When I was a child, I told my mum I wanted to be just like her. Not a nurse or a Fleetwood Mac fanatic. Not a brilliant baker or even such an enthusiastic dancer. But I did want to be a mum – and a single mum at that. At the time, we lived alone and, since mum worked full-time, I was constantly around her friends. Her best friend, a raucously funny extrovert with stories for every occasion, did everything with us, including going on holiday. We laughed so much as a three that I wondered why anyone would want to get married or have a boyfriend, when being best friends was so much fun. Mum laughed when I told her my hypothesis. “I don’t think that’s how it works, darling,” she said.
But what if it was how it works? What if best friends could be families, even in the eyes of the law? What if there was another option when it comes to being a parent, aside from being in a romantic relationship or on your own?
Two best friends in Canada have just become the first parents to do exactly that. They are not romantically involved with each other, but have been parenting together since their son, Elaan, was born seven years ago. Now, in a legal first, they have just been made “co-mommas” (to use their words). They are the first friends to be recognised as a parenting partnership in the eyes of the law, with both of their names registered as “mothers” to Elaan.
Their situation is unique in many ways. Natasha Bakht, now 44, decided to have a child using a sperm donor in her thirties – and, knowing she too eventually wanted to have children, Lynda Collins, her best friend, offered to be her birth partner. "I thought it would be just an amazing life experience to see someone be born," she told CBC News in an interview.
But there were complications during the birth and, at just six months, doctors discovered that Elaan would suffer a lifetime of disability, after discovering that portions of his brain were dead. He was left with spastic quadriplegia – meaning he cannot use any of his limbs – and he also has asthma epilepsy, visual problems and an inability to speak.
After a two-year battle, they share legal, financial and medical responsibility for Elaan. And they’re a little beacon of hope in a pretty miserable time
As a result, his care could be – and still is – demanding. Collins moved in with her pal and her son to help. They started to share responsibilities and attended medical appointments as a three. Theirs became a friendship bound like no other and a solid foundation for a family.
When Collins thought about having a child of her own, she realised that she already had one in Elaan, and that it made sense for her to adopt him and become his second parent. Which is what they set about to do. Now, after a two-year battle, they share legal, financial and medical responsibility for Elaan. And they’re a little beacon of hope in a pretty miserable time.
They are a truly modern family – an example of how "traditional" set-ups are quickly falling out of the zeitgeist as society evolves. And doesn’t it make perfect sense? “Relationships come and go,” goes the saying, “but friends are the ones who stick around.”
A new set-up could provide a sense of stability for a child, allow single mothers (the majority of single parents are women) greater access to work and a relief from financial difficulties. And, as friends always do, be a source of unquestioning support to one another, with none of the complications or expectations of romance. Maybe I was on to something.