AlmostFLYin2 is a single person who found Poly as a member of a quad. Even though her long term marriage ended due to that relationship, she has realized that the Poly lifestyle is still something she is open to. She is breaking into the world of single life as an adult for the first time after a 14 year relationship. She has 2 kids she also has to coordinate her time for. She is tackling not only the world of dating as a Single mom with baggage, but also trying to find Poly relationships while discovering a new sense of self at the same time. She will be sharing the milestones and ideas she has on the entire journey by using quotes that she has found that fit the situation.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

What is a Family?

When someone thinks of a family, who does that person think of? I think of my parents, my brother and my children like many people do. I also think of the other people who have acted like family in my life. This includes close friends and significant others who are not associated with me by marriage or blood, but only by the bonds of a close friendship. I believe families should be defined by the relationships within them, not just by the participants’ blood ties, birth designations, legal or religious standard definitions.

Merriam-Webster online (2007), defines “Family” as a noun, meaning, a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head: a household. This definition suggests a leadership and a location in common, but not blood ties. I find this to be very pertinent to my belief in what a family truly is. (2007) lists “Family” as a noun as well and as any group of persons closely related as by blood, parents, children, uncles, aunts and cousins. This definition addresses the blood ties of a family. There are many different types of families that can be found, throughout time and across geographic borders. The myriad of lifestyles and living arrangements is widely varied and can be centered on much more than blood relations. A family can be focused on community, need, or lifestyle choices. A family can be supportive for both the children and the adults who are participating as well. The subject of family can also be an extremely controversial topic. Many have strong beliefs on both sides of what an acceptable family is or is not. I believe that families are made up of all types of people in every imaginable combination.

There are many people who believe in only the strictest ideals of family. They have found these definitions in various religious texts, too various to mention. They hold a strong belief that anything other than those relationship types do not qualify as a “family”, merely an aberration of the idea and a sin. They feel it is the worst crime imaginable. Only the complete adherence to phrases they find in religious doctrine that states, that only a marriage of 1 man and 1 woman, is a legitimate union. They are steadfast that only this arrangement can make a family. This is also believed to be the only way to uphold the “sanctity of marriage and family” is to only accept this type of union. The government has also upheld this standard by issuing laws that only allow for legal pairings between 1 man and 1 woman. There are strict laws against gay and plural marriages in most states. There is also a lack of benefits to extended family members. Some of those benefits include access to affordable health insurance, survivors’ benefits and even the right to visit a significant other in the hospital if there is no relation to them by blood or marriage. Anyone who does not fall into the legal definition of family is summarily excluded from these basic rights. Why is this group allowed to set the parameters for everyone?

Historically large families were commonplace. An extended family arrangement led to a better ability to provide for all members. When the responsibilities were split between generations, it left a better family environment for the youngest members and security and safety for the senior members. Currently, Van Hook and Glick (2007) found that it is common for extended families in Mexico as well as recent immigrants to the United States to share housing. They also found that it is common in the United States for non-kin immigrants to reside together, a practice which is not as common in Mexico. Even in the last few generations there are still found to be large, modern, farm families. This was due to having additional hands to help with the farm work. Again the non-traditional family is present. When additional generations are added it is still accepted as a family.

Many people do not view same sex unions as families. Whether official or not, they are fighting for recognition and legal acceptance. Foster (2007) found that children in lesbian led families have an equally stable sexual identity, are more tolerant of other peoples differences and were more emotionally balanced than children in heterosexual partnerships. The author proposes that this is due in part to the increased relationship satisfaction, the lack of distinct separate male and female roles in the family and an increased awareness and effort to make sure that the children have suitable role models in their lives. I think that these actions can show how gay couples act like standard heterosexual families and shows that they function normally.

Because of the high rate of divorces in this country, there are a large number of single parents raising their children without the benefit of a second adult in the household. Many times these single parents are relying on outside sources to replace the influence of family. Children are finding academic guidance in daycare and in after school programs. These families are seeking out people in the community to make up for the lack of additional parents.

It has become more common for un-married couples to be living together and raising children. According to the website (2007) lists that 41% of American women have cohabitated with someone of the opposite sex at some point. The article was unclear whether this is due to a lack of significant benefits to being married or because of a shift in attitudes on marriage due to an extremely high divorce rate in this country. I believe these are just another variety of functional families and deserve to be treated the same way as married couples by not only the legal system but by society as well. There has also been a resurgence of non-religious based plural families. This is not a new concept but is making a new appearance as polygany, and polyandry. Polygany is often confused with polygamy, the former being a household containing 1 male and multiple females all living as equal partners, the latter as a household headed by one male with multiple females. Polyandry is one female and multiple males living as equals. Polyamory is harder to define as a relationship type. The direct translation is “many loves”, but incorporates all plural relationships. Even though these families are not allowed to be legally married, they still share the same emotional benefits and some of the financial benefits of a family and fit the definitions that were presented earlier.

A family is a group of people who live together and share the responsibilities and rewards of that arrangement not just what a few people use as their own definitions. There are financial aspects that should be considered, a greater availability of income and fewer living expenses when people live together. There are benefits to smaller traditional families and large non-traditional arrangements. Smaller families can support closer bonds between members. Larger families offer a greater variety of learning and bonding experiences for all members in the relationship. Common knowledge shows that the more people available to accomplish tasks the easier it is on each person involved. Having multiple parents raising children means that there is a greater likelihood that someone will be available for a child when an adult is necessary. Being a single parent means that they are working twice as hard to provide the best for their children and can some times come up lacking, but the efforts are more dedicated.

The human being is a creature geared towards relationships and physical contact. A family is a natural state for most people to be comfortable in. Some people believe that they are less important because they do not belong to a family. Oftentimes these people are in families and do not realize it simply because it is not the commonly accepted idea of normal. Any group of people who share, intimacies, lives, or responsibilities should be considered a family. A group of friends, who share finances, housing and lives, should be considered a family. A husband and wife with children should be considered a family. An elderly couple living with their single adult child should be considered a family. Even a single parent, raising children alone, should be considered a family. We should all accept them as well, for what they are. In the last year my family has changed from the standard legal definition to that of a single parent raising children. My family is no less legitimate than it was. I am offering a challenge now. The next time there is a news story about a group of people being judged for their lifestyle, ask what is being argued over, the way those people act as a family, or the title being used to define them?

AlmostFLYin2 is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.

AlmostFLYin2; August 02, 2007


Foster, D. (n.d.) Why do children do so well in lesbian households?
Canadian Womens Studies, 24(2.3), 51-56. Retrieved June 7, 2007, from ProQuest database.

Van Hook, J. & Glick, J. (2007) Immigration and living arrangements: Moving beyond economic need versus acculturation.
Silver Spring, 44(2), 225-247. retrieved June 10, 2007 from Proquest database.

Definitions from Retrieved June 15, 2007 from

(n.d.) Living together (a.k.a. cohabitation, or unmarried partnered households).
Retrieved June 17, 2007 from

Merriam-Webster online dictionary.
Retrieved June 17, 2007 from


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