A difficult subject

My ex-wife and I have no siblings and, collectively, a very small family.

I have my mum, who is very unwell, my aunt, who is very well, but both are in their 60’s and both live in London. There is also my cousin who lives in Australia.

My ex-wife has a mum, who she doesn’t talk to and who is also very unwell. She also has two aunts in their eighties, one of whom has dementia, and three cousins in their 50’s, all with grown up children. She doesn’t see them very often, once a year since the children were born, but before that, not for 14 years.

I don’t want judgements or pity. It’s how it is and we can’t change that.

But. When we were married and after our first child was born we felt we should sit down and have the difficult conversation. The bleak one. The dark conversation that brings up thoughts that you never want to entertain. And it came just after we’d had a car crash.

If we both died, what would happen to T?

Who would look after him? Who COULD look after him?

We sat there, safe at home, pissed off about how someone else’s stupid fucking driving could’ve killed us all, or some of us, or just my wife and I, and we found ourselves asking what on earth would happen to T if both of us had died?

We resolved to do something about it. We sat and thought, got a bit sad, scratched our heads but drew blanks. In the end we concluded that the only thing we could do is ask friends, and how can you ask a friend, no matter how close, to actually look after your child in the event of your death? Would you have to sit down with them, draw up and plan, make arrangements, write wills and shit like that?

We didn’t do this, but it was something we though we should do something about. But something stopped us and I can’t remember what it was. It certainly wasn’t the belief that we were indestructible. I think we were worried that someone might say ‘No.’

Is this what godparents are to children? I don’t know as I’m not one and don’t have any. Is this the promise that’s made when you become a godparent?

The same conversation came up when K was born. But we didn’t do anything about it then either. We resolved that we would, but again the fear of asking friends to take on such a role, as guardian to your two children  in the event of your deaths, seemed hard. But gosh we wanted to.

We wanted to safeguard them. To protect them. To surround them with people who could be a guiding hand if we were no longer there to be that. People who would love them as we have. Impossible perhaps. Maybe that’s why we never made the phone call, wrote the letter or spoke to anyone about this.

Bleak conversation eh? But one we’ve all had as parents. Surely?

I don’t have any religious faith and neither does my now ex-wife. When you die, I believe, you’re dead, but oddly the thought of not being somewhere looking down on them fills me with an immense sadness. I can’t look down from some higher place and guide them because I don’t believe in that thing. The only thing I can do is teach them things now, and hope that when I’m no longer around that’s enough of a guiding hand.

In some ways the divorce has given us an out, another option. My children live with my ex-wife and so if anything awful ever happened I guess I’d be the one taking care of them. It’s never been discussed but that would be surely how it goes. Perhaps we need that discussion, but I don’t want to have that conversation as I don’t want to think of anything happening to their mummy. She’s a wonderful mother and person, and to discuss this subject with her seems wrong. But perhaps we should. I know we should.

But in the meantime, we all go out on some day trips and mummy and daddy are in the front of the car, and there are some idiotic cunts on the road.

Have you had these conversations? Did you make plans? Have you made plans? Any thoughts, comments and experiences would be most welcome. I’m sure I’m not the only person to have struggled with this difficult subject.

Thanks for reading.

46 responses to “A difficult subject

  1. We’ve had the same conversation, though not under those circumstances. We are fortunate that my wife has two younger sisters and so our children will be going to my wife’s middle sister as she we felt would be the best equipped to bring up the children – not saying the youngest wouldn’t be any good. Just different skill sets and make ups. The sister we chose is now about to give birth to her second. And boy was that a difficult choice to make. But we were both clinical and detached about it and made the decision.

  2. Not a nice thing to think about, but a sensible thing to think about! We have made arrangements should we cark it, and have had those included those in our Wills… Another necessary headache! 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing. Death and wills are always a hard one. Me and Mr.Ex talked about making a will on numerous occasions but also lost the bottle to ask anyone… But we do need to sort something out especially as we are not married. I think we just went into burying our heads in the sand (as we did with the problems in our relationship generally), but you are right we do need to sometimes think about these worse case scenarios 😦 I am going to look into this, thank you for help give me the push in the right direction. Sorry I cannot be of more help! Wish you luck with your decisions too x

  4. We kinda had the conversation, but I suppose we take it for granted that we have relatives who we THINK would b happy to. He has grandparents and we both have a sister each, so would like to think he is taken are of I’d something bad were to happen. Discussing these things should be clinical, it needs to be done so have the conversation now incase Tou can’t further down the line.

  5. Great post! It is so difficult to discuss.we.haven’t changed our wills since gemma was born.we each have a sister and agree my sister would be the best choice in the first instance.
    We then get concerned when we think what if both sisters are gone.my parents would be fine short term but they are in their early 60s and gemma is only 2.
    How many what ifs do you need to consider???
    We both agree hubby mother not to get her but I feel so strongly about it that I want to spell out that I would rather she went into care! This is where we fall out and don’t get anything done.
    Thanks for the reminder,really need to get it done.

