OPC – Raising Other People’s Children or How to lose your mind in 20 ways

I still get a lot of hits on this post and from the looks of it these are serious inquiries from people looking for help on the internet search engines.  We live in a different world from the one I grew up in.  Good, bad or indifferent, I did most of my growing up with my mother and father together.  I don’t know what it’s like to be raised by someone other than my parents. 

When my parents divorced, it was difficult.  Even though I knew it was for the best, it was painful and confusing.  I’m sure it felt the same for them.  But I was still raised by my mother after that.  I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents but I wasn’t raised by them. 

So when I try to imagine what it must feel like for my grandchildren to wake up everyday without their parents, I can’t.  I know what it’s like for them to live here with me, but I don’t know what it’s like for them not to live with their core family. I’ve never been there. 

It must be incredibly lonely.  It must be incredibly painful.  And while I can’t understand what it feels like, I do understand why they wake up everyday wishing I was someone else.  If I was in their position I would feel the same. 

I was having a pity party in the last post.  Sometimes I have to do that.  When you are raising other people’s children, you must occasionally be selfish.  You must occasionally think about yourself.  Because it does get very difficult.  As much as they love you, care about you, need you, want you, you will never be their parent.  All of your thanks and appreciation will come in later years when and if they have their own children and they find out what it takes to say no when all you want to do is say yes. 

I have no advice to offer about how to do this successfully.  Our lives are a work in progress.  We learn everyday.  All I can tell you is to be honest about what is going on.  Don’t be judgmental about their parents, but don’t let them off the hook for anything they did to put the kids where they are.  It’s a tightrope walk over salted broken glass.  Without a net.  When it’s good, nothing could be better.  When it’s bad, nothing could be worse.  All in all, the good times outnumber the bad 10 to 1.  I’d consider it well worth it if they outnumbered them 6 to 5. 

Not long ago my grandson, Buddha, told me that I had no idea what it felt like to be him.  I had no idea what it felt like to want to be like everyone else and want to fit it.  I had to admit that I had absolutely no idea what it felt like to be him.  The world is a totally different place than it was when I was his age.  But that I did know what it felt like to want to fit in.  But by the same token, he had no idea what it felt like to be me.  He had no idea what it felt like to be standing there saying no when what I really wanted to do was say yes. 

We then had a discussion about how we had both been cheated out of our natural roles.  He was supposed to be my grandson, to be spoiled by me and then sent home to his parents.  I was supposed to be his grandma, the place he came to, to get some extra cash and some of those things that mom and dad were a little iffy on.  But due to bad decisions made by other people, we were forced into the roles of mother and son.  We were cheated.  And we are angry.  But not at each other.  At the situation.  It’s taken us three years to get to this point.  Like I said, we’re a work in progress.

I have taken to answering the “You’re not my mom” accusation with the obvious answer.  No, I’m not.  Then when they want to go somewhere, I suggest they ask their mom.  When they want some money, I suggest they ask their mom.  When they want to do something special, I suggest they ask their mom.  I don’t hear that one much anymore.  Usually only when someone is very upset.  It’s an indicator of how bad they’re feeling.  I usually perk up and start asking questions when this one pops back up. 

I just don’t know.  Send me an email, add a comment or something.  We’ll try to figure it out together.  It’s a hard place to be for everyone involved.  But it’s a more and more common place to find yourself.  You’re not alone.  When you feel like screaming, there are a thousand more of us out there right now feeling the same way.  When you feel like quitting, there are a thousand more of us ready to give up too.  When you feel like pulling your hair out, we are ready to go bald ourselves ( I don’t suggest this, as that look is most definately NOT for everyone).  

You think you’re going crazy and then one of them walks up out of the blue and hugs your neck for no reason and you start all over again.  Then you think that maybe, just maybe, you can show them a new way.  A better way.  Or at least just give them a better option.  And it makes it worth it.  That, and the occasional unguarded smile.


