Redefining Family

I’ve been thinking about family after a conversation I had.

“When is your Anniversary?”

I looked down at my daughter’s young friend wondering if I had heard her correctly. I asked her to repeat herself.

- Advertisement -

“Your anniversary. When you and your husband were married.”

Yup, I had heard her correctly. Feeling a bit stunned that an eight-year-old was interested in such things, I stammered out “Well, we’re not technically married, so we don’t really have an anniversary.”

She looked confused.

“But if you’re not married, then how did you have her?!” She motioned towards my daughter.

The already-awkward conversation became even more awkward as I wondered how much I was responsible for telling her about how you didn’t need to have a marriage certificate to create a life.

“Well, um, you don’t have to be married to have a baby…” I managed to tell her, feeling my face becoming flushed.

The young girl still looked quite alarmed, and I could tell she was about to ask more questions I wasn’t at all prepared to answer. Thankfully a friend standing nearby picked up on the conversation and quickly interjected.

“Parents and families all look different,” she explained. “Not everyone is married, and some used to be married but aren’t any longer.”

Family Looks Different

And there it was. Parents and families all look different.

I’ll never know if that young girl went home and announced to her parents that her friend’s parents weren’t married, but I didn’t get any messages from them asking for clarification or saying she couldn’t hang out with my child any longer. I’m hoping if she did tell her parents, they explained that families come in all shapes and sizes.

Because that’s the thing—over time, the definition of family has drastically shifted. Gone are the days of families consisting strictly of a married heterosexual couple and their children. Today it’s not uncommon for children to have two dads, two moms, or any other adult figure(s) raising them. Grandparents or other adults sometimes step in to raise children when the parents need help. And, as in our case, a growing number of couples choose not to get married before they start a family.

I grew up in the 1980s with divorced parents, as did almost half of my friends. Some of us had step-parents and step-siblings, while others lived with a single parent. I still see this reflected in some of my child’s friends, and I imagine I will see it even more as she gets older.

As house prices rise many people are choosing to have grandparents, other family members or even friends live with them. This then creates a whole new type of family.

The point is that a family certainly doesn’t have to be “traditional” to be considered a family. Families are made up of care and love, no matter the size or composition.

Erika Palmer
Erika Palmer
Erika Palmer is a writer living in Victoria with her husband and daughter. She believes most problems can be solved with a good cup of tea and a huge piece of chocolate.