Who would you choose to care for your children?
My brother has just been to visit. He lives in Asia. He’s a successful guy with his own business, who has, for the best part of a decade, been moving around the Far East, living where he needs to, to keep growing his digital business.
Seeing him again got me thinking about legal guardianship. Why? Because he is guardian to my two young children. He would be their primary carer if both my husband and I were to die (the scenario our solicitor depicted for us, while we were writing our Wills with him, was that we were killed in a plane crash – it was an unsettling conversation).
Is it too much to ask?
While we are very lucky to have such close family willing to take on this mantle unflinchingly, his visit brought up a whole load of questions for me. He is an amazing person and is definitely the classic ‘fun uncle’, not least because he has no kids of his own. He has a wicked sense of humour and a deep sense of loyalty and affection for us all, even if he does half-jokingly describe our kids as the best contraception around!
But he is also, to all intents and purposes, a digital nomad (we cringe at this phrase) and has been most of his life. He can do what he wants, when he wants, where he wants….pretty much. What if suddenly he did have to take care of our children permanently? The life changes he would have to make would be monumental and they would be changes that could potentially make him deeply unhappy. It’s a huge ask on my part and a huge commitment on his. But ultimately, I know he’s the one who will love them, when they need it most.
Do the details matter?
It also dawned on me that I haven’t really had a proper chat with him about all this. It was kind of a quick question over the phone, while he was on the other side of the world, along the lines of “I’ve got to go and write my Will tomorrow, can I name you as guardian to the kids, please? Thanks.” I’ve not spoken to him about money, parenting, schools…..where to live. Do I leave this up to him to decide or should I discuss this with him? Is it fair to leave him thinking “What would Jen have done?” I honestly don’t know.
I then started thinking, who would I ask if I didn’t have family to lean on? Which friends? Your best friends, even if you know it would be a struggle financially? Your oldest friends because then at least your kids know them? What criteria do you go on? I know so many people do have to turn to friends and that is no easy thing. I hope that in these cases, people have been less laissez-faire than me and discussed the needs and wants of their children, the finances, the future.
If I were asked, could I be guardian?
And then I asked myself, what would I do if someone asked me to be guardian to their children? I cannot think of anything worse than any of my friends’ children not having someone there to lovingly scoop them up when their world has fallen apart. Of course I would step up, but I am not naive enough to think that this wouldn’t have a huge impact on my family and on my own children.
When asked to be guardian or asking someone to be guardian, it can, at the time, just feel like another box that needs to be ticked on the life admin list, not least because it all feels so hypothetical. But it is much more than that. If, like me, you’ve not really gone into the details, it’s time to make that call. It’s time to have that chat, before it’s too late.
This article was written by one of our clients, Jenny Ellery of Grove Park Design.