What makes a family?

By Dann Alexander 

Who really has the right to define “family”? Why is it that the very definition of family is somehow authored to be inclusive of having children? It’s still bothersome to many that have chosen not to have children.

It would be difficult not to notice that for the most part, when someone refers to “having a family”, they tend to mean a household that has children. This is because we live in a world that is still largely pro-natalist, showing little respect for the choice of people who wish not to procreate.

Governments in all democratic societies especially are aware of it through default. Many social programs and benefits that are meant to be for families are for households of people with children. This basic defining of family effectively singles out couples who have no children whether by choice or not.

When political campaigns are in full swing, parties and their spokespeople will often talk about proposed plans that are about helping families. When they say helping families, they usually mean helping households with children. It should be about helping people. Regardless of the personal choice they make. It should be regardless of what government might define as a family.

Having this definition of a family be so generic is something I am calling a long-term wrong-term. The current definition might come across as silently disrespectful. It is a snub to those of us who have made the choice not to have children. It can be a very hurtful thing for couples who are trying to have children and dream of having the generic common version of a family. They too consider themselves a family and want to be treated as such.

Two people in a household with no children are a family. Someone single who might be living alone or with a beloved pet, are a family. People who might have their elder relatives living with them can be called a family. Family is defined by the individual or individuals that make up a household.

I have learned especially over the last few years that family also means the people outside of your household that you care about. I do not necessarily mean extended relatives, although it no doubt would apply to many readers. In my instance, I am referring to friends who are there for you during times of trouble. People whose shoulder you have leaned on for support. People who have picked you up after you have been knocked down. Those people can be called part of your family too.

Based just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada, Dann Alexander is the Author of Planned UnParenthood – Creating a Life Without Procreating which is available at Amazon and other online retailers. Twitter @WriterDann

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