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.
I wince every time I read one of these because it seems so completely like a power trip on the mother’s side. It’s heartbreaking. *Hugs*
Honey, God makes special women to be second mommies (aka stepmoms). You are one of them. You have character and strength that Jessie needs. That is why you are in her life.
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I can’t believe all the crap that woman has put you and Jim through. Thankfully Jessie has an incredible role model to look up to, and one of these days she’s going to look back and be truly thankful for everything you did for her. :grin:
If they split custody, can’t Jim just give his approval for you to do those things? At my school, if you’re on the emergency card, that’s good enough for us. Sorry to hear you’re running into roadblocks….that has to be frustrating as a stepparent.
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Devilish Southern Belle
That is a truly tough situation you find yourself in, and I can see how it is heartbreaking. I do hope at least the principal at school will work with you on this. It’s a shame Jessie’s bio mother can’t see past her own selfishness to the best interests of her child.
I’m not sure whether Jessie can’t be covered on your insurance if she’s still on state, or if she’s not supposed to be on state insurance if she is covered elsewhere. But if it’s the latter, I’d just give up if her bio mom won’t cancel it after all this. I’d be tempted to tip the state off to her fraud, though!
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@Doc: “I wince every time I read one of these because it seems so completely like a power trip on the motherâ€™s side. Itâ€™s heartbreaking. *Hugs*”
@Conservative Belle: “Honey, God makes special women to be second mommies (aka stepmoms). You are one of them. You have character and strength that Jessie needs. That is why you are in her life. (((((HUGS))))))”
Thanks, hon. I’ve no doubt that God put us together because each of us gives something to the other that we need. Jim’s mother told me once that she saw an instant change in Jessie when I came into her life and that no matter how badly I think I’m doing, she sees the good in Jessie come out whenever she’s with me. It was one of the best things anyone could say to me. That child really is a gem, and it kills me to think that sometimes I think her mother can’t see it.
@Miranda: “I canâ€™t believe all the crap that woman has put you and Jim through. Thankfully Jessie has an incredible role model to look up to, and one of these days sheâ€™s going to look back and be truly thankful for everything you did for her.”
Thank you, sweetie. That’s what Jim says too. And I have to admit, I’ve noticed it more over the last couple of years, Jessie trusts me to handle things when it really counts (in emergencies, when she’s sick, etc.), and part of me feels sorry for her mother because I know it will only get worse for HER as Jessie gets older.
@Rick: “If they split custody, canâ€™t Jim just give his approval for you to do those things? At my school, if youâ€™re on the emergency card, thatâ€™s good enough for us. Sorry to hear youâ€™re running into roadblocksâ€¦.that has to be frustrating as a stepparent.”
Well, used to having Jim’s approval on file at the school was enough, but they’ve changed their policies in the last year. A few staff in the school office know me and have no problem bending the rules for me, but a couple are sticklers (which I wholeheartedly understand) and stick to the rulebook on these things.
@Devilish Souther Belle: “That is a truly tough situation you find yourself in, and I can see how it is heartbreaking. I do hope at least the principal at school will work with you on this. Itâ€™s a shame Jessieâ€™s bio mother canâ€™t see past her own selfishness to the best interests of her child.”
The principal has worked with us on other things before and I think when we sit down and talk to her, we can come to an arrangement that suits everyone. She’s a pretty reasonable woman … just finding time to get together with her when both we and she are not all busy is the key. :P
“Iâ€™m not sure whether Jessie canâ€™t be covered on your insurance if sheâ€™s still on state, or if sheâ€™s not supposed to be on state insurance if she is covered elsewhere. But if itâ€™s the latter, Iâ€™d just give up if her bio mom wonâ€™t cancel it after all this. Iâ€™d be tempted to tip the state off to her fraud, though!”
It’s ALL Kids insurance and one rep told me that she can’t be covered by anything else, but when I called again last night to ask for their fax number, another told me she COULD be covered by both. Either way, her mother now wants to cancel it, but she’s too lazy to do it herself. :rolls eyes:
Anyway, I’m gonna keep nagging her until she signs the damned form. I figure eventually she will do it just to shut me up.
Lots and lots and lots of empathy. It’s hell when the biological parent wants all the glory and none of the responsibility.
I agree with the prior poster – someday Jessie will realize just how truly stellar the mom-figure (ie, you) in her life truly is. Age gives wisdom…and your time will come. You are to be commended for taking the high road, indeed.
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Thanks for stopping by, and the encouraging words. It’s funny, my husband has said some of the things in the comments here. (maybe I should listen to him more? hehe)
I know it will all work out for the best in the end … it’s just trying to see the forest is hard because of all the trees in the way. ;)
this was a really sweet post nicki even though it was very sad. i am sorry you are not her birth mother — you should be. but at least jessie has you in her life to protect her and care for her and love her in spite of who her birth mom is.
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I feel your pain. I have the same problem with my son. A teacher once refused to answer my email until my wife faxed a form authorizing them to talk to me. My son’s father is in Colombia and he has not seen his son in 6 years and talks to him 3-4 times /year. He sends no Christmas cards or birthday cards. He sends no money but we expect none. The problem is that this bum will not give up his parental rights. He views his son as some sort of property that he owns but wants no responsibility for. If something happens to my wife, he has every legal right to take my son back to Colombia and separate him from his sister. Can you imagine having to live your life in a poor country that is in the middle of a civil war and on the U.S. State Department’s “do not travel” list? My son can’t even speak spanish.
I’m sorry you’re having issues with this. It’s pretty typical and really crappy. I did seek legal counsel on this issue when I married my husband concerning my daughter. I learned that not only did he have no rights with the school, etc. but that if she needed emergency medical treatment, he could not authorize it. And yet her bio-donor could despite not knowing a THING about her. DH adopted her to solve the problem. Good luck!