I hate the phrase “starting a family”. Oh, I use it too. We all do. But I hate the implication that my family — me, hubby, and kitty — is not actually a family. Ditto for my single friends and their animals.
Sure, even the dictionary defines family as “parents and their children” and really doesn’t have a definition that includes my husband and myself solely (which is bizarre), but I define the word much more loosely.
My friends are family, the people I love and adore, the people I would bend over backwards to help, the people who would drop everything (and have done so) when someone in the group needs a hand.
And our animals are family. My cat Romeo has been with me for over a decade, and I can’t imagine my life without him. He comforts me when I’m sad, cuddles me when I’m sick and, well, bothers me when I’m busy. When he dies, I will mourn him and miss him. Hell, I cried a lot for my betta fish Marko, and he was “just a fish” who I’d had less than a year. My new betta, Fabrizio, is also family. It gives me joy to see him swim in his tank, and I like to think when he flits about and comes alive when I approach, when flares his gorgeous fins of red and blue and teal that he’s happy to see me too, rather than simply a Pavlovian response to food.
Of course my parents and my grandmother (my only living grandparent… that’s weird to think about) are family as well.
When people ask “when are you starting a family” I reply “I’ve already got one, and I think I'll keep it.” I believe we need to redefine family to the people and animals who love one another, and those with whom one surrounds oneself in order to experience joy and security. Or something like that.
I love my families. All of them.