Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Right to be a Parent

Many years have passed since the last reminder that I was, in fact, a "step"mom.  That word does not really exist in this family.  Not because it was forced on the older children...the last thing I wanted to do was to force them to make a choice about who I was to them...the only thing I wanted them to know was that no matter who they perceived me to be...I would always be there for them.  I will let you in on a little secret...when I first met my was the kids I fell in love with first.  A little boy with light blonde hair, and a smile that could light up a room.  A baby girl with cheeks you just felt compelled to kiss, and a personality as big as the world.  I, of course, then fell in love with the man who was their father...partly because of the father he was, and is today. 

Those first years were rough.  Custody battles, kids torn between homes...a mother who, after much turmoil, finally dropped out of their lives.  It wasn't until then that they had the courage to call me "Mom."  They told me they had the desire to long before that...but were afraid.  I told them that I would love them the same, no matter what title they gave me.  In my mind, however...they were always mine.

Since then, I have helped raise them...I have volunteered at the schools...gone on field trips...signed permission slips.  I have enrolled them in classes and after school activities.  I have taken them to doctors, helped them with homework, and argued with them about the appropriateness of various clothing choices.  I have worried, cried, laughed, and consoled.  And this day...I have no legal rights to either of them.  Only if their biological mother were to give up all rights to them would I be able to adopt them.  We don't even know where she is...and I highly doubt she would be willing to do so.

Recently a certain doctor would not let me bring one of them in for care.  My husband had to be the one to fill out paperwork, and would be the only one they would release information to unless he signed release papers for me.  How is this fair? 

If a person is legally married...and that parent has full physical custody of the children, I think the stepparent should have some sort of legal rights when it comes to taking care of the children.  Especially when that is the parent who is home and giving 90% of the actual care.  I understand wanting to protect parents' rights when it comes to divorce...but there are certain things that should be taken into account.  If the primary caregiver has no legal rights, how does this benefit the child?

I'm glad, at least, I only run into this issue on a rare occasion.  I suppose it shouldn't bother me so much...I know who I am, and the children know...and that is what is important.  However, I can't say it doesn't hurt a all of the struggles...everything we went through as a family...doesn't mean much somehow.  The courts...the doctors....they don't see past the fact that I did not actually give birth to them.  Someday it won't matter at all...they will be grown and making their own decisions.  Right now it does make it a bit difficult, though.  I only hope it doesn't happen again for a long time.


  1. What a huge slap in the face by someone who doesn't know the situation... I am so sorry that you had to feel it.

  2. You are mom. Period. And, if anything ever happens to their father (heaven forbid) at least they are old enough now to "choose" who they would want to be with. I doubt any court would see you as anything other than mom from this point on...

  3. After a certain amount of time with no contact whatsoever from their bio-mom, have you looked into whether the courts would consider it abandonment and let you adopt?

    Also, you'll likely run into issues when Jay (and then Marissa) is old enough for his permit and driver's license. My dad got hassled because we had different addresses (permit), and my mom got hassled because we had different last names (license).

  4. Erica - I don't know. As for the driver's permits/licenses...I don't think it would be an issue because they only have one address (they never see their mother) and their last name is the same. Of course...I also didn't think *this* would be an issue, so...I guess I don't know...