Families of two: You don’t need kids to “start a family”

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Custom family portrait”> from Etsy seller UnearthedPaperCo

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.

Comments on Families of two: You don’t need kids to “start a family”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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