage)
    Cousins
    Close family friends
    Any "Step" as well as any adopted children and adults of any of the above

    So, for someone to assume I don't have any "family" unless or until I give birth is just a slap in the face and disrespectful to all the family I already have!

    4 agree
  21. One aspect of being a childfree family of two that seems a bit trying and difficult for me is holidays. Holiday times are for "family," right? But no one wants to come to my house for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Heck, I can barely woo them with a big Halloween bash. Everyone seems to acknowledge that it's important for a family to make memories together in their own home on holidays, but I am always expected to go where the kids are. It's all kid-centered. What about my husband and I happily willing to host everyone? And I actually have the time to cook and make it great because I don't have kids. I may convince everyone for this year's Thanksgiving, but I am not sure. And not sure Christmas will ever happen.

    2 agree
  22. I am glad not everyone has kids. I don't think everyone would be a good parent nor do I think we can support it. leave it to those of us that NEED children. Saying that though, my partner and I both think without kids a person is not a whole person.

    1 agrees
    • I am a whole person despite whatever misguided feelings you and your partner have toward me.

      13 agree
    • I'm sorry, you NEED kids?

      No one NEEDS kids. In fact I think it's more disturbing that you feel that you NEED kids and that the rest of us without them are not complete human beings.

      To NEED kids begs the question why do you believe that you are missing something in your person, in your soul, in your brain, in your body, in your heart that you NEED kids? That without them you are an un-whole person? Because really, when it comes down to it, the only person who is incomplete without children is you. You're projecting on the rest of us to make yourself feel better about you're own feelings of incompleteness.

      Maybe some self-introspection, really ask yourself why do you believe you NEED kids to be a complete human being.

      3 agree
      • *Begin Rant*

        Really? Why this reaction? I thought this was a community where people could freely express themselves without fear of exactly this type of reproach…

        The "NEED" for kids could also have something to do with the fact that we're genetically predisposed to procreate….it doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with misguided feelings or projecting incompleteness. It could just be that this genetic predisposition is stronger in some than others.

        And one person expressing their opinion (and I read her opinion as relating to herself and her partner – not as an attack on the world at large) shouldn't merit this kind of response in this place…especially in THIS thread, where we're all talking about defining what family means individually…

        *End Rant*

        Sorry about that – I probably shouldn't even have done it. I just felt terrible when I read that because it's so out of character for my experience of this environment. The thing I've taken from the Offbeat Universe is that *I* get to define me, and I cannot even begin to explain how much comfort I take from that EVERY DAY. I cannot begin to explain how alone I felt in the universe before I found this place.

        • No one is saying you can't define you. Likewise someone who doesn't know me (and also doesn't know if I don't want children, or desperately want them and can't have them) doesn't get to come in here and tell people they are "not a whole person" if they have different priorities in life. It's insulting, and yes, misguided.

          fushia fairy's opinion was decidedly not just about their partner and themself. They specifically said they view childfree and childless people as less than.

          They are free to think that. We are free to call them out on that harmful opinion.

          7 agree
          • Exactly. What's not okay on the Offbeat Empire, from my understanding, is putting other people down. "Freedom of speech" is often a BS excuse to treat others disrespectfully, and that doesn't fly here.

            If you're going to have a shitty opinion of some people at least try to frame it nicely, or make it about yourself. So rather than "On my team we think you're not whole." one could say "My team didn't feel whole until we did this." Judgement is not your job.

            That said, I apologize for suggesting that someone who "needs" kids actually needs counseling. Maybe just a hard look in the mirror. "Need" is a strong word with a vague definition, and raising kids is very serious undertaking that should be done with much consideration; primarily for what the KIDS "need."

            2 agree
          • I also apologize for being obnoxious. I really do like the nasty-free atmosphere in Offbeat. I am very sorry for wrecking that for anyone.

            However, calling someone an incomplete human being because they don't have children is pretty derogatory. If you want kids, have them, adopt them, steal them if you have to. But don't condescend my life believing I'm going to shy away and not call out BS.

            I am actually very interested in learning how fuschia fairy came to the conclusion that wholeness comes from having a child. At what point does wholeness begin to exist or not exist? Is there an age – are children less than whole – limit?

