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A heterosexual sexual couple stand with their pet cat

Posted 07 September 2017

The Family Unit: from friends to family

Holly and Zack live together in Stratford and, after being friends for a few years, became a couple and have been together for 1.5 years.

Do you both come from a ‘traditional’ family?

My mum has been married three times and has five children. Zack’s parents divorced when he was three, he has a younger sister with a different father.

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

I think the term ‘traditional family’ should only be used in reference to the outdated idea that a unit of two heterosexual parents and their biological offspring is somehow superior to the many other types of family.

‘In any family there are always dramas and tensions behind closed doors.’

In reality, though, I don’t think there has ever been such a thing as a ‘traditional’ family. In the past, people projected an image to the outside world of a classic nuclear family with 2.4 kids, but in any family there are always dramas and tensions behind closed doors. Now, people are freer to be themselves, so we see more diverse types of family – but they always existed, just in private.

Our friends come from all sorts of families. We have childfree couple friends, friends with babies, friends having IVF, friends who’ve adopted, polyamorous friends, and queer friends. What kind of family someone comes from really isn’t a factor in whether they’re our friends.

Do you think that your family dynamic is properly represented in the UK?

I don’t think childfree people are accurately represented in UK society, or in the world. I would love to see some childfree-by-choice, but totally normal, characters in drama and advertisements, because there are a lot of us and we’re a bit done with feeling like aliens.

‘I would love to see some childfree-by-choice, but totally normal, characters in drama.’

Do you have a will?

Yes, I have a will but Zack doesn’t. I got an inheritance specialist to create it for me after a detailed conversation about what I needed. He has a copy and so do I in case anything happens. I think a lot of people assume that if they die, their assets will be divided the way they want, but that’s often not the case. I’d rather have my wishes down in writing.

Do you have life insurance?

We don’t have life insurance. Thinking about it, we probably should. It’s not something I’ve thought about a lot. I think it’s probably something we’ll do after we’re married.

Do you worry about your financial future?

I do worry about the future, mainly because I think my generation has always assumed that we’ll be totally fine financially, based on the track records of our parents. However, the world has changed significantly since then, and it’s just not as easy to buy houses or have the standard of living you might have expected in your teens. At least in our case, we won’t have children, so we’ll be better off there, but I don’t know how anyone can afford having kids in London.

At what age did you decide not to have children?

I’ve never wanted children. I just assumed one day I would, but in my mid-twenties, after a lot of side effects with hormonal contraception, I decided it made more sense to be sterilised and stop pumping myself full of hormones for the sake of keeping my fertility. I got sterilised just over a year ago and I’ve never been happier with a decision.

‘Just over one in five UK adults (21%) said they don’t have any children and never intend to.’

Do you think there are stereotypes related to people who choose to be childfree?

There’s a strange perception that people who don’t want kids are somehow selfish or even inhuman. Surely it’s better for people who know they wouldn’t make good parents to abstain, rather than having kids they can’t deal with, and expecting society to pick up the slack? I don’t see how it’s selfish to put yourself before someone who doesn’t exist. That doesn’t make sense to me.

‘It makes more sense to help people understand if they’re willing to listen.’

Society has progressed to the point that it’s at least acknowledged that people are allowed to choose to be childfree, but that choice is still hugely stigmatised. For people who have children and have had to make sacrifices for that, or for people that want children but can’t for whatever reason, to choose to be childree is still seen as a massively selfish decision. To want – or, perhaps more accurately, to have – children is seen as normal, an inevitable life step, so to choose not to do so is seen as inherently wrong.

Do you worry about people judging you?

I don’t worry about it – I know it’s going to happen so worrying about it is just going to exacerbate the stress of it. People judge what they don’t understand, so rather than worrying it makes more sense, and is a better use of energy, to just talk about it instead, to be confident in your life choice, and to help make people understand if they’re willing to listen.

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