    • Thanks for your comments. I guess what makes it easier is you do know what you want, and sometimes the other “What if’s?” aren’t worth considering. Or are they? Dunno, it all makes my head spin.

      • I don’t know,it makes my head spin. I suppose get a will in place then if the what ifs happen change then. We really need to get sorted,thanks for the reminder.

  6. Thank you for this post. We had this conversation – we have no suitable family that we’d entrust the care of our daughter to. We came to a stumbling block when figuring out who and did no more about it. Driving home last night a mile from home there was a fatal accident and the whole “that could’ve been us” flashed into my head. I’m going to sort this out today, or this week.

    It’s a horrible thing to think about and discuss out loud. I hope you figure it all out too.

  7. Someone once told me that the single most important reason to make a will was to secure custody for your children so we went out and did it. My brother and I have willed our children to each other so we’re lucky. A close friend did once sound me out about taking on hers if tragedy struck and it was an awkward moment because politeness urges one to say yes. Sometimes I wonder if it may be better for orphaned kids to go to keen adopters even if strangers than to friends who accept them longsufferingly.

    • Thanks for your comment. We do need to sort this and, as we’re both practical and sensible people, I know my ex-wife and I will. But we have put it off which is very unlike us.

  8. Make plans. It is unpleasant to think about but has to be done. Even more important in a split family situation. Go see a solicitor ASAP. Also sort your life insurance out. Do it.

  9. My ex and I agreed that he would have the children with the input of my 2’closest female
    Friends to ensure they got some Girly input. In the case of both of us going at once, my dear friend based locally would have them with the support of friends & family.
    Altho my brothers would be great they are based down south and I would want the kids to remain where they’ve grown up around familiar faces/places and stay at school etc. a tough subject but vital for peace of mind.

  10. It’s a difficult decision for us all. Rick and I have had the conversation several, then done nothing about it either…
    I have 3 sisters and both parents in their 80’s and Rick has 1 sister and both parents also in their 80’s too. Luckily the sister nearest us, with similar aged children would be the one to have them but we know just how lucky we are.
    If you have close enough friends who could and would have them it’s probably best to ask, however upsetting it might be.
    I hope you manage to make the decision without too much heartache xxx

  11. We’ve made a will that gives my mum responsibility for what happens to the kids, but doesn’t mean she has to look after them, she just has to make the decision as to who does. This means it can be flexible depending on circumstances – like if the kids are about to sit GCSEs maybe they could live with a friend rather than moving to another part of the country with relatives. It was depressing to write though because we did have to visualise bumping off half the family. If you and your husband and your mum and your stepdad and your brother and his wife and her goldfish all die who gets your kids?

  12. We’ve had The Chat. We made the difficult decision that if anything should happen to us then we’d leave Bug with friends over family.

    Yes, it’s a difficult conversation. It already scares me to think there will be a time when I’ll not be around for her and that’s if I die at the ripe old age of 102. To think of anything happening sooner makes me feel sick, but this is exactly why the conversation was needed.

  13. A very well written blog on a very difficult subject. I have not read threw all the responses so sorry if it’s already been answered but yes, that’s one of the promises that a godparent makes, to care for said child if there ever came a time when you could not.

  14. When our first was born, we decided my sister would get custody and it stayed this way for years even after we had our second & third. When the eldest turned eighteen, we changed our wills. The eldest would get custody of her sister & brother, and with the finances we thought it best to have my sister assist the eldest with this. After middle child turned eighteen the will was changed again, with the eldest just having custody of the youngest. The youngest will turn eighteen in a couple of weeks so the wills will be changed again. This time it will just be about money, who will have control, will all the kids get a certain sum and be on their own with it? The eldest should be in control because she is most responsible, will will have to change them again. Such a pain but necessary.

  15. My hubs and I have had that conversation several times, not an easy one. Our family unit is very small, and my side in particular are probably not up to the job. We have in mind who we would like to have them should the worst happen, but how to ask? It’s a subject I hate as I can’t bear the thought of leaving them. I lost my mum to a car accident when I was 15 and the thought of my kids going through that pain is horrific.

    • Thanks for commenting. I share the ‘how to ask?’ thing and I’m sorry for bringing up a subject you hate. Hope reading this post hasn’t been tough for you.

      • Sorry, only just seen this reply.
        Don’t apologise, I’m fine and it’s an important subject. It’s reassuring to see that I’m not the only one that worries about it.

  16. My partner and I finally wrote our wills last year. We have two boys, young boys aged 3 and 1. We decided one of their cousins would be best placed to do the job. I asked, she said she didn’t want to think about anything bad happening to me and my partner, but she agreed to be their guardian should the worst happen. It horrible thinking that it could happen, but loving your kids means providing a stable home, whether your around or not x

  17. Very well written and thought provoking. Gah I really need to stop burying my head in the sand and sort this out legally as initially my Mum is obvious choice as she lives with us so keeps a constant for the kids and they keep their home too, my brother would also offer too I know, but it needs putting down instead of waiting, you just never know do you what’s ahead.

