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среда, 1 марта 2017 г.

Family 2017 style. Once the traditional family was mum, dad and two kids. Not any more.

Here five thoroughly modern families talk about their unconventional set-ups

THE NO-MAN MUM
The no-man mum
Paediatric nurse Caroline Saddington, 36, became a mum using donor sperm. She lives with her son William, one, in North Muskham, Nottinghamshire.
"Celebrating my 30th birthday surrounded by friends and family, I should have been so happy. Instead, I was consumed with panic. I was still single, still childless and still waiting for Mr Right.
I'd been very career focused in my 20s. I'd had a couple of serious relationships but they hadn't worked out.
Now, my biological clock was ticking. Loudly. If I waited much longer to find The One it might never happen. So I decided to have a child on my own.
Originally, I wanted to adopt because my parents adopted me when I was six months old. I thought it would be simple enough. But three years later, although I'd been approved to adopt, I was still waiting to be matched with the 'right' child.
I decided I couldn't waste any more time. My only other option was artificial insemination. I read about the procedure, then booked into a local clinic in March 2008. I chose from a selection of donors and opted for one who was described as academic, rather than good-looking. The £1,500 treatment took 10 minutes. Obviously it was more clinical than your average conception, but it was still an emotional experience.
Although there was only a 10 per cent success rate, I was positive it would work. And it did!
Just two long weeks later, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I screamed!
My parents were so supportive that we agreed I should sell up and move in with them.
My pregnancy went smoothly, and it was my mum who shared the joy of that first kick and saw all the scans. Did I miss having a man to share these things with me? Not at all.
My son, William, was born on December 14, 2008, weighing 8lb 9oz. After years of dreaming about holding my baby, I couldn't believe he was here.
Before I had the treatment, I thought very carefully about becoming a single parent and raising a child without a father. I know the coming years will be a challenge, but I'll love my son enough for two.
I'm not actively trying to meet a man at the moment, but if the right guy comes along he'd have to understand that my son comes first.
I don't want William to be an only child, so I'm going to be inseminated again soon using sperm from the same donor.
I have a good job and a great support network so I'm not worried about becoming a single mum of two. My parents look after William while I work - I couldn't do this without them.
I will tell my son how he was conceived when he's older, and if he wants to trace his biological father I'll support him.
I believe if you're with people who love you then that's a family - it doesn't matter how it was created."

The gay dads
THE GAY DADS
Peter McGraith (left), 45, is a writer and lives in north London with his partner David (right), 38, a financial director, and their two adopted sons, Carlos*, eight, and PJ*, four.
Peter says: "Some people think children need a mother and that women are more nurturing than men, but that's not the case. Just because we're two men doesn't mean we can't provide our sons with a stable family unit.
David and I met in a nightclub in 1997. For years we had a fantastic lifestyle, living in a stylish flat in London, travelling extensively and eating out in top restaurants. However, we wanted more. We wanted a family.
In 2002, when our heterosexual and gay friends started having children, we began to think seriously about becoming parents ourselves.
We had to consider whether a child would face difficulties because we are gay. But we knew we could give them a positive sense of who and what we are.
We decided to adopt rather than use a surrogate - there are so many children out there who need homes - but it's a long process. We applied to our local council in 2004, but it took another three years filled with extensive interviews and home visits before we were approved.
And it wasn't until 2008 that a social worker introduced us to brothers Carlos, then six, and two-year-old PJ. They had been in foster care since PJ was born. We read their file and felt we could give them the home they needed. We didn't think twice about taking on two children - in fact we thought it would be easier because they would have each other.
David and I finally met the boys at their foster home in April 2008. Their social worker had told them all about us, and that we were hoping to be their parents. David and I had also sent them a scrapbook we'd made about ourselves, with loads of photos in it. Carlos told his social worker that he'd really wanted a new dad and was very excited at the thought of getting two!
We were a little nervous that first day, but we had great fun. We spent an hour playing football with them, then we all had dinner at their foster parents' home. At the end of the day we tucked them into bed. Over the next two weeks we spent time bonding with them, and that May they moved in with us.
They've settled in so well, it's as if they've always been with us. Their grandparents dote on them, and my nieces and nephews love having two new cousins.
We have talked to them about what being gay means, and about discrimination. They are very accepting of the fact that David and I are a couple, and we are both their dads.
We've been a family for around 20 months now. It's exhausting being a parent - making sure teeth are brushed, clothes ironed and answering a million questions a day, but we love it.
The boys call us what they want. At first, it was Peter and David, now it's Dad or Daddy.
They just accept they have two dads in the same way some kids at their school have lesbian mums or just one parent. They know our family is unusual, but they're growing up in a world where families are made up of all shapes and sizes, so it doesn't bother them."
David says: "People may see gay adopters as pioneering but I think we're just very privileged. We have two adorable sons who love us as much as we love them."

