DEAR ABBY: I'm a 23-year-old woman who has been helping to raise my three adorable godchildren over the last few years. Their mother is also 23. She became pregnant with her oldest when she was 15. She's a young single mother, unprepared for the full responsibility, so I have stepped in.
When they were babies, we would take turns rocking them all night. I take them to the doctor's when they are sick -- with or without their mom. I helped select which schools they attend. Through the years I have been there every day, waking them in the morning, taking them to school, putting them to bed, etc.
I am now being married and have slightly reduced my day-to-day role, although I am still in many ways the "other parent." I get criticized for this all the time. I am constantly being told, "They are not your children. You shouldn't be doing this." Even my future in-laws have said it.
I don't know how to respond. I love the children very much, as if they were my own. I can't let them suffer for their mother's numerous mistakes. I'd appreciate any advice you can give me. -- GODMOTHER OF THREE IN NEW ENGLAND
DEAR GODMOTHER: May I begin by asking, "Where is their mother?" Where are the grandparents? Three children, no father(s) -- who is supporting them? You are a caring angel to have stepped in to the extent that you have, but why isn't their mother around to put them to bed at night, wake them in the morning, and see that they get to the doctor when they are so sick they need one? Something is seriously out of kilter.
In the not-too-distant future you will have children of your own to care for. Husbands need a certain amount of care and nurturing, too. It will be impossible for you to continue to be as involved as you have been in your godchildren's lives. You are doing the right thing by transitioning away, and you must continue to do so. Much as you love them, your godchildren are their mother's responsibility, and you have already done more than you should have been expected (or asked) to do.