I am a nebulous creature without a name. I am an adult helping to care for children that I live with, that are a part of my life. Nobody is paying me to care for them, I do it out of love for their father and the fact that I care deeply for them and their well-being. But the fact remains that their father and I are not married, and while that may happen in the future, right now, I am not their stepmother, and I am definitely not their mother. I am some nebulous in-between-being that is slightly more elevated than “live-in-girlfriend” (because I too own the house they live in), and still without legal standing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Boy’s work schedule has gotten busier as of late. More travel required, and so he’s usually gone a night or two each week. It’s been easier to handle those since we’ve been living together, because I’ll see him at night or whenever he gets back, and I’m not “competing” for time and attention with his daughters. It can all happen at once, and it’s much easier and more convenient this way. But his ex does shift work, and for a couple of trips in the recent past and in the near future, there are times when she would be working overnight, and he is just gone. Somebody needs to take the children to school. And because I’m a capable adult who can handle this kind of thing, I said I could. So there have been nights when I have been the one to yell about too much running around after school, that they’ve completed their homework, I’ve been the one tucking them into bed, making their lunches, seeing that they get breakfast and brush their teeth in the morning, and physically taken them to school. I am literally acting in loco parentis.
And I’m starting to feel like I’ve made a huge leap in my parental experience at this point. Not in a bad way – they are sweet girls who behave the way most preteens do, and I’m still able to be the boss. The problem is that I feel like a fraud – most parents are raising and caring for their child from birth onward. I’m coming in at elementary school age, and any parent (or any adult with eyes) can tell you that children make enormous changes even beyond just the physical from babyhood to toddlerhood before becoming real kids. And I haven’t had to deal with that. So I start to feel like I’m faking it.
Though I think that even people who have their own children probably still feel like they’re faking it sometimes. Unless you’ve already raised children of the age that your oldest is at, you are breaking new ground. And I think the advantage for most people is that they either have that path behind them to look in on, or a legal and biological title of “Parent” that gives them a level of forgiveness in whatever their choices may be. Right now, I have the small path that we’ve gone together, but no official title in their lives. I’ve got the same legal standing as a babysitter. When I drive them to school, I am not recognized as anything except “the responsible adult dropping the children off”.
Very early on in our relationship, the Boy said he was not looking for a mother for his children – their mother is still around, and she’s doing a good job and he trusts her with their care. But he knew that I would be a person in their lives, and so we took our time in introducing me and developing that relationship in a natural way. And here we are, years in – living together, committed. And I have no title. Maybe that’s just me being insecure. But as someone who is not their mother, but who is taking on roles and responsibilities that parents would…it would be nice to be recognized, even in name only.
So – discussion time, and this is a time when I really need your input and advice. Am I being silly? Is it weird to be so hung up on having any kind of official role or title in their life? As a step-parent (or as a child of a parent who was in committed relationships when you were young) do you think it makes a difference? Does a role need to be defined to make a lasting impact? I’m open to all thoughts here – even the one that says I’m being ridiculous and need to get over myself. But in that case – how?