On marriage and families

I’m feeling pensive tonight. No particular reason, but I can’t sleep, so I’m going to subject you guys to my rambles.

I can’t sleep tonight because all I can think about is how wonderful my wedding was, and how long ago it already seems. That two week whirlwind trip to Europe just made it seem like October could have been a wonderful year. Now it’s far enough in the past in my brain’s clock that I’m starting to actually process what happened, how I went from being a fiancee to a wife, changed my name (well, I’m working on that one, really. It will probably be a while before that’s done), and gained some family members.

For the first time in my life, it actually occurred to me that any children I have will have family members that my twin sister’s children wouldn’t. Somehow I had always thought of our future children as interchangeable. That probably makes me sound like a freak, but I guess it’s a sign that my new family is a real family now, instead of the ghosty vague forms little girls have in place of their future husbands and wedding guests.

Husband and I are starting to combine our finances, and we bought a new bed, and we have a whole set of china, and all kinds of adult things. So in a way, things seem different. In a way, I’m having a bit of post-wedding cold feet. Beforehand, it was so exciting and I love him so much, that marrying him was just the obvious answer. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying I wish I didn’t marry him, just that now that it’s done, I’m able to deal with the enormity of it in a way I couldn’t before. We’re married and I’m his wife and he’s my husband and we’re responsible for each other.

And then there are all those cultural narratives about what being married means and how we should be a nuclear family unit and I should now all of a sudden start wanting a baby. Not that anybody has outright said this, except my mom, but it’s one of those things people say “get married and start a family.” As if it’s something that happens all at once.

But what’s with the nuclear family ideal? How on earth can my husband and I “start a family” when we’ve just invited each other into ours? Don’t we already have a family and not need to start one from scratch? Why is making a baby starting a family?

I’m not really into the nuclear family structure. That probably comes mostly from my twin sister, who I love so dearly, and who lives with me and my husband. She and I lived together far longer than he and I have, and she’s lived with us the whole time we’ve lived together. I don’t really ever intend to live apart from her if I can help it. People are always telling us that it’s a necessity that she and I will part ways someday, as if it’s a given because all kinds of children want to live with their siblings when they grow up, but then everyone grows up and realizes that’s silly. But why not? If I love her and she loves me and she loves my husband and he loves her and we all three love her boyfriend, why shouldn’t we live together? Why should I ever live apart from either of the two most important people to me? I lived apart from my husband for 5 years, and that was horrible.

I once told someone I was annoyed because my sister’s boss and everyone have been asking her when she’s moving out, and then they are confused when she says she isn’t going to. He said, “She shouldn’t have to, as long as you aren’t starting a family right away.” Which just confused me even more, because why would you ever want fewer adults around when there’s a baby to be taken care of?

But there’s another reason besides my sister that I don’t really believe in the nuclear family structure. I don’t think it’s the way the human brain is built. We’re social creatures, and we tend to lean on different people for different things. I can go to my sister for gossip, and my husband for architectural design kinds of conversations. He doesn’t want the gossip, so it gives him a chance to watch the sports he likes but I don’t while she and I chat.

I was raised in the suburbs, and I saw the nuclear family making everyone lonely and depressed. If you only have one person who is supposed to be your everything, what happens when you and that person are fighting? What if it’s the two of you and a really unhappy set of teenagers? There’s nowhere to diffuse the tension, so it just swirls around the nuclear family like a giant ball of too many electrons, making it have a negative charge. But link up with more people, and maybe you get a stable molecule, and the electrons can swap around between atoms so that some of the tension from one place can diffuse in another, and the people can be happier. I just don’t see how one person could ever be enough for anybody.

My parents lived in a nuclear family my whole childhood. They rarely went out with friends, and we saw their families only once or twice a year. They were miserable. After I moved out, my brother and his son and his father moved to live near them, then my aunt went as well. And then instead of an unhappy two, they were six. And my mom could talk to my aunt when she was really upset with my nephew, or my dad could talk to my brother’s dad or my aunt, and everyone had someone to talk to, and they were all much happier.

So I don’t think my husband and I have started a family at all, or that we will when/if we have babies. I don’t think it’s even possible. We already have families. And I intend to keep our non-nuclear family structure together, me and my sister and my husband.

And that’s enough late night ramblings for today.


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