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A husband and wife with their 5 children, 4 boys, one girl, and their pet dog.

The Family Unit: the benefits of free babysitting

Susan and her husband Kostas have been married for eight years. They live with their two children and three of Susan’s children from a previous marriage.

Some names have been changed to protect the identities of people mentioned in this article.

Do you believe that the term ‘traditional family’ has a place in today’s UK?

There’s much more acceptance of families that don’t fit the ‘traditional family’ view, which is great, but I feel that there should be a place for two-parent families. It’s important to be in a stable relationship and to be able to work through problems together. If people have problems in their relationship, I think it’s important to try to resolve them instead of just walking away, especially if they have kids.

When I got divorced it was difficult – you feel as though you have made a mistake, that you’re a failure. I felt that people judged me, or felt sorry for me. But there were also people who were supportive.

Sometimes I feel guilty that my children from my first marriage don’t have a mother and a father who are still together, while my and Kostas’s children do, but the feeling only comes every so often.

How would you describe the dynamic between your children from both relationships?

Everyone gets on. The age gap means that the children from my first marriage can be good role models to our youngest two, and we sometimes get free babysitting! My three oldest are all very calm, which is great – although my third child has autism, which adds a different dynamic. Of course, they have more mature interests which sometimes I don’t want my youngest to be exposed to, but overall it’s great that they are so close.

‘People even think that the three oldest are Kostas’s children, until they hear that they don’t have Greek names!’

My kids call Kostas ‘Dad’ or just ‘Kostas’ – it’s very relaxed. He came in and made it very clear that he was their step-dad and that they have a dad – they don’t have much contact with their birth father any more. But they’ve known Kostas from a very young age, so they’ve grown up with him, and he’s great with them – he tells them all off if they misbehave, and doesn’t show any favouritism to the two youngest children.

People even think that the three oldest are Kostas’s children, until they hear that they don’t have Greek names!

Do you have life insurance?

Kostas is self-employed so it is very important for us to have life insurance, for us and the children, as it’s difficult to get that sort of financial cover elsewhere. We have a joint policy.

Do you have a will?

I don’t have a will, but I do keep thinking that I should write one – now that you’ve mentioned it maybe I should. I feel it’s not advertised as much as life insurance, or home and contents insurance, and maybe wills should be. But there are so many will writing services out there, it’s hard to know where to go.

The last time I talked about a will was with my solicitor 10 years ago, who said I should think about writing one. But there’s not enough information out there so you forget.

Do you worry about your financial future?

We are currently renting our house, and although we’re very fortunate because it’s a lovely house and my parents have helped with the security, it does make me concerned.

‘34% of people who rent from a private landlord are concerned that they don’t have enough financial provisions in place for their family and their future.’

I have obviously come out of the divorce, while Kostas moved from Greece 15 years ago, and it’s been difficult to get back on the property ladder, as houses are becoming less and less affordable. There’s also a constant knock-on effect: we can’t afford to buy a house, which means we won’t have anything to pass on to the children, and it’s harder than ever for young people to buy.

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