I do not have any children yet, but something I have been thinking about lately is how parents decide who would take care of their children if something horrible happens to both of them. How do you ask someone to take care of your children if you pass away, and how do you tell someone you haven’t chosen them? For example, with two sets of grandparents, who do you put in the will as legal guardians if the worst happens?
Great question! Time for another round of SHE SAID/SHE SAID, with your hosts Ariel and Stephanie…
This is a question that completely haunts me and Sean. I mean, some of the reasons are obvious (“OMG, something could happen to us?! What would happen to Jasper?! & etc.), but when we really sit down and try to reason out who we would ask to take care of Jasper if we no longer could, we consistently draw blanks. That’s not entirely true — individually, we each come up with people, but together? We’ve never been able to come to a mutual agreement.
First and foremost, we’re not religious, so for us, a godparent would be the designated guardian in the event that he or she (or they) were necessary. We’ve gone through the grand-parents, and rationalized out who is likely to be the best choice there. Our criteria was pretty straight-forward: we looked at the relationship Jasper has with each grandparent & the grandparent’s spouse, which includes how the grand-parent treats Jasper and who is most likely to raise him in a way that is somewhat similar to how we would. After that, we considered things like the financial situation of each grand-parent, the housing situation, and how stable that grand-parent is.
The tricky part? While we love our parents, we’re not sure if a grandparent would be the best substitute parent in a situation like this. Neither of us were raised with godparents, so we really don’t have a realistic idea of what the non-religious role entails. When I was pregnant Sean had the idea that we create a “Jedi council” of sorts — five or six friends that we really trust and who we think could, collectively, keep Jasper as awesome and happy as possible. This doesn’t really play out in reality, because how do you ensure that these people would all pitch in? Who would Jasper live with? And so on.
There are a few options within our friends, but every time we go down one path, we come up with more reasons why the person or people wouldn’t fulfill our ideas about what a parent is in the context of us and Jasper. And, I think, therein lies the real problem with a situation like this — you have to realize that no one is going to be the parents that you would be, and move past that. If something happened to us, whoever would raise Jasper would have their own parenting philosophies. There’s no way to predict what those would be, and no way for us to have peace of mind that Jasper would be in 100% Sean-and-Stephanie-esque hands.
Clearly, I’m still trying to figure this one out. I look forward to reading responses from other parents!
I love this question, although I’m coming at it from the other side of the spectrum — as an adult who was raised with an actively involved godmother.
My parents selected their best friend, the woman who had introduced them, to be my godmother. She was a consistent presence in my life all through my childhood, and her daughter and I were raised as godsisters … a relationship that roughly translated to cousin-hood. My godmother and godsister were important to me growing up; as an only child who had no blood-related cousins until I was in my teens, the sense of belonging to a larger family was beyond valuable.
When my parents would go out of town, I would usually stay with my godfamily, and I always knew that if anything were to happen to my parents, I would go live with them. It was reassuring. I knew where I would go, and I liked it.
This is all to say: good on you for thinking about this! I think having godfamily is super important — more than just in case of tragedy, but also just as an opportunity to establish a supportive extended family of your choice for your children. At least for me, I loved growing up knowing I