Wednesday, March 17, 2010

the meaning of family

Lately--and I don't know if it's because I'm infertile or this is actually happening--it seems as if society and the media are very specific about the meaning of family. You get married, you buy a home, and then you start a family. But wait, weren't you a family before?

We all know that infertility makes us feel like less of a man or a woman. If you are a woman and you never produce children, you are barren. When you are older, you are a spinster. The crazy cat or dog lady. The mean old witch who yells at the neighborhood children to "get out of the flower bed" because, really, that's all you have left. If you are a man and you never father children, you will have no one to pass your genes onto. Your last name will not live on, at least not through your own doing.

But infertility also makes you feel like less of a family. The rules set forth by society draw a clear line: If you are childless, you are likely never going to be called a family. In order to complete that circle, you need to be a married man and woman who have procreated to create their own child.

You never see commercials referring to see child-free couples as a family. Or gay and lesbian couples. Or couples who try for years to have a baby and who end up adopting after several failed IVF cycles. These are not happy or "normal" stories, therefore they aren't marketable to the general public. Yet, these people live underneath the same roof. They share love, happiness, money, memories, and an everlasting bond.

What makes them so different?

What makes us so different?

15 comments:

Crossed Fingers said...

I was thinking that same thing not too long ago. I was reading an article in a magazine that profiled 10 different "families" and the last family was just a married couple without children. I thought to myself - "That's not a family" and then stopped and said "WTF, yes they are and where did THAT come from?"

I have to admit - society is brainwashing me into thinking a couple without children isn't a family. DH is my family...hopefully someday we'll have kids but he is the family I picked for myself.

Nicole said...

I saw my own perspective on this morph early into our IF. In the early days, we started out by praying that we could please be blessed to start our family. It began to eat at me once we realized we were IF and that it might be a while before we were parents. After some time we talked about it and made the decision to nix that phrase from all prayers or conversation. We started saying "Add children to our family". I'm so with you that childless couples ARE a family of two, no less than any larger family.

ifcrossroads said...

You and Joey are a family. Period. And it's B-S that the steryotype in society says that a family is a mother, father and a child. It's total crap.

Dear Diary said...

Hi, just started reading your blog. It's so true nobody considers you a family until you have a baby. But I don't believe that's true at all. My husband and I (and our dog too) are a family, wether people want to see it that way or not. Society trys to change things but you and your hubby are a family too.

Kandid Kelli said...

No one used to consider E & Me a family, but we were, just a different kind- I think its sad that to be a family you have to have a mom, dad and child. Keep pressing forward. You and Joey are a family. :)

Dawn said...

This is so interesting. I've never really thought of that, but I suppose you're right about how society views a family. I've always thought of us as a family of two, but I guess that society would view us differently. What crap! For what it's worth, I think you and Joey sound like a great family!

liberalgranolagirl said...

I have noticed that as well, which is why I appreciate when the media goes against that-like in Modern Family with the gay couple who adopted a Chinese baby. It's also why I love the HBO special "A Family is a Family is a Family." I cried all the way through it.

I've always looked at family as including the family I have chosen, which includes my husband, our furbabies and friends.

JC said...

Yup, this pisses me off too. Like, are me and F not a family, and will we never be a family unless we have a child. Bla. Good luck at closing tomorrow! Hope you get to celebrate a little.

The Ashes said...

My boyfriend and I aren't even married, but we live under the same roof and we love each other, and I consider us to be a family.
Families are about love, and sharing life. Its that simple

Jin said...

I think the definition is slowly starting to change. I know you mean more IF related, but with divorce and everything I've been seeing more "families" be the aunts/uncles/grandparents raising the kids, all generations under a roof, a single parent, whether by choice, bad breakup, divorce, and gay and straight couples with or without adopted/biological kids. Maybe it's the channels I watch or the company I keep but for some years now the definition of "mom, dad, kids" is not the only definition of family.

The Baby Race said...

I completely agree with you. People are always asking when we're going to start a family, but we already started one when we got married. My husband and I are a family!

Ashley said...

Very true. I've noticed and wondered the same thing.

S.I.F. said...

Very thought provoking... and maybe even a little heart wrenching. I am even less of a family since it is just me.

I am so on my way to crazy cat lady status! :)

Glass Case of Emotion said...

I agree! Pete and I are a family, which we would like to expand.

On a semi-unrelated note though, filling out the census was depressing.

Waiting Lisa said...

You are absolutely right.

And I think barren might be my least favorite word ever.

Adam and I often refer to us and our cats as a family. :)