Chris and Bob Osner-Hackett and their girls. Photo by David A. Land for Family Circle.
Family Circle magazine, founded in 1932 as a homemaker-oriented freebie doled out to moms at Piggly Wiggly supermarkets, has come a long way, baby. Its latest issue features a gay family for the first time ever, and has the two dads — Chris and Bob Osner-Hackett, of Michigan — answering questions about parenting styles, family challenges, and chaotic dinnertimes with their two daughters for its new column, “Modern Life.” And that simple yet daring move on the magazine’s part has proven to be a polarizing one when it comes to Family Circle’s readers, with some invoking the Bible and threatening to cancel their subscriptions.
But the magazine’s lifestyle editor, Suzanne Rust, defends the decision, telling Yahoo Parenting, “Family Circle wants to reflect all families. It’s pretty simple — it’s modern life.” She acknowledges that, “a lot of our readers just weren’t expecting to find this in our magazine. But we want to tell real stories of real people, and people aren’t always going to be ready for it.” Rust says she was particularly happy about finding a family from America’s heartland, enabling the magazine to show that “this is normal life all over the place.”
Speaking to the Huffington Post, Linda Fears, vice president and editor-in-chief of the magazine, says she plans to run stories on single parents, multi-racial couples, and unmarried couples with kids, as well, noting, “People may not like those either, but they are all representative of American family life today…Our goal is to be relevant, honest and realistic.”
Some of the reader comments on the Family Circle article are quite angry — one from a woman who says she has been a faithful reader for more than 25 years, and that she was “shocked” when she say the story. “God created man and woman to be together,” she writes. “Please know you have lost a longtime reader!” Another asks, “What kind of perverted lifestyle will you be giving your seal of approval to next month?” while yet another says she is “ashamed” of Family Circle and will be canceling her subscription. A sprinkling of naysayers weighs in on the magazine’s Facebook page, meanwhile, including one who notes she was so “disappointed” by the story that she would not be renewing her subscription. “I’ve loved your magazine, but am against same sex marriage and don’t feel this article is a good example of a ‘family circle.’”
But that, in turn, drew more than 70 responses defending the magazine, with posts ranging from “take your $20 you will save and put it towards buying yourself a soul” to “Love is Love…who cares who it is with?” And it’s that sort of support that’s been dominating social media, with comments such as “Ignore the bigots,” “This gay family just became first-time subscribers,” and a endless posts of “thank you,” “bravo,” and “kudos.” On Twitter, people note they are “proud,” and recommend that others “like” Family Circle on Facebook.
In the “Modern Life” article, the husbands answer questions about life with their daughters, ages 3 and 8, noting that one of their biggest family challenges is “finding time to have a sit-down dinner together,” and that the best moment of their day is when their youngest “initiates the morning family hug.” Weekends, they say, are filled with movie going, farmer’s market visits and bicycling. The Osner-Hacketts also address issues that come with being gay dads, including the legalization of marriage equality (“A big step forward, however, there’s still a lot of work to be done at the individual state level”); acceptance in the community (“We have truly felt welcome wherever we have lived—whether Ohio, New Jersey or Michigan. We like to think it’s because once people get to know our family, it doesn’t matter that we are gay dads”); and biggest misconceptions about gay families.
“The biggest misconception is probably that children need parents of both genders; that with same-sex parents a kid is missing out by not having both a mom and a dad present,” Chris says. “As long as kids are shown love every day and have a committed person in their lives dedicated to providing them a safe, loving environment, it shouldn’t matter what their gender is. In the end, love makes a family.”