Family on Our Own Terms
Raising children with multiple parents, rethinking the labor of care, and making it up as we go.
We’re queerer and weirder than we ever have been; for younger generations, gay marriage is now as unspectacular as getting a divorce. Yet, the alternative family is still a sensitive subject, especially when such families include children. As Lee Edelman describes in the book No Future, the child occupies a sacred place in the intricate equation upholding society as we know it. It took the world centuries to get to this place, where couples invest eighteen years, lots of money, and immeasurable psychic energy and pain to turn babies into law-abiding citizens, workers, tax payers, and future parents. Much of that history involved breaking up communities and isolating people from each other, because the most effective way to get people to leave their homes and go work for someone else was to leave them with no other option.
Society may view alternative families as a scary threat because they represent a return to trust in the abundance of community and a strengthening of solidarity between people. Of course, people have always done family differently than modern TV commercials suggest we do. Queer people re-defining family as chosen family. Grandparents raising their grandchildren. A collective of friends and partners parenting the same child. Friends and parents taking turns caring for and supporting each other.
What is it like to be part of and raise children in an alternative family? We asked Althea, Lauren, and Emily to share their stories.
You Can’t Own a Child
Every night the baby wakes up at 3:15AM, I put my breast in their mouth and we lie there sweating together in the bed. They suck until my nipple bleeds a little bit, and then I take them to Marie’s room. Kalen and Marie get startled and then Kalen says, “Are you ok?” and I say, “Yeah.”