The older I get, the more babies there are around me. And the more babies there are around me, the more I realize that they are part of my extended family, regardless of whether or not there’s a blood relation. I may not have babies myself, but I have a community of relations, friends, children, collaborators and even pets, and we all, quite, generously, take care of each other.
I’ve previously written about asking women why they don’t have kids, but I’d like to make a further suggestion in the same vein. A suggestion inspired by my belief that can become more compassionate people by simply being more careful with the words we use.
Rather than talking about “having kids”, let’s talk about “having a family” instead.
If only because it allows you to answer in such a wonderful variety of ways, and without having to refer back to your ovaries (or lack thereof).
This is where the word geek in me breaks out.
First, “family” is a far more inclusive term. Yes, if you look up “family” in the dictionary, it does strictly refer to bloodlines. However, in recent years, common use of the word has become more fluid to reflect the different kinds of relationships that comprise our current reality.
“Family” now extends well beyond siblings, cousins and grandchildren, but “having kids” still focuses on the biological imperative. More specifically, it refers to the physical act of making another life. Otherwise, we talk about “adopting” or “fostering” a child. The language clearly describes how children come into your life.
By talking about “having a family”, we avoid making some women feel less than because they couldn’t/didn’t/didn’t want to have biological children.
We also validate valuable relationships that childless women have with their nieces and nephews, the children of friends and yes, even pets. All relationships, regardless of blood relation, have the ability to nourish the world, so why put the focus on biological ties?
The switch in wording also bypasses the necessity of explaining how a child came into your life. Should it really matter whether you gave birth to your son or he was adopted? The process of raising, loving and nurturing a child is the same, so why make a distinction?
Finally, a different wording allows you to answer the question according to your own meaning of family – and not be constrained to the narrow frame of discussion that another person defines.
They say that the words you choose empower you. This one little change could also help you empower others.