You don’t need kids to “start a family”

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This week we’ll be running posts that celebrate families we don’t discuss often enough — Child-Free, adoptive families, and families made of friends — to name a few.

Aaron's drawing of our family. (Dogs not to scale)
Aaron’s drawing of our family. (Dogs not to scale)
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 three (or more!) 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 going to start a family?” I couldn’t help but reply, “I already have!” For a moment, I almost felt bad for getting snarky, because her eyes lit up with glee, “Really!?” “Yup, you were there when I started.” 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 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 and didn’t consider her to be anything less than my aunt. (Hell, the same can be said for adopted family members!) 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, we 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 Aaron and me (and, sometimes, the dogs — but that’s a totally different 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.

Comments on You don’t need kids to “start a family”

  1. Thank you for this post! I’m at that stage in life where it seems like everywhere I turn couples are sending birth announcements and sonograms are popping up all over my newsfeed. It’s wonderful and exciting! But, sometimes it feels like little phrases that weave their way into conversations make the title of ‘family’ seem exclusive. My husband and I are a family, and are part of a vast extended family. As a couple who is struggling with infertility I might be a little more sensitive to the subject. I’m grateful for this validation from my OB family. 

  2. I love this post! So true. We are planning to have kids eventually, but for now we are happy just being the two of us. In fact, part of our wedding ceremony involved our officiant (my Dad) asking everyone in attendance to “love and support the family they are creating today.” I always felt like our wedding was the day we officially “created our family” (although, obviously, for some people that feeling happens at different times).

  3. YES! Me and my boyfriend are planning kids in the future, but not for a couple of years.

    But a year or so ago, for some unknown reason, I was aching to “start a family” RIGHT NOW. I wanted to get married and have kids. I told my boyfriend, and he looked at me, at our cats sleeping in the bed next to our feet and shook his head. “We ARE a family! It consists of you and me and the cats, when they’re not biting our feet that is. I LOVE our little family!”.

    And he is right. We started a family at the moment I decided to start doing my laundry at his place, because all my clothes were there anyway. Future kids will be a great addition to our family, but for now: I love my little family!

  4. “When are you going to have kids?” That question started at the wedding reception. As though enjoying child-free time together, being able to randomly get drunk and silly or take an impulsive trip on a whim together is over the second “I do” is said. Like not getting pregnant on the wedding night is waiting too long. If it had been phrased “start a family” I probably would have popped my top. Your answer to that is the perfect one.

  5. I also dislike the phrase “start a family” not just because of the implications of “family” but also the implications of “start”.

    When my husband and I got married last week, we joined families. Our families are very different, but they do share some common ground, and now they have been bonded together. If/when we have children, we will be adding to our family, not starting from scratch. That’s why “start” bugs me. The “start a family” mentality seems to ignore our incredibly amazing and supportive existing families.

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