23 Responses to OPC – Raising Other People’s Children or How to lose your mind in 20 ways

  1. thought4food says:

    Stephanie, my kids have all left home now. The youngest just turned 19. She has wanted nothing more in this world than to be back with her parents since the first day she got here. And now she is. She’s happier than she has ever been. But she goes with a solid foundation of love, emotional stability, and education that she wouldn’t have gotten any other way. She grew up in a stable home watching loving parents. She now knows what that looks like and what that feels like. So I’m happy for her that she got what she wanted all along, and happy for me that I can look in the mirror and respect the person looking back.
    Her brother has blossomed in his life. He watched, looked, listened. He took the lessons we taught and ran with them all. He lives the life he created for himself and is as happy as a clam.
    We now have our time for ourselves. We are learning to do as we please when we please. There are times when it gets lonely. You’ll be surprised, when it’s all said and done, to find that there are a lot of empty hours where all of those appointments used to be!
    And when you do it right, it takes a while for the new to wear off of being on their own. Our middle one is finally coming back around again.
    You have a right to every one of those feelings. But you will never regret giving a good start in life to another human being. And bless you for seven lifetimes for doing it!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Wow! So glad I came across this post. I am raising my sisters kids. I’ve raised my kids and feel like this was the time my husband and I were Finally get to have fun and be free. So travel and do kid free things. It was either I Take then or they’d be in foster care. I felt stuck but decided I couldn’t let them go. I’m not starting all over raising a 3 and 5 year old. There’s days when their little faces warm my heart and I can’t picture life without them anymore. Then others days I just want my life back. Especially when I’m missing out on those days when I could do what I wanted. I want to break down and cry after days of them being sick and I’m exhausted. I used to be so envolved with my own kids. PTA, sports and activities. I can barely get the energy to remember days they they get out of school. The 3 year old is special needs and we have appointments for speech and they need so much assistance. They still cry for mom and Dad. That’s all they want is to be with them. I tell myself one day they’ll appreciate it. But right now I can’t help feeling like well then go to fostercare I don’t need this. But I remind myself their just babies. They don’t know any better. So many days I cry and want to give up.

  3. Carol says:

    It is really hard raising other peoples children as your own. You can love them unconditionally and it will never be enough for them, especially teenagers. It is even harder when their other family constantly is a reminder of their deceased dad and they keep rubbing it in their faces. Espceially when we allow them to spend time with them and instead of allowing them to enjoy their quality time, they question them about us and make they return back confuse and forgot that were the ones taking care of them. It is frustrating and at times I want to give up and give them back to their aunt who raised them before we had them. Than there is the unexpected hugs and it starts all over again.

  4. Lorrine says:

    Thanks for another wonderful article. The place else may anyone get that kind of info in such an ideal way of writing?
    I have a presentation next week, and I am at the search for such information.

  5. Tammi says:

    I’ve been there. I think it’s harder to raise another person’s child, and then on top of it, people act like you aren’t an actual parent. I hate when people say insensitive stuff about me not being her mother. I wish there was more resources and support for this.

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  7. Hopelessly dying in Colorado says:

    I feel really bad my gf and I just moved in together in July and in October her sister sent her 18 yo son to live with us I feel very used cheated and misled we haven’t even been together a year and all of a sudden we are saddled with this kid who should be an adult he steals lies lies lies and talks to me like I’m shit when she is not around I have my own children 13, 18, 28, 28, & 31. They have never disrespected me like this boy he has broken every rule we set down and she won’t put him in his place because he has physically hurt her in the past had I known that I never would have allowed him iny home. He flips off my 9yo grandson and cusses at my 13yo and blames her for his faults my gf won’t kick him out or send him back to his mother my girlfriend and I used to get along so good till he got here now all we do is fight because I Dont like this kid at all we are falling away from eachother what do I do??? Am I being selfish she says I am. Please help me,

  8. sara says:

    Hi! Thank you for your blog. I am also raising someone else’s child and I wish there was more resources and community for parents like us. I am raising my nephew, he arrived on our doorstep when he was 18 months old and now he is 4 1/2. I have to take life one day at a time. Some days are good and some are bad but he is worth every sacrifice I have made.

