The Family Unit: finding your support network

2 minutes

Lucy and Jack met later in life and prioritised having children over getting married. Now that they have twins, aged five months, they are looking to the future.

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

What are your thoughts around the ‘traditional’ family in the UK?

There is a traditional family view of two kids and a dog, but after I moved to London my sense of family came from my friendship group – they were my support network.

In the media, the traditional family view of married with kids is still prevalent, but times are changing, and the traditional family is changing, and I think you can see that. There are still some newspapers, though, that focus on that ‘traditional family’ and reinforce the idea that it is the norm.

I think that there are many forms the family can take, whether it’s single parents, unmarried couples or same sex couples – they’re all families, all support networks.

I think that there are many forms the family can take

Finding your support network

Do either of you have a will?

We have a will, which we organised when the twins were born, and we have joint life insurance.

Do you worry about your financial future?

I’m on maternity leave at the moment, and my partner is a freelancer, so my biggest concern is being able to afford everything on statutory maternity pay, and being able to afford childcare.

A quarter of people with children aged four and under have a joint life insurance policy

Although my children are very young, and the time when they will need to find a place of their own is quite far off, I do have a second property, a flat in London, which I hope I will be able to use to help them – whether they move in there or we use it as equity.

Do you think there has been an increase in the number of cohabitating parents with children? If so, why?

The cost of weddings – a few years ago people were willing to spend £25,000 to £30,000 on a wedding, but people have got savvy to it. There are also many different ways now to start a family and a life together, especially as society has become more secular. Plus, a lot of people now see marriage as just a piece of paper.

Weddings also take a lot of organising, and I think many people have other priorities nowadays. Meanwhile, divorces have become more common, and more prominent in the media, which could put people off.

Do you plan to get married?

We’re actually engaged, but when my partner proposed we realised we actually wanted to have children more. We met quite late in life, so we decided to have children first. We still plan to get married, perhaps next year. Also, there are, I believe, benefits – like tax breaks for married couples.

Do you think unmarried couples are judged in today’s society?

It depends on your peer group, your generation and your own experience. The older generation, perhaps, are more likely to think that marriage is the only way. But people are less concerned with what others think, there’s less of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality. I think people are becoming more open in their view of what a family unit can be.

There’s less of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality

Sometimes, people who are married, who maybe see marriage as their support structure, look on unmarried couples and think that they are lacking something, or perhaps want their own idea of marriage to be reinforced.

Of the people I work with, however, who are in the generation below me, many are getting married or buying a property in their 20s, which is an interesting swing back to how it was before my generation, where most got married in their 30s.