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what is a family?

February 27, 2012

On Friday, I had a twelve-year-old girl ask me a very poignant question. She said, “Mrs. Bruneman, do you think you must have children to be considered a family or are can just married people (2 men, 2 women or a man and a woman) be considered a family?”

She phrased it just like that.

Did I mention she’s twelve?

I told the little girl that I thought two married people were considered a family even if they did not have children. I asked her what she thought. She said she wasn’t sure and was polling people to find out.

She volunteered to show me her research. Which was really just a piece of notebook paper with tally marks under the headings Must Have Children or Do Not Need Children To Be a Family.

Based on her scientific evidence (and my eye balling abilities) about 70% (so far) thought that you do not need children to be considered a family. Which was just what I thought.

Intrigued by the other 30% I asked Keith when I got home that day the same question. His response shocked me.

He thinks you must have children to be considered a family. He thinks we’re a happily married couple but we’re not a family….yet.

I don’t know how I feel about that because I think we’re a family and Lord knows I am trying to have that child.  I know Keith didn’t mean anything hurtful by what he said, it is just his opinion. Everyone is allowed to have different opinions; it is what makes questions like this little girl’s interesting and debatable. But secretly, on this issue, I kind of wish Keith had agreed with me. Maybe it is just my struggles with maintaining a pregnancy that make me more sensitive to it.

But be HONEST, what do you think? Must you have children to be considered a family?

14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2012 8:14 am

    No, I definitely do not think you have to have children in order to be a family. I just read the article that probably sparked that question. I can see why some people feel that way, but I really feel strongly about the relationship Tony and I have and if we never had children, he definitely would be considered my family. Yes, we are husband and wife, we are best friends, but yeah, we are definitely family.

  2. February 27, 2012 8:25 am

    My first inclination is to say no, you don’t need children to have a family. Which I do believe. But honestly, if I look at a couple by themselves, I don’t necessarily think of them as a family, I mean I know they are, but I family is not the first word that pops into my head. I think it’s a question of more people, for me, though and not children necessarily. If I saw a big group of people that were obviously related in some way, but there were no kids in the group, I’d think of that as a family.

    Interesting questions. I consider my dog part of my family.

  3. February 27, 2012 10:13 am

    Hmm I honestly don’t think I’ve ever thought about it before. I guess I still consider family, my sister and mom and Aunt’s and stuff since I’m not married. However, I think once I am married I won’t consider it a family until there’s kids? I mean, when you’re trying to get pregnant don’ t most people say “we’re trying to start a family”? I think i need to think about this more.

  4. February 27, 2012 10:48 am

    I think you don’t need kids to have a family. I refer to Andy and I as our little family often–and I think that the term family will be used more often when we actually have kids, but for now, we’re a two person family and we like it! 😀

  5. February 27, 2012 11:05 am

    I definitely considered myself and Ryan to be a family even before we got pregnant. I agree with Lee– it isn’t the first term that pops into your head (that would be “couple”), but it doesn’t mean that a couple isn’t a family.

    I could definitely see how Keith’s response would be a bit hurtful to hear (even though I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt you by it!!). You’re right– everyone has a right to their own opinion, but when the issue hits so close to home and feels so personal, it’s hard to hear a different opinion from your partner (and fellow family member :-)).

    • February 27, 2012 5:48 pm

      I know keith didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. I was just surprised by his answer. But hopefully I can give him a family one day soon.

  6. February 27, 2012 11:08 am

    I don’t think you need to have children to be considered a family. My boyfriend and I have been together for well over two years now, and are planning to get married after we graduate college. Our relationship is so serious, we’ve started to consider ourselves our own little family. He has told his mom, especially when he made a very big important decision, that he made it for his own little family. Now his mom thought I was pregnant and freaked out, but we told her that we weren’t that stupid since we’re still in college. We are each other’s family. And then in about five-ten years the term will apply to us even more because we will have kids. You and Keith are your own little family.

  7. February 27, 2012 1:01 pm

    Kelly, I think family is hard to define. Family in my opinion has nothing to do with biology. Families are people who you turn to in good and bad times, they are the people who love, and support you. They have your back, your best interest at heart. They are the people who when the great things happen you want them with you and when the difficult days dawn they comfort you. In my world, familiy are people bound by love and not by a legal contract (marriage) or because they’ve come from the same uterus. If we define family only in those terms it leaves many people wondering what they are to one another….jmo.

  8. February 27, 2012 4:21 pm

    I definitely don’t think you have to have kids to be a family. Just the two of you are a family! Oh, and don’t forget your chickens!! 😉 Remind Keith of that- it’s you + Keith + the chickens= family!!
    But in all seriousness, I really think when the two of you got married you started your own little family, even if it’s just the two of you. You support each other day in & day out, you enjoy each other’s company & you love unconditionally. It’s that what a ‘family’ is all about?

  9. February 28, 2012 9:18 pm

    A family is a group of people who choose to be with one another, live together, grow together and spend time together. Do they have to be related? No. Do they have to be married? No. Do children have to be invovled? No.

    You and Keith are for sure a family. My hubby and I were a family before little man came along. Jackson just made our family bigger.

  10. Gillian permalink
    March 3, 2012 7:59 pm

    In nursing school , we have been studying family units. According to my textbook , the loosest definition of a family is a group of who are emotionally bonded. I think that you don’t need children to be a family. In my eyes , friends are a family or roommates.

    The day you start dating is the day you become a family. Two people who share a connection that no one else can truly understand completely.

  11. kelly permalink
    March 5, 2012 6:32 pm

    I passed my 25th wedding anniversary last August and am childless by choice. Do I consider us a family? Absolutely!!!

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