Big Families Versus Small Families

One of the strangest comments I've received when breaking the news of the twins is, "Now you have an instant family!"

This reaction has surprised me quite a bit. If the arrival of the twins creates an "instant family" then what, exactly, did I have before?

Didn't I achieve "family status" once I entered a committed relationship with my husband? There are many who believe a family isn't a real "family" unless a couple has children. I think otherwise.

Didn't I enlarge my family once my daughter arrived? Apparently, some of my friends and relatives either didn't think I did, or else thought it inadequate in size, prior to the twin news.

I never wanted a large family of my own. I have lived in an extremely close (often too close) large extended family my entire life. Almost every single one of them will walk across hot coals to help just about every single other member. They have lavished me with love and support in its various forms since the day I was born. They now do the same for my husband and my daughter. But at times, we all pay a price for this closeness.

My immediate family was a small one (although with my mother's various marriages throughout the years, it often grew temporarily with the addition of step-brothers and step-sisters). I have one full sibling. My parents divorced when I was very young, so my daily life didn't include my father. Two has always seemed like a good number of children to have. Two is affordable and manageable, with time enough to spend one-on-one with each of them. Each child would have one sibling. And most importantly, the parents are not outnumbered.

But I'm now in the position of having the "big" family, the so-called "instant family," I never wanted. Of course, I will fervently love the twins as much as I love Isabella (even though that's hard for me to imagine that now), but the definition of what constitutes a family is still a puzzling one for me.

Is having two children still considered a small family in this day and age? Is having one (or zero) children not considered a family at all?

Why is it that "family" is a label that only seems to apply to a big (apparently, this means more than two children) family?

In your opinion, what creates a family?

14 Responses to “Big Families Versus Small Families”

  1. # Blogger Jesser

    I dunno... good question. I guess for me it's the connections to people. I know people who are single who treat each other like family. They spend holidays together, keep spare keys for each other, and are the "in case of emergency" contacts for each other ... and most importantly, they'd do anyting for one another, no questions asked. I wanted a traditional family ... husband and kids and I'm lucky enough to have that in my life. But I think there are all kinds of family. So cheesily, I guess it's the love. ;)  

  2. # Blogger Christine

    For me, I already considered Tony and me a "family" under whatever definition applicable. And we aren't even married yet, becasue frankly, I don't give a damn about the piece of paper that will make us "official." Indeed we often tell the cat to go to "mommy" or "daddy." Granted, it's mostly joking, but I think it's a little indicative of our relationship. Further, our family includes the extended family, mine being significantly larger. But I swear my father likes Tony probably more than he likes me, and almost certainly more than I like Tony on a good many days.

    It's funny I wouldn't use "instant family" with you, because (1) it's twins and (2) you already had Isabella. I won't lie, not to detract from you and Rich as your own family, had this been your first pregnancy and you told me you were having septuplets, I may certainly have said something along the lines of, "Whoa, instant family!" But that is clearly not your situation, and in your situation, a mere congratulations would be sufficient.  

  3. # Blogger Christine

    A congratulations and an offer of something soothing to drink, a cookie, and an hour with Isabella to give you a break. Of course. ;)  

  4. # Anonymous Ness

    I definitely think children constitutes a family. If you are married to someone, and childless, and get divorced - chances are you'll never see that person again - I mean, why would you? But when there are children involved, that person becomes the 'other parent' of your child. While I do think 1 child at least - creates family - I don't know why people would say twins is instant family - I know plenty of people who have twins (first) and want more after that - apparently two isn't enough these days. I even over heard a mom at my eldest's playgroup, after announcing her third pregnancy to everyone - saying, "Well, you know, they say that 'three' is the new 'two' you know!" It *is*?? Oh dear, well then I'm destined to be out of style forever!  

  5. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    I guess when I hear the word "family," I automatically think of at least one child being in the picture. Husbands and wives often say, "We're thinking of starting a family."

    But I like Jesser's answer. A "family" is made up of the people to whom you feel closest, not necessarily blood relatives or family-by-marriage.

