As parents, we're often faced with tough choices regarding our children. Whether it's their health or who cares for them when they're at school, camp, or on a night out while they stay home with a sitter, we're constantly making "big choices." And one of the biggest decisions we make is one we hope never comes to fruition, and one we hardly like thinking about. So, how does a parent choose their child’s future guardians, exactly? It’s a question that weighs on every parent’s mind at one time or other, so I asked a few mom to share their thought process.
Like any parenting decision, this choice is different for different parents, and made for a variety of reasons and with a variety of factors in mind. For example, a single parent might need to think about this potential scenario when the other parent is not involved. Someone who is estranged from their biological family might want to make sure relatives don’t come around to try and suddenly gain guardianship. And, in general, it’s just a good idea to know your kid(s) will go to a safe home if the worst of the worst happens; one where they’ll be loved and cared for, and where they’ll be raised in line with your beliefs.
It can seem odd to literally give life and then, sometimes suddenly, start thinking about death. But it’s been a question weighing on my own mind lately, and I've realized that while I love my relatives I don’t know that I would want my son raised by them. So I asked a few other parents how they came to this arguably monumental choice, and their answers were beyond enlightening.
“My husband has four siblings and I have one, and all of them are not ready to have kids anytime soon (if ever). His parents are too old and mine are too irresponsible. We picked one of my best friends, who has two of her own. We've talked a lot about parenting and I know we're on the same page. She picked us to be the legal guardians of her kids as well, even though her and her husband have siblings with kids.”
“I just updated my paperwork. It's never been a family member. We chose a family who has kids, who our kids are comfortable with, and who share our faith. We move a lot, so we wanted to be sure it was someone we'd still see and have a relationship with.”
“We more decided who we didn't want to take our kids. After that, our options were pretty limited. We haven't done anything official though.”
“We chose my husband's sister and her husband. They have a daughter of their own, and they're kind and loving and financially stable. As backup, we chose my oldest brother. He doesn't have kids, but he's basically filled the role of my (absent) father for many years now, so I trust him to cherish my sons like I would cherish them. Plus, he is also financially stable.”
“We chose people based on similar parenting styles, their location (closer seemed better so as to not disrupt our kids' lives too much if something happened), and on whether or not it seemed like it would be too much added burden to raise our kids in addition to their own.”
“I was complaining to my cousin that we were having a hard time figuring it out who we would ask to be guardians, and she offered. To me, that offer was worth more than anything else I could try to measure. I love her. She has one son the same age as my youngest, and I trust her. There was no perfect answer for us, for a variety of reasons, and it meant a lot to me that she wanted to do it.”
“We chose my parents. Our daughter is already so close to them, My mom is like her second mother. They are in their mid-60s, but they are youngish and in good health. Also, I have a very big family, and they all live close to each other. If anything were to happen to both my husband and me, my parents wouldn't be raising her alone. They maybe her primary caregivers, but my brother, cousins, aunts, and uncles would all be around, helping and supporting.”
“Although my husband has siblings (I'm an only child), we didn't choose either of them to be the boys godparents or guardians. Technically, my dad is their legal guardian. The agreement we made with him was that he would need to be able to truly care for them or the boys would be cared for by one of my dearest friends (she's also their godmother.) We thought she would help them become level-headed, good people if we weren't around. She and her husband have kids and we all travel together and get along well. We knew our boys would be comfortable with their family and would be oh-so-loved.”
“I’m seven years older than my only living sibling. At one point in time, I was her assigned guardian. She’s now 30, with all her ducks in a row and, of our options, she mostly shares similar values to us.”
“My husband and I are both only children. He's not from this country and my parents are old, so family just wasn't an option. We chose friends of ours who don't have children (by choice) but are great with kids and come from big, loving families. They've always spoken of adoption as the only choice they'd be interested in pursuing in regard to their own family. They're also financially capable of taking in a child (we have plenty of life insurance so that wouldn't be an issue either way). When we asked them, they didn't miss a beat in saying yes and mentioned that they're basically the de-facto guardians in all of their friends and family's wills for their kids. So who knows, they may end up with a big family after all.”
“We were torn between my sister-in-law and my parents. We decided on parents because my mom is the most active person in our kids' lives. My mom has been at our house every weekend for over three years and goes to doctors appointments, special needs appointments, all programs and activities, and IEP meetings. She is a second parent to my kids and they would be best with her."
“We’re torn-ish. I’m close to my sister, and our kids love hers, but we will not allow our children to be raised in any household that includes her husband. It might be in poor taste to declare a guardian in my will with the stipulation that she must have divorced, though I guess I’d be dead anyway, so.”
“We chose our known donor. The kids have an amazing connection with him, though he lives in another city. He’s a thoughtful, loving, stable, wonderful person who knows and respects our values. He is not planning to have children of his own.”
“We chose my husband's sister and her husband, who have four children and the means to take care of ours as well if something happens. If not her, my best friend, who is the same. We didn't choose grandparents due to age and didn't pick anyone who didn't have kids. We were lucky we have such experienced parents to turn to.”
“We chose my brother and sister-in-law. We knew we would go with one of our siblings, since we have good relationships with them all and both come from very family-oriented households. My brother and sister-in-law are the most stable, financially sound, and have a similar parenting style as us. They also live close by and in the same town as my parents.”
“This was very hard. We picked my in-laws because they are relatively young and live around the corner from us, which will allow the kids to continue in their same environment. That was the critical factor for us, to prevent further upheaval and make sure the kids interests are first.”
“We chose my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, because we share a similar parenting philosophy. We would have chosen my parents but it seemed better for our kids to be with adults who will hopefully be around for longer. They will have to move back to California to live with them, but we felt this disruption would be worth it knowing they will be raised the way we want them to be raised. It was a hard decision not to choose anyone in my direct family, but my brother is single and it would be a huge shift for him to manage life with kids. Anyway, we hope we never have to worry about it!”
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.