It’s been a somewhat common question for us lately.
We’ve been meeting lots of new people over the last several weeks, and one of the most frequent questions is: have you got a family?
Aside from the rough English, there’s something I don’t particularly like about this question.
I have a wife, parents, grandmother, brother, in-laws, nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles–and yet, I’m expected to answer “no” to this question.
Apparently, when people ask, “Have you got a family?” what they really mean is, “Do you have any kids?” Despite all the family connections that we do have, since we don’t have children, we’re supposed to answer by saying, “No, we don’t have a family.”
Having grown wise to what people are after, I usually refrain from giving either a direct yes or a no, and generally answer with a statement that it’s just my wife and I. (No dishonor to my other family members intended.)
I know lots of married couples who don’t have children–for any number of reasons. Is it true that people like us don’t have family, aren’t really part of a family?
A professor of mine once shared that he was turned down for a job as the pastor of a church. He was unmarried at the time, and the church told him they couldn’t accept him because he wasn’t a husband, or a father. His reply: “Would you take Jesus?”
Jesus never had any children (unless you believe some of the crazy conspiracy theories out there), nor did He have a wife. Yet did He not spend plenty of time caring for others? Was He not in touch with the realities of life? Did He not love, and also receive the love of others–including children?
Fascinatingly, most often this question of kids is asked of us in the context of wondering how we manage a life that consists of so much travel (we’re about to move to our third country), how we’re able to move around, to pack ourselves up and bounce from home to hotel so readily.
Once the interrogator hears that we don’t have kids, they then think they understand how we’re able to live the kind of life and do the kind of work that we’re involved in–let alone the fact that many of our co-workers live very similar lives and do indeed have kids. It’s almost as if the people that ask us this question see their own children as…liabilities? Limitations?
I can guess at the impact that having kids has on every aspect of one’s life and career, and I hope myself to know the experience firsthand someday. But I refuse to admit in the meantime that I don’t participate in family just because I’m not a parent.
There is, of course, a challenge for me: if I’m not spending my time and energy loving and nurturing my children, who am I caring for? Am I loving my wife well? Am I serving friends, family, neighbors, and strangers? Am I making choices with the benefits of others in mind, or am I living just for me?
Yes, I’ve got a family indeed. We don’t have children. I guess that makes us just like Jesus.