    BTW - Ian and I got a lot of flack for deciding to have three children. At one point, we had wanted four. But we feared so much what others would say (namely his parents) that we decided three is enough. (and indeed it is!)  

  6. # Blogger Tracey

    A married couple. That's it. Or, a committed couple.

    I think most people mean "instant family" when twins are announced that your family will grow much bigger much faster.

    FWIW, I don't consider 3 big. Or four, really. I think a "big" family, in today's standards, is 5 or more. But, I grew up with 3, so a family of 2 just felt unfinished, to me.  

  7. # Blogger Marie

    I didn't feel like a family til we had our son. And I think a "big" family is relative... I grew up with 2 sisters, so to me that's normal, not big! We were close to our cousins, who had 5 kids... now that felt like a big family to me.  

  8. # Blogger Chas

    I guess my own personal view on family is typically people that are related...either by blood or marriage. I didn't really think of Jason as family until we actually got married, but once we took that step and it was just the two of us on our own...I definitely considered us family. There was a lot of time for us when we thought it would just be the two of us forever, and I think it would have hurt for someone to say that we weren't a family b/c we didn't have kids. I do know that there are lots of families out there that aren't married though. Unmarried couples with children, single moms or dads raising the kids on their own, etc....all families.

    I haven't had anyone give me the "instant family" comment. It isn't really appropriate at any time, but it almost seems more appropriate for someone who marries a guy/girl who already has children. Maybe they just mean that you've instantly completed your family...though I guess in your case one baby would have done that as well.  

  9. # Blogger Mom24

    I still think it's strange that because we have 4 children people sometimes acts like we're the Duggar's or something. I don't think of us as being a big family.

    When my son got married, her side wanted a prenup (she comes from money). I admit that whole thing bothered me greatly, because I believe you don't go into marriage planning for it to fail. What REALLY bugged me though, is when I found out that part of the language they wanted used was basically they were not a "real family" until they had children. What? Bullshit. When a man and a wife commit the rest of their lives to each other, I think they're a family. Anything else? Gravy.  

  10. # Anonymous Anonymous

    The "old school" version of a family is mom, dad, and 2 kids. Maybe a dog. The "real" version of today's family can look like anything. It can be grandma, a kid, and a stepdad. It can be 2 men who have been together for years and love each other like any other married hetero couple. It can be a bunch of teenagers who have to raise each other because their parents are no longer alive. There is no single definition of family.  

  11. # Blogger g&c boyarko family

    Hi Kristi, I am sort-of a lurker :) who got your blog site from Sasha (who I know through our husbands). Personally, I think one person can be a family simply by having close relationships with other people...even purely non-blood relations. I know plenty of people who are much more part of a family with their non-blood relations than they ever could have been with those with whom they share blood lines. I think that in today's world, any and all families (of any size) are precious.  

  12. # Blogger Damselfly

    I might have said something like "instant family" when discussing twins a couple times. So I suppose I am guilty. :( I think it was just a saying.

    But I believe the way you do. Once at a job, a retirement-age person asked me if I had a family and I told him yes. Then he asked me how old my children were. I told him I didn't have any children, but I had a husband, and my stepmother, brother and grandmother were in town. I'm sure he didn't expect that at all!  

  13. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I think "family" is defined by love. But I personally did not feel like a family until R and I added to our unit with Rocky (our chihuahua). Somehow the addition of animals we shared responsibility for made me feel more familial with him.

    I doubt people mean anything by their comment other than just a desire to add a positive spin on the whole having twins thing. I certainly envy the fact that you will not have to have another pregnancy to get the three I want!  

  14. # Blogger Shannon

    to me a family starts with a married couple and then adds on with pets or kids... another family can start with close friends that might not have anyone else...

    but I think a family is anything anymore... but for 7 years Jeremy and I had no kids... and someone said too bad you don't have a family of your own... I went off... what the heck was Jeremy to me? What are my parents and sister... I told him to bite me lol...  

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