    I love that you talk about the anger. Yes we are angry. Some days I dont know what to do with it. We were cheated out of our natural roles. But now it is my job to give him the best chance at a good life filled with opportunities and teach them how to be respectful loving people. Otherwise what are we fighting for?

  9. Jam says:

    I find that God has given many of us gifts in life. I’m wondering if I’m losing my life by giving them life. Bless you all.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I actually laughed out loud at the ask your mom comments! It felt good to laugh as many days are duty filled. We have had children ages 13 11 and 8 with us for a little over a year and they rock our world. So much being poured in and the constant reminder that you are not the parent. The struggle is real but as many of you have said…you adjust and re evaluate. Really it was a pleasure just to hear the stories.

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    Regardless, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll
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  19. thought4food says:

    An update….Buddha is now in 11th grade, taking honors classes and making all of his plans for college. Princess Bella is in 7th grade, still has ADHD, doing really well in classes and has really gotten social. At the risk of jinxing it, they are both doing remarkably well. They are happy, healthy, and planning for their futures. They have both decided to make a life for themselves that doesn’t include the bad choices their parents made. They SEE the difference between the way their parents live and the way we all live and they don’t choose the old way. They it has taken a LONG time to get to this point, but they have worked it out. Hang in there. It won’t seem like it but it does get better!

  20. I googled raising other people kid’s and here you were. Thank God! I was beginning to feel so alone. I am raising (legal guardian) my good friends children, ages 14 and 10. Im married with a child (10) of my own. The kids have been with us for a little over three years now and the drama has begun to increase monthly. They steal, lie and manipulate like its more than natural. My hubby and I have taken them on vacations with us and they are included in everything we do as a family. They just seem to never be satisfied with us as parents. Im a stay at home mom and daycare provider (thats how i met their mom). Im generally a patient person but Im begining to reach new limits with them. I have thought many time about having them removed but in the end I cant make them feel thrown away. Im tierd and depressed.

  21. thought4food says:

    My grandkids have been with me for 6 years now and things are really going great. We have the usual parent child issues but no more of the excessive stuff. I guess they have finally figured out that they are here to stay. Their parents come to see them sometimes but the kids have both specifically said that they want to stay here. No fighting, no drama, enough to eat. They are doing wonderful and I expect to see them to adulthood shining like stars. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s brighter than you can imagine! Here’s to all those wonderful people out there who care enough that they refuse to let a child be thrown away. God love you all!

  22. Lynn says:

    Been there! Done that! Have several t-shirts hanging in my closet! LOLOLOL

    My husband and I have custody of 2 of my nieces, for the 3rd and final time. We now have permanant custody and they have been with us for 5 years with NO contact or phone calls with their parents, due to court order placed by judge. An order we agree with.

    We have experienced EVERYTHING you’ve written in this post!!! LOL It IS difficult raising someone else’s children. Our son was 12 weeks old when the girls moved in, who is 5 now. We have been through some pretty rought times. Some of the “issues” have put us in the position of almost having the girls removed, but we reevaluate and adjust our expectations EVERY time. We just don’t have the heart to have them removed.

    There is no right or wrong way to do this. There is only a day to day decision to do our best. My husband and I have put boundaries in place, such as our son NOT being hurt or put at risk EVER. (Sadly, it has happened before.)

    We just take one step at a time!!! Some days are great, some days are not so great. The great days are starting to outnumber the not so great days. We’re not at a 10 -1 ratio, but we’re definitely at a place we can live with!!!!

  23. Debbie says:

    Are you still raising your grandchildren? I’m currently raising three nephews (in addition to my own two sons) because of bad decisions their parents made. It’s hard. It’s only been three months, and it’s so, so hard.

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