I’ve touched on this subject several times, but never really took the time to go in-depth. It started when Jim and I first started dating and became serious — he introduced me to Jessie. I instantly fell in love with this child (who had just turned 5 at the time) and to this day love her as if she were my very own.
From the beginning Jessie’s mother was averse to the idea of another “mother figure” being in her life and strongly objected to Jessie viewing me as an authority figure. At one point, Jessie called me “Momma”, but her mother pitched fits and would berate Jessie until she stopped. Growing up in a tumultuous household, I understand and can relate — but it does not ease my pain.
I have always tried to remain civil or friendly to Jessie’s mother for Jessie’s sake, and try very hard not to say anything negative against her when she’s around. However, that woman has no idea of the contempt and resentment I hold for her for those actions. To this day, it still brings tears to my eyes and is a very sore subject with me. Her mother saw fit to encourage Jessie to question my authority and if I exerted any, Jessie would quickly counter with “You’re not my mother!”
I never blamed Jessie — she’s a child and had no idea how much that hurt. But her mother is a grown woman and knows better.
Granted, things are getting better with Jessie, as far as my role as an authority figure goes; however, I have found now that there are
bigger more serious roadblocks than her mother. It seems to me like little insignificant things — the kind of things that you wouldn’t think would prove difficult for a stepparent (or at least I didn’t until now). For instance, Jessie is on my insurance. I handle all of the paperwork and finances for our family — yet, I cannot even sign a form to check her out of school, approve field trips, find out how many days she’s missed, or even to send medicine when she’s got a cold. (and not sick enough to be out of school)
For example, I had to check Jessie out of school for an orthodontist appointment a few weeks back. Usually I make the appointments for in the morning, but she had a test that day and I had it changed to afternoon so she could be at school most of the day. I went to the school office and told them who I was and why I was there. I was told that because I am not her biological parent or a legal guardian, that I would have to wait while they call my husband to get an OK for her to check out. Never mind that I am the first on the emergency contact list, and that every time she’s gotten sick at school, she has specifically requested they call ME. Never mind that *I* am the one who handles everything in the event of emergencies. I asked one of the office staff why wouldn’t I be able to do anything because I’m her stepmother and was told that it was Jefferson County rules. This turned out to be false, as Jim called the county office. However, it seems we’ll need to meet with the principal to discuss this, as it’s actually HER rule.
No biggie in the grand scheme of things, rules are rules, and the school principal is a very nice woman who has worked with us on various issues before.
But it’s not just the school thing that bothers me. I have been trying for months to get Jessie’s mother to cancel her old insurance because Jessie is now covered on mine. I nagged this woman for the last 6 months straight and she STILL won’t do it! Today I took it upon myself to call the state office — it’s state-sponsored insurance (or “free” insurance, as her mother calls it) — and was told that because I was not her biological parent, they could not speak to me.
I can understand that … I have worked in the health care industry for over 10 years and understand all too well about HIPAA rules and PHI. However, I offered to have my insurance company’s office fax over her current coverage as proof that she’s covered, and that the old coverage could be canceled — which as I understand it, would have to happen, as kids on this insurance cannot be covered by anyone else, or it nullifies the coverage. The CSR refused my offer and I was told flat out that Jessie’s mother would have to contact them — I know that THAT will not happen because the woman is lazy and irresponsible!
So here I am typing up a cancellation request for Jessie’s mother. I’ll leave it for her to sign and I’ll pick it up later this week and fax it in to the insurance office. I figure if I do most of the work FOR HER, then she might help me out a little … but I digress …
I know it differs from state to state, but I have been wondering for a while what my rights ARE as a stepparent. I ran across this article in Time magazine, and though it’s a couple years old, reading it did not give me any new information that I hadn’t come across on my own. Something tells me that I’ll probably have to consult a lawyer to find out exactly what rights I *DO* have (if any!?).
Her mother insisted on splitting legal custody with Jim, but refuses to take any responsibility (financial or otherwise) when it comes to Jessie’s welfare. The fact of the matter is, she lives with us the majority of the time. She’s on my insurance. We buy the majority of her clothing and other needs. We pay all of her school-related costs and fees. We paid for her glasses and will be paying for her braces (the insurance covers only a small percentage of these and even though her mother offered at one time to help out with these costs, she now refuses).
The thought that really scares me is: if something were to ever happen to Jessie, and if Jim and her mother could not be reached, I cannot authorize any medical assistance.
Seriously … how screwed up is that?
I understand why it is the way it is … but it still breaks my heart. Jessie has a mother who has all the parental rights, but refuses to take responsibility — and here I am trying desperately to take responsibility, and I have no parental rights.