  18. We’ve had the talk, my husbands sister & her hubby have agreed to be guardians to all our children- they are not godparents to them all but they will look after all the children together. Our parents (both sets) would but we have to consider their age. My sister in law would ensure our children saw all family.

    On top of that we pay £10 insurance. Should anything happen to one of us, the other recieves £800pm until youngest is 16. If we both die it’s payable to my sis in law. That would cover the fact that one of us- or her would have dramatically reduce working hours for childcare.

    I feel safe knowing that if we both die tomorrow the kids have a roof and financially we have provided enough money monthly that my Sis in law and her family won’t suffer from feeding more mouths. It’s £10pm well spent in my eyes.

    And it’s all set out formally in wills.

  19. I think I am extremely lucky. My mum and dad are too old. When Boy was born we weighed up our options which consisted of my single brother, the sister in law who lived in a chaotic council flat and was raising a whale and the other sister in law who could certainly do it but, at the time was married to an abusive wanker.

    Luckily I have a really good best friend. We sit next to each other at football and he has 3 boys. If we were religious he would be God-Father to my children . He and his wife adore them and we adore his and they all play together really nicely. We had no hesitation in asking them if they would be guardians if the worst happened and they had no hesitation accepting.

    Since then SIL 1 has had help from the social, SIL 2 has binned the arsehole and my brother has met a lovely girl and now lives with her and her 12 year old daughter. We now have a choice of backup plans but my best mate is still down as guardian in the will,

  20. We had this conversation after my first daughter was born and put it in the will. We would have had no issue asking friends but the ones we had in mind already had been put on other friends wills (4 children) and I didn’t want to overwhelm them. In the end I chose my sister (somewhat reluctantly) and a back up was my in laws. I think asking friends, close friends, is a wonderful gesture to them and if you have the necessary life insurance in place then they’re is little financial strain for them. Do it and the weight will lift off your shoulders.

  21. We’ve been having this conversation recently, and today I looked out a number for someone to help us with wills. After reading this, I will actually call the number tomorrow, and make the plans both with the will person, and with the appropriate people for beanzy. Such a hard conversation, but essential for the well being of the children

  22. We put this off for years but when our eldest was 10, we finally put a will together and put my sister and husband as guardians – we wanted them to be with family but grandparents are likely to be too old by then and there is obviously the issue of money for their upkeep. It’s a tough one and not a nice thought to dwell on but we need to be realistic IMO.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Indeed, one needs to be realistic. I guess it’s better to do that now than something awful happen and things aren’t set out as you want.

  23. We had this conversation before our son was born. I like to make sure all the bases are covered should the worst happen; for me it makes things run smoother if our wishes are known should the worst happen. We mentioned that we had been giving the issue some thought and were met with the comment that we were being morbid. We don’t see it as that but as taking responsibility. The chances of our families fighting to look after the little man in the unfortunate event of both our demise is very high; it is great that people care so much but we can also see problems that could arise. Would we want to subject our son to the stress of such problems when it would be difficult enough for him? No is our answer. It is not something nice to have to consider but we do all these things as parents out of love.

  24. If my parents were to die, I’d have gone to my godparents which were my aunties. my sisters godparents are different to mine, one of my aunties and a friend. If they died, would you spit the kids up? I always wanted to live at my aunts (the one my sister didnt have as a godparent) which gives you that awkward ‘what if they did die’ feeling of how different live would be!

    • Thanks for commenting. I would never want my children split up and I think, even now, that would upset them more than anything. Actually just thinking about that upsets me as I know they both have each others back, and always look for the other when they enter a room.

  25. We had to have that conversation. We realised that given Samuel’s condition we had to provide a just in case scenario rather than leave it to our families to deal with should we suddenly pop off together.

    But the hugely complicating factor was who? I have a sister, we both have relatively healthy parents still kicking around but they’ve never looked after Samuel. If they don’t feel confident doing stuff for him now then how could we be sure they’d suddenly be able to look after him if we weren’t here.

    So we asked our friend, neighbour and Sam’s former NICU nurse, C. We had no choice. It could only have been her.

    When I told family that C had said yes, their relief was noticeable. No awkwardness that an ‘outsider’ would be their Grandson’s carer, just relief.

    The complicating factor is if we have another child. Do we ask C again? Will my sister step in this time? But would that mean splitting up the children…? Maybe my husband and I need to start travelling seperately, just in case!

  26. Hubby and I have never really thought of this untill his mum passed away a few months away. He’s and only child to a singel mum. I’m an expat with no family in UK. We have thought about a Will but have not done anything yet. The sadness of his mums passing is still ‘ripe’. Even our toddler still asks for her. It is a hard and difficult subject but reading this post makes me realise its something we all should do sooner rather than later, whatever the family situation.

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