The Nuclear Familyay


Growing up, I was subjected to the concept of “the nuclear family.”  This idealized version of family life is a house with a white picket fence, a mom, a dad, 2.3 children, 1.8 dogs, and 1.1 cats.  As a person aged, the nuclear family changed.  Instead of some portion of the 2.3 children, you became either the mom or dad and had 2.3 children, 1.8 dogs, 1.1 cats, and a house with a white picket fence.

However, even as a school child, I knew I was going to fail to grow up and have a “nuclear family.”  The impression was that I was going to die alone with 17.9 cats and 8.5 dogs and maybe a pig named Wilbur.  And when I died alone, I was going to eaten by said animals.  I was destined to be “the crazy cat lady” because I did not want children.

Surprisingly, when I told people that I was not having children, they all told me the same thing “you’ll grow out of it and want your own some day.”  Um, no, actually, I won’t.  When a child knows at the tender age of five years old that children are a pain in the ass, there’s a good chance they aren’t going to “grow out of it.”  At 34, I have not “grown out of it.”  If anything, I have become more steadfast in my convictions that I do not want children.

The other day, a Facebook friend of mine, one who grew up with the concept of “the nuclear family,” messaged me to ask when my SO and I were going to start reproducing.  She seemed truly appalled when I told her never.  Her immediate response was “why don’t you want children?”  Wow, that’s a long conversation… I mean long… Very long… I could write a novel regarding all the reasons I don’t want children.  But isn’t the fact that I don’t want them enough?  That should be the first sign that I am not parenting material.  She said she felt sorry for me.  I told her I was sorry that my non-conforming, non-nuclear family wasn’t good enough for her and de-friended her.  She messaged me to apologize later, but… well… I get tired of that crap.  And I get it a lot.

Most people don’t realize that I am not going to die alone and be eaten by a herd of animals while I wait for some neighbor to notice my indoor/outdoor cats are covered in dried blood.  There is the chance that my SO will out live me.  Yeah, he’s a guy and women tend to live longer, but there is always that chance.

But it is my non-conforming, non-nuclear family that will really save my rotting corpse from being devoured by psychotic, starving animals.  I helped raise two nephews.  One doesn’t like me much, but the other does.  And I’m close to the one that does like me.  So, I didn’t spread my legs and have the alien-like parasite drop to the ground… In some ways, I think of him as a surrogate child (and it provided me with more reasons to not have children).  I must have had some impact on him as well, most years, he buys me Father’s Day gifts.  That’s strange and we all know it, but it is less about “being a father” and more about my role in his life.

It started like this: my mother took care of “Mother’s in the Classroom” when the kids were in school, but my nephews’ father wasn’t in the picture and the school did “Donuts with Dads.”  I tucked away my I am Woman pride and went to the assistant principal to see if I could attend “Donuts with Dads” in place of their father.  After all, there wasn’t an “Aunt Day,” the kids wanted someone to attend, and I like donuts.  The assistant principal agreed, although she admitted she was surprised that I would take on such a chore, I would be surrounded by fathers of children in classrooms, not mothers.  It became a running joke with the boys and me.  Then one year, the oldest one bought me a Father’s Day gift for all the times I went to Donuts for Dads and attended other “father functions” at school for him.  Despite being grown, he still does it.

So, I don’t have a “nuclear family” by the strictest definition… does it matter?  Like all families, my family life is occasionally strained and occasionally weird, but we are still a family.  By the way, I wish they would stop teaching that crap… No family fits perfectly into the mold.  As humans, we expect variation, so why do we keep teaching some strange conformation to an insane ideal that has never been a very functional model of a family?

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3 Comments

  1. what is family?

     /  January 14, 2015

    But is the “nuclear” family really an accurate picture for any family these days? The “nuclear family” most likely includes step parents, step siblings, and step grandparents, (shoot – all things step!). Or if a parent doesn’t remarry, then you have single parent families, which doesn’t fit the mold either. Mom, Dad, brother, sister is a 50s ideal that doesn’t seem to exist today.

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  2. The “nuclear” family doesn’t exist today because our society is constantly in flux – I don’t have kids and won’t be having kids – I do have plenty of nieces and nephews to spoil and I’m quite happy doing that and they graciously receive all my gifts (and I mean that in a good way -they really are thankful). If someone told me they weren’t having kids – I’d leave it at that – if they want to share why – that is their business…lol – some people can’t have children and want them and I would not want to offend them – while there are others who can have kids but don’t want them and I don’t want to offend them either. It’s a personal choice and we all need to learn to let people make their choices and not condemn them for the choices they make.

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  3. T.Vogt

     /  January 15, 2015

    Had the Nuke Family, Now have a Big Brother who is someone I’d shoot if he came within 100 yards of me or my Mom or Son..he’s nothing but an abusive ass chip off the old block.. you know the kind who takes everything of value belittles and just plaing beats the heck out of you for saying your are a SICK F*CK.. Have the dad that decided he’d gotten everytthing his wife could pay for and left her holding the bag while I was a teen, at 18 he told me to abort my son and grow up.. well I didn’t and I struggled but I have a 30 + yr old I am PROUD OF.. he doesn’t have a SO that he has told me about, I don’t give a crap if it’s male or female I just want him happy.. After two failed marriages I am happier with my BOB then I ever was with a SO, last one I had to take care of him and his senile mother for over 12 yrs and close to 15 yrs before I paid for the divorce, just to have him snidly remark he sold the house and I can’t have any of it.. then call me up I need you to sign off the deed to the lake property I told him when hell has snowballs….I wanna be the CAT Lady.. I like being left alone to read, I don’t need the Social scene that so many try to drag me out into.. my kid didn’t have that nuke family and he is kinder then anyone else I know.. So NUKE the family that you don’t want, keep the ones that you so, find your Soul Sister on line.. and just live the way you want.. you’ll last longer..

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