A friend asked me that question the other day, after she saw in one of my posts that I mentioned my daughter moving out. The answer to that question is a little bit complex!
First of all, my husband does have a child from his first marriage. The details of our relationship with her are not really mine to share here. The short story is that we live far apart, and although I have no problems being a step-mom, she does have her own Mom who of course takes priority in her life.
The person who I refer to as “my daughter” (who I shall call Gwen) came to be a member of our family 8 years ago this coming summer. For MANY years, I have had a close relationship with three girls who lived across the street from my apartment, and then up the street from my house. The best description of our relationship is that I am big sister/aunt/friend. Our relationship is a whole other story with many chapters! But it has bearing on this current story in that Gwen was friends with the youngest up the street friend (“Jess”) which is how we met her.
Gwen was staying up the street, as she was no longer able to stay in her home. It was during the summer, and she was between her junior and senior years of high school. Chris and I would take Jess out to dinner occasionally. One evening when we invited her, she said that she could come, except she had a friend staying with her. We told her to bring her friend along. That is how we met Gwen.
While we were eating dinner, Gwen’s tenuous living situation came to light. Her stay with Jess was limited, as Jess’ Dad did not want Gwen to stay permanently. Gwen only had one year of high school left, and she really wanted to graduate. She had previously attended a high school near us for 9th grade, so she really wanted to stay in this area, rather than change schools again. However she could not work to pay rent, and attend high school at the same time; so she had been hoping to stay with Jess, but that was not going to work out.
After we came home, and the girls left, Chris and I talked about the situation. I honestly do not recall who brought up the idea first, but basically we both felt like we had space, and Gwen needed a place to stay, so our path was clear. We wanted to talk to Gwen about our rules, and see if she was comfortable moving in with us. We also wanted to make sure Gwen’s Mom would give us educational and medical guardianship so that we could register her for school and take her for medical care if needed.
I can’t recall if we called them to come back down that night, or if we talked to Gwen the next day, but the decision was made pretty quickly. Gwen moved in, we got her registered for school, took her shopping for some school clothes, got her on our cell phone plan etc.
At some point many months after all this, somehow the subject of how other people looked at our decisions came up in a conversation with Chris, Gwen and I. It was very interesting to compare notes. Both Chris and I had people ask us weren’t we afraid of her stealing from us, or even worse accusing us of some sort of abuse. Gwen had people ask her wasn’t she afraid that we might abuse her, or use her for some illegal “nefarious” purposes. We all said that those type of ideas had never crossed our minds. We just had a “feeling” that this was the “right” thing to do, so we did it. Of course our living situation was not ‘nirvana”; we had some typical teenager angst and behaviors such as skipping school etc. But never have we regretted our decision for a second. Gwen is now a wonderful young woman, and she calls us her adopted parents, and we call her our daughter.
So that is the long answer to the short question! There are many other chapters to this story as well, but I’ll be shocked if anyone has kept reading this far!!