            2 agree
    • I'm very surprised to see this kind of statement here. Not a whole person?????? Baffling concept.

      I'm sorry you feel that you were not born complete.

      I'm sorry that you feel children are necessary to some people. In my opinion, those who "need" children are missing something elemental in themselves, and should really consider getting some emotional and mental counseling before they try and raise any incomplete people of their own.

      A child should not be responsible for completing his or her parents' being. It's not fair to put your incompleteness on their shoulders.

      Personally, I know I'd be a fantastic mother, but have no "need" nor desire to do so. I am perfectly complete on my own, and happier now that I am marrying someone who is also complete on his own.

      6 agree
  23. I'm seriously tired of the baby questions. I started a job two years before I got married and ever since I started I've been getting constant probing questions about when we are going to have children. Anything from me fixing a student's hair (sometimes we end up surrogate parents in the teaching world) to even holding a baby or saying a baby is cute or even having a baby in my presence will prompt the "soooo….when you are having one?" I think it's incredibly rude! I've stopped being polite about it and have started to get short with them because I have answered this already and it's really none of your business. I'm 23 and just recently married. I don't want kids for a very long time, if at all. I have 230 children to deal with and I get to send them home. My two cats are enough. I just don't see why people don't see the rudeness in the probing, inappropriate questioning about my possible future reproduction.

    2 agree
  24. Sort of a tangent, but on a related note about people's questions and assumptions… I firmly didn't want to have children from the time I was 18 until just before I turned 30 (we got married at 20). The process of changing my mind took place over a series of yeeeeeeears. I hated the assumptions from others that having a child would be a given, the next natural step, and not a major, major life-changing event. We went into it very deliberately. Now almost 8 months into parenthood, I cannot imagine having made this decision lightly.

    The "start a family" verbiage has always bothered me, too. We have been family to each other since we were best friends in high school and made it formal when we got married 12 years ago. It's invalidating to imply that we (and our cats) weren't a family for the 11.5 years that we were childfree. Plus it just feels so archaic.

    I would highly recommend the book "Two Is Enough" to anyone struggling with this question, or struggling to respond to others' statements and intrusive questions.

    1 agrees
    • I actually just put a hold on that book from the library, and am eagerly awaiting its arrival! I'm 21 and I have zero intention of having kids, have always felt that way and I'm hoping that book will help me prepare others for that.

      1 agrees
  25. This blog post is totally correct about our definition of what "family" really is.

    I am recently married to a wonderful man who I have been with for over 6 years. Neither of us really wants to have children much to the dismay of our parents and aunts and uncles. When I was in my 20's people always told me that once I hit 30, all of the sudden I would have this burning desire to have a child of my own. I turned 31 this year and that burning desire has yet to appear. I like kids just fine, but at the same time I do not feel that having a child myself is the right decision for me. In the future we may consider adopting an older child who needs a loving and caring home but that is not our first priority at the moment.

    When we moved away from our families last year to Alaska, we learned that family is so much more than being related by blood to someone. I myself am adopted to I know this first hand, even though I was adopted at birth and the only parents I know are the ones that raised me from that point. But after moving so far away from our "family" in Canada and Texas, we realized that the people in this new place that welcome you with open arms, invite you to their homes and are there for you in the toughest of times and the best of times are just as much "family" as those who may be blood related!

  26. I am not married but I can totally relate!

    I love kids but I love being able to hand them back when I've had enough and need some alone time (plus when they are tired, cranky, vomit or poopy i don't have to deal with it!)

    I have 6 nieces and nephews and I love it when they visit but when they leave I always say "Peace at last!" they are so noisy and always fighting and i can't stand it.

    I love (LOVE!) being able to do what I want when I want.

    Now i need to find a man who feels the same way.

    1 agrees
  27. I have a big family. 7 bio kids. 1 Bonus kid. I love my big family. But I find people's questions and assumptions about my having a big family obnoxious. I don't know what it is about reproduction, but everyone feels it's their business.

    No one needs kids, and I have a great deal of respect for my friends who are childless-by-choice. Family is what *you* make it. Having people that love you is the most important thing. You, clearly, have a wonderful family.

