Is it still a family without kids?

Yesterday as I looked out at the falling snow and had only the dog to tell about it, I got to thinking that I have done pretty well with the career side of my life and with my own personal growth, but have totally failed at the family side. Here I am in my late 50s with no kids, no grandkids, and no husband, just a dog. What’s left of my birth family is far away. Sure, I have lots of friends, but it’s not the same. When you grow up, get married and have kids, it’s not just about finding a man or giving birth; it’s about creating a family. Which apparently I did not do. Or maybe I was just unlucky to lose two husbands, one through divorce, and one through death.

This is so depressing I probably should delete it, but let’s talk about what makes a family. We all know that “family” is a code word for children. When the church holds a “family Halloween party,” I know it’s going to be all about kids. Sure, it’s politically correct to talk about all kinds of formations: two moms and a child, a dad and a child, a childless couple with three cats, etc. But that’s not what most people mean by “family.”

What really makes a family? I think it’s a group of people you can count on and feel completely at home with because you’re all woven from the same cloth. You usually share a history, culture, beliefs and biology, but maybe you can make a family without the biology part.

My dictionary’s first definition of family says it’s “a group of individuals living under one roof.” That’s pretty broad. Another definition talks about people or animals “deriving from common stock.” Hmm.

What do you think? What is a family? If you don’t have children, how do you create one? I’d love to hear your comments.

19 thoughts on “Is it still a family without kids?

  1. This is one of the umpteen reasons I want children. Growing up, there were always many memories and things going on with so many of us. Life was busy and seemed much filled with love then. Now it is boring and lonely at 36 and childless but married. As I get older it (family) shrinks. So yes, to me family = children at this point in my life. Ten years ago I would have said friends and adventures were my family. Glad you posted this. Anonymous, Newly Blue


  2. I am a married Japanese woman without children by circumstance. My husband is from New York and we have been living in Japan for three years now. After several IVF treatments, we stopped to seek professional help. Since my parents and my brother passed away, my husband and my lovely dog are my family. When I start thinking about what if my husband is gone before me (he is 8 years younger though), I would be totally left alone….. At age 44, I have started to think about where we could be buried and who would be taking care of such things.I know I am selfish but I keep telling my husband that he should live a bit longer than me………Thank you for your post that makes me think…..what is family…..


  3. This is such a great question, and one I struggle with as my husband and I are trying to make the decision of whether to have kids. We have tons of great friends, but it's not really a replacement for the bonding that takes place in a family, where you can act like a complete idiot and wear your pajamas all day, and they'll still love you. The problem is – neither of us likes kids, and I have no desire to have a baby or raise one right now. We've actually talked about adopting older children once we get in our mid-forties, so we can still live our lives and accomplish everything we want. But that still won't be the same as raising a family from birth. Sorry, this comment wasn't much help – I guess my answer is “I have no idea!”


  4. “Life was busy and seems much filled with love then – now it is boring and lonely at 36 and childless but married.”This is what I am fearing most. My husband insists on me leaving him so I can have a full family with kids and joy. We love each other so deeply, but still he says that there are phases in the life and if you're stuck in one – the life will be boring and will lack new impressions and experience. So most probably the way Newly Blue has is going to happen with us.As for me – I consider us to be a family – even though it’s only 2 of us. It’s a pity that the society around has another point of view expecting from us to complete the family by kids, which makes us feel losers or freaks (of course they don’t know the real reason for not having children).


  5. Family means anyone you're related to by blood/law(marriage, adoption, etc.)/friendship, whether your connection with them is “direct” or “indirect” (direct example: your father // indirect example: your brother's mother-in-law). Having children does not “start” a family; it “continues” it, and marriage by itself, with or without children, conjoins families via affinity. The parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, etc of each spouse are now together as one whole family. Animals count too. There are many ways of gaining more family. Marriage and having children are just two of those many methods, but there are other options.


  6. I was looking out the window yesterday thinking similar thoughts about family — here it is almost Christmas, and I will see almost all of my family in the next few weeks — but here I am in my home with my husband and pets feeling like I am missing out on having a family. It is not about being around and having fun with kids — it is about passing down the legacy, the memories from my childhood and melding them with those of my husband, and creating something new that somehow marches forward in time. That is what I imagine I could have had…


  7. I never worry about not having children, being married and at 46 never felt that I am missing out. What I have found is that it is others’ fear of what they perceive is the right thing to have say and do with their life, them trying to convince me I want the same thing. There are no guarantees in life. Enjoy what you have when you have it. If you feel sad and lonely, take heart because I have met some very unhappy families and kids in my life. Learn to enjoy yourself. Don`t think so deeply about what you don`t have. The key is to think what you do have. xx


  8. This is so encouraging, Anonymous. We are “childless by marriage” as well, and the writer her and the commentators have put all my thoughts and feelings into words. You have given a bit of reassurance that we are on the right track of just enjoying each other and focusing on what we have, not on what we don't. But in some moments, the truth remains that we want a child. Babysitting is another issue. 🙂


  9. Many years ago I got married. The cliche goes that the wife is the wasteful one who needs to be supervised and watched or else everyone would end up on the street poor. Instead, I was constantly worried about paying the bills on our double income, both enlisted in the Army. His philosophy was that when you get money, you should “live for today.” I said we should look out for our family. He said, “We don't have kids. We're not a family.” I was dumbfounded, hurt and realized just how close I came to being trapped with such a narrow-minded selfish idiot.He's now near 50 and living in a dilapidated trailer with a woman who never graduated HS.Be wary of any man or woman who won't see you as family if there are no children. Their loyalties will be low.


  10. Anonymous July 16, I just want to say, “Amen!!!” I remember having the same disagreement with my first husband. In our culture, the word “family” seems to be code for having children, but we can be families without them. I'm so glad you got away from this guy.


  11. I've been thinking about this question a lot lately. I just got married this year. I thought we should try to have kids as soon as possible as my husband is 44. However, when we started talking about this, he told me he is not sure about having a baby anymore. The majority of his concern is his age. He worries he won't have enough energy to spend time with the kids and it will not make him a good father. I started to think, are we still a family? What should I live on? What is my goal in my life?Children are not something that I really want to have now. However, I am not sure if I am OK with being childless. My husband is 13 years older than me. I feel sad when I think of how I would be left alone when he is gone. If we don't try it now, I am not sure if I will regret it when we are older and can't do that anymore.I feel really sad every time I think about this….


  12. I'm so sorry, Anon. It sounds like you have a lot of things to figure out. Is there someone you can talk to, a friend, a counselor, a family member? Remember, nothing is set in stone. Things can change.


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