The very words “family” or “parent” might bring up different images and memories from one person to the next. It makes sense, then, that no episode of the podcast We Are Family is quite alike; there’s an appealing and important diversity in the stories and views that guests share with the host, Julie Dennison, editor of Parents magazine.
On each episode, Dennison asks her famous guests—many of them celebrity actors and people involved in the arts—about their upbringing and how it shapes their parenting today. What values do they choose to carry forward from how they were parented? What are they aiming to do somewhat—or perhaps very—differently? The show features many different paths to parenthood: families with biological children, those with children through adoption or fostering, and other formations.
To begin, Dennison prompts guests to fill in thoughts after, “Family is … .” And even this initial morsel of information is an engaging preview of the conversion to come. To comedic actor Jack Black, for example, family is “unconditional love.” He describes a fun, chaotic, creative upbringing and what he admired and enjoyed about being raised by his aerospace engineer parents, such as their “adventurous taste in music.” As he raises his two children, he wants to have “a little more of a peaceful place” than the one that was available to him—but he also wants to ensure that he still makes room for lively activities such as dancing around to music, as he did with his own parents.
Actor Rosario Dawson, who adopted her now 18-year-old daughter in 2014, says family is “blood or chosen.” Dawson’s mother became a parent as a teenager, and their family grew up with financial struggles. Even in challenging times, however, her mother made it a priority to give her children access to green spaces. Dawson is carrying on this appreciation by encouraging a love of nature in her daughter and championing for green spaces in her urban community in New York City.
Naturally, the topics vary from episode to episode—a few of them have a focus clearly stated in the episode title (e.g. “Parenting with Disability and Chronic Illness” or “Single Parent Heroes”), and others are more nuanced. Refreshingly, the podcast is not prescriptive in that it claims to have easy, objective answers to the challenges of parenting. It also takes care to acknowledge how various aspects of identity—culture, profession, gender, race, etc.—shape people’s child-rearing journeys.
Listeners might find themselves relating to some episodes more than others. There’s an empathetic benefit, though, to also spending time with parenting stories outside one’s direct experience and cultivating understanding of the human family at large, to which all of us belong. We are Family can be found on several major podcast platforms. (Parents.com)