  28. What a great post! Although I do want kids of my own one day, if it never happens, that's fine—I still feel like my husband and I are a "complete" family! And yeah we're not "childless" either—I have many wonderful nieces, nephews, and friends' kids in my life. The two of us just happen to be "child-free" at the moment 😉

    I also strongly believe that you can build a family out of friendships, I've seen it over and over again.

  29. This is a bit weird, but this post reminds me something I noticed watching the movie Kamen Rider Accel. The star of the movie is Kamen Rider Accel Ryu Terui, his deal is that his family got murdered by a supervillain, but then married Akiko Narumi and she made him happy again; so, the villain of this movie spends the whole things threatening Ryu's "Family", namely Akiko, just Akiko. I thought it was interesting that apparently just spouse counts as "family", and started to think about it, and I believe I've seen similar references in other Japanese creations; so apparently in Japan "family" starts at marriage.

    1 agrees
  30. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! When I was pregnant with twins, people would constantly say, "Awwww, instant family!" I never did anything but smile wanly,but goddamn, I wish I'd said something. My partner and I were already a family! It did not take one, or two kids, to make us a family! And were they implying that since both of us were only children that we didn't come from a family?! It is utterly ridiculous that people don't have the tact not to say anything at all. But it especially drives me crazy that people think you need to have kids to have a family. We used to be a family, and now we are a bigger, whinier family, but that's about the only difference.

    • "Instant bigger, whinier family!" I'mma start start saying that to people having twins. I loled.

      1 agrees
  31. Currently I consider myself a family of one +dog. I do not consider children necessary to have a family and dislike the thought that without children you do not have a family.

  32. I love this post. Thank you for writing it. I have always known that I wasn't going to be anyone's mom. A string of toxic relationship decisions, all with the same guy, in my early 20s and 30s never gave me the chance. And, truthfully, I didn't want it. One of the most honest conversations I ever had with my mother confirmed what I had always known: she resented having kids, and she was jealous of all of the things I got to do being child free. Ouch. I certainly would never risk putting a child through that kind of emotional ringer. I seriously met my husband, we'd known each other for years previous, when I was 35 and we got married at 38. I'm a teacher and he's a social worker so we spend all day with kids, and both of us love our careers, so we are not anti-kid. Like many others, we have a menagerie of pets who are more demanding, messy roommates than fur babies, and the 6 of us have so much crazy fun together I don't feel like anything is lacking. I relish all of the me time, the us time, and yes, we are the family that we chose. To imply that we are anything less than a family is an insult to the family that we are.

  33. "'Remember when Aaron and I got married? Done!' Family. Fucking. Started. No kids necessary."

    Love this. Love this article, too.

    2 agree
  34. Ok a bit of a confession here- about two years ago my husband and I were on the verge of divorce. We'd have flat out fights and we'd be hurtful to each other and it was just.plain.ugly. Healing from our troubles has been a long process, but we're on the other side of things now.

    Part of what turned it around for me was a revelation that we could choose to see each other as family, in addition to each other's lover and spouse. I think the identity of "spouse" made me uncomfortable and resentful toward my husband (which I recognize as being caused by some dysfunction in my own parents' relationship), and the idea of being each other's "lover" was fraught with all the stereotypical drama of the romance genre.

    By considering each other as fully fledged family members, it's been easier to forgive each other's flaws, as well as point out (lovingly) where we can improve on things like communication. We feel safe to express ourselves in healthy ways, without insecurities over the possibility of someone leaving the relationship.

    2 agree
  35. I know this is an old article but THANK YOU for writing it. I am on the other side of 35 and have decided not to have to kids. My friends, family and even coworkers have been asking me about "starting a family" for year. I have tried to tell them I am in a great relationship, have a doggie that I adore and that I feel more like a family than I did growing up with a house full of people. No one has ever accepted my response and they constantly remind me that I will end up "old and alone," as if having kids automatically means that they will be around when you are in your golden years. Anyway, it's great to have someone put into words what's in my heart. I liked this article so much that I put it in my favorites. The next time someone ask me about "starting a family," I am going to send them the article.

    1 agrees

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