The sister act
THE SISTER ACT
Tammia O'Callaghan, 22, from Birmingham, is a social science student. She is the legal guardian of younger sister Nerra, 16, and mum to her own son Amaar, three.
"By the time I was 18, I was a mum of two. But while I had just given birth to my son, Amaar, my other 'child' was my younger sister Nerra, then 13.
I was so relieved when I was given custody of Nerra. I'd been through months of questions and assessments by social services. I'd been asked everything from what food I cooked to what I would say if Nerra wanted to discuss her sexuality.
Finally, I was told that Nerra could live with me. It might seem young to take on such responsibility - but it was nothing compared to what Nerra and I had already been through.
We grew up in a loving home, but by the time I was 13, my dad had moved out. He had severe depression and epilepsy, and my mum had been his carer. But he became violent, and she had to ask him to leave. Just a few months later he killed himself, and that sent my mum spiralling into depression.
She lost her job as a nurse, and I ended up looking after everyone - making sure Nerra got to school, cooking meals and walking our dogs. My school work suffered and I started to fall behind.
When I was 17, I decided to move out and was placed in a hostel for young women. I felt really guilty about leaving Mum and Nerra, but I needed to concentrate on exams.
However, Mum couldn't cope and Nerra began missing school to look after her. Social services got involved and she was taken into care.
I couldn't live with that, so when I turned 18, I applied for legal guardianship. By then, I had my own three-bedroom council house and was two months pregnant with Amaar. His father and I had split up.
At first Mum was really upset, but I explained that Nerra was better off living with family than strangers.
In 2006, Nerra moved in with me permanently. Mum had lost our family home because she couldn't keep up with the mortgage re-payments, so she'd moved in with a friend.
We saw her regularly, but depression had her firmly in its grip - we couldn't get through to her. Last year she reached rock bottom and tragically killed herself.
It was a terrible time. Nerra and I are still struggling to come to terms with it all, but even after everything we've been through, Nerra is much happier now. She's at college doing a childcare course, and I've just been accepted at university to study criminology.
We're a tight little unit. Nerra can turn to me for anything. I was there for her when she had her first period and I'll be there when she starts dating. She's a great aunt to my son. We miss our parents, but we share an unbreakable bond." With thanks to learndirect.co.uk

The gran-mum
THE GRAN-MUM
Pat McDermott, 53, from Burnley, Lancashire, is legal guardian to grandsons Daniel, 14, and Kyle, 13.
"When I turn up at the boys' school, I'm sure some of the mums think: 'She left it a bit late to have kids!'
Actually, the opposite is true. I had my daughter Christine* when I was just 20. The boys I'm there for are my grandsons. But I'm more than a doting nan. In everything - including name sometimes - I'm their mum. I've looked after them for the past nine years.
Christine is an on/off drugs user. Despite my best efforts to help my daughter kick her habit, she still felt her next fix was more important than her children.
The boys were placed into foster care when Daniel was five and Kyle (pictured) was four. I couldn't allow them to be raised by strangers, so I applied to be their guardian.
At the time, I was still living with my husband, their granddad, and we both wanted them with us. Although we've now separated, he still sees the boys on a regular basis.
So now, at 53, I'm a single parent to two teenage lads. And while my friends are enjoying nights out at bingo, I have to prioritise the boys.
But for every negative, there are a million positives. I love them so much, and having them around makes me feel young.
Their early years were very unstable. Christine had Daniel when she was just 17 - after a one-night stand. She got a council house nearby and within months she was pregnant again by her new boyfriend.
At first, I didn't realise she was taking drugs. It was only when she kept borrowing money from me that a colleague suggested that might be the problem. I confronted Christine and she said it was none of my business. From then on I would give her food, but not money. Our relationship grew troubled, but I made sure I saw my grandsons every weekend.
Deciding to take on the boys full-time was a life-changing decision, but I know it was the right one. I'd planned to work hard as a domestic cleaner then take early retirement that won't be possible now.
In 2002, I applied to be the boys' legal guardian, and I get £600 a month to help look after them. Combined with my cleaning wages, it's just enough to pay the rent and make sure they have everything they need.
My relationship with Christine is pretty non-existent. Kyle doesn't have any contact with his mum, but Daniel's started rebuilding his relationship with her.
Maybe one day she'll be able to be the mother they deserve. Until then, they've got me."

The part-time dad
THE PART-TIME DAD
Johan Van Vuuren, 35, is an actor and model from Sevenoaks, Kent. His sons Tyler, six, and Dylan, five, stay with him every other week.
"My house is a bit of a boys-only pad. There are bikes crammed in the garden, and my living room is dominated by a 52-inch flatscreen TV. Not surprising really, as it's just me and the boys now.
Since my wife Bronwen, 37, and I split in June 2006, we share custody of our sons, one week on, one week off.
Bronwen and I met in 1997 and married three years later. Tyler was born in July 2003, and when Dylan arrived 15 months later our happiness should have been complete.
But it wasn't. Soon after Dylan was born, cracks began to appear. We were bickering over the stupidest things, and eventually we agreed to separate.
Both Bronwen and I wanted the boys full-time, but we agreed on our current arrangement. I bought Bronwen out of the family home and she moved into a house two miles away.
There were a few hiccups as we all got used to our new living arrangements. The boys couldn't understand why Mummy and Daddy weren't in the same house any more, but we tried to reassure them.
Now, Bronwen and I get on well, and I think the boys are old enough to cope with the situation. We've tried hard to make it easy for them. They know when they're at Mummy's they get away with a bit more cheeky behaviour, and at Daddy's it's more outside play - boys' stuff, I guess.
When I hand them over to Bronwen, I appreciate the peace and quiet for the first couple of days. Looking after them is so full-on, it's nice to have time to myself. But before long I start to miss them!
We both have other people in our lives. Bronwen's boyfriend lives with her, and at first I was a bit resentful that there was another man in my sons' lives. But she's great at ensuring that they know Daddy is still the most important man in their lives, and similarly, they know that my partner is never going to replace Mummy.
Our situation works for all of us. In an ideal world we'd all still be together, but things don't always work out like that. This way, everyone's happy."

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