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Am I a “Real Parent”?

April 16, 2007

Check out this Time Magazine article, entitled “Are Stepparents Real Parents?”.

It’s an interesting article. I wonder why we haven’t heard more about it since May of ’06. I understand that it’s a hard call to make. Generally, granting rights to one person includes taking rights from another, but it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed… and soon.

I know I’m not unique in my situation. Many families out there have a stepparent that really is a “de facto parent” — that is, a person that takes on most of the responsibilities of a parent. In my case, I handle the vast majority of all medical appointments, schoolwork, transportation, you name it. The children’s mother truly does not perform these activities, at all. Yet, if something happened to my husband, legally there would be little that I could do to maintain my relationship with the kids. In any every day situation, I’m impacted as well. I don’t have the legal authority to consent for medical treatment for them (my current standard policy is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), but I’m obligated because they are in my care to seek treatment when it is necessary. What a Catch-22!

That puts me, and every other stepparent out there, in quite an ugly situation. Why really commit to these kids if you have no assurance of a future with them? Why perform all of the tasks involved in being a parent if your parenting status is legally non-existent? I find that I’m frustrated with Family Court, overall, but this issue really gets to me. How can we hope to find some stability for these young ones if we never encourage stability in the family unit (more than 1/3 are blended in some form) at all? I’m not an advocate for removing rights from biological parents unless it’s truly warranted (yes, I think it is in my situation), but I think we can be creative enough to allow stepparents to be vested in their stepchildren’s interests without taking rights away from bio-parents. Don’t you?

Something’s gotta give!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Lynda permalink
    April 16, 2007 9:51 am

    A very interesting article and something worth considerable attention. Especially in a family situation such as yours.

  2. April 16, 2007 11:05 am

    I think we haven’t heard, because no ones wants to talk about it, bring it out in the open, validate it. Isn’t the stepparent just the accessory … the maid…the extra bread winner?

  3. April 16, 2007 11:08 am

    I think often that is exactly how we’re viewed — the accessory, the maid, the extra bread winner. I find it funny, in a sad sort of way, that ED in our situation tried to factor in my income so she could get more child support while simultaneously making sure she could limit my involvement with the kids as much as possible. It’s a tough gig, it really is.

  4. Christine permalink
    April 16, 2007 12:29 pm

    Progress is being made in Washington and now that the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, that sort of sets the standard by which other states can review and model their legislation. As we talked about on Friday — go to your Congresspeople and start shining light on this very real issue.

  5. Robyn permalink
    April 16, 2007 1:33 pm

    Your situation makes it even harder – most women get custody & typically are the ones going on Dr. appointments, signing permission slips, etc. Many children have limited contact with the stepmother and would see the stepfather more often (if both parents are remarried and the wife has custody). This was my situation & we didn’t really have these issues when I was growing up because my stepfather typically let my mom handle it all (how fun for her, I realize now that I am older!).

    Anyhow, I am not sure that what I am saying is making any sense but I feel your pain. I realize how lucky I was growing up & everyone doing what was best for me despite the whole family mess! I realize it especially when I’m reading your blogs and just shaking my head. I can’t imagine doing anything like that to my children.

    Hang in there friend – you are doing an awesome job…a thankless one, but rewarding in many aspects! 🙂

  6. Crissy permalink
    April 17, 2007 10:09 am

    This is one of the things i have spoken with our lawyer about. I was told that it’s possible to make a case (if something were to happen to my husband) for reasons to continue an existing relationship with my stepdaughter, but the best case scenario is probably occasional weekend visits. It’s so hard to keep from putting all of my heart into our relationship, but some days i just don’t want to do it anymore.

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