Answering the "Do You Have a Family?" Question
- Thursday, April 26, 2012
EDITOR'S NOTE: He Said-She Said is a biweekly advice column for singles featuring a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: The question that stumps me is when people (often clients) at work ask when we talk about [holiday] plans is "do you have a family?" Since I am single and do not have children, I feel like I should say “no” (and it hurts too much to say “no”). But in my heart I can't. I have a wonderful family, am close to siblings, have many chosen family members, nieces and nephews—but that takes too long to explain. So . . . how do you suggest we answer the question "do you have a family?"
HE SAID: No matter how terrific our friends and family, what we have accomplished in our life or how we have adapted to our (lack of) marital status, that question—“Do you have a family?” (based on the condition of our heart at that instant)—always seems to touch the nerve many of us have tried to suppress or deaden over the years.
Dependent upon the individual asking, the length of the relationship I have with them and how I am feeling at the time, often affects the way I answer that “simple” question. Unless it is a close discriminating friend in a private conversation, a long, detailed, heart-felt explanation is neither required nor appropriate in a work setting, especially to a client.
For the most part, I have learned to just take it all in stride and plainly receive it as a cordial, curious, non-threatening inquiry, usually responding with a short comment and reciprocating question.
A simple reply like, “Hopefully someday, how about you?” or “Yes and no—I don’t have one of my own, but I have many family members to spend it with, what are your plans?” normally suffice.
When I’m in a “punchy” mood and have a more “expectant” state of mind, I will sometimes respond in a lighter tone, “No, just looking,” or “No, do you have one in mind?”
Whatever the case, the person asking is not the adversary and (more often than not) means no harm, nor even realizes he is touching a nerve. Therefore, there is no need to respond with twenty years of pent up anger against the opposite sex or an emotional breakdown requiring a straight-jacket.
Most people can empathize with where we are and just want what they think is the best for us.
Questions like these remind me of the blessings I have been given in the form of friends and their families whom I have graciously been invited to be a part of.
SHE SAID: I love that you asked this question about this oft-asked question. So thank you for bringing it to the fore for some discussion!
People ask me questions that stump me as well. It’s usually “Why are you single?” . . . which you’d think I’d be able to answer quite easily and succinctly given the fact that I’ve been single for quite a long time now. But as I’ve aged, I guess I just don’t expect to be asked this question any longer, just as I’m sure married folk don’t expect to be continually asked, “Why are you married?”
I mean, what’s the point, right?
To me, it’s like asking, “Laura, why are you tall?” Answer: “Well, because that is God’s design for me!” And you know what? Right about now that sounds like a good answer for the “Why are you single?” question as well. Guess I’ve found my answer!
But back to you . . .
Like you, I have been asked the “do you have a family?” question before. It’s not really bothered me, though, and I have always answered with “yes” and then proceeded to talk about my mom, my sister and her husband and children and then sometimes I also reference my extended family in the Northeast. I also usually add that I have two cats and some houseplants, and that seems to always garner some chuckles (which could greatly help, especially if this was a question that made me tense).
I would advise seeing your situation from the perspective of those asking you the “Do you have a family?” question. If you inquired of each person who asked you that, I’m sure the majority would say that they’re just making small talk with you. They are just being polite and are just wanting to know how you are spending whatever holiday or time period it might be at that moment and with whom.
They are not asking you “Why don’t you have a family?” or “What is wrong with you?” And perhaps you’re feeling a little like they are (that’s my hunch).
But here’s the neat part: YOU get to determine how “family” is defined. Aren’t your siblings and nieces and nephews your “family”? They are! And I’m sure your “chosen family members,” as you say, probably include many close friends who know you very well and have gone through some meaningful life experiences with you. You hold them dear, and even though you don’t share blood, you certainly share life together.
Also, and most importantly, remember this: if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are a member of his body and have countless “brothers” and “sisters” in him who have been adopted with you into the family of God (Eph. 2:19). That means your family is HUGE!
So next time someone asks you “Do you have a family?” I hope you will answer with a hearty “yes,” know that you really do and feel extra good about it!
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the twenty-first century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you. Click here to visit the He Said-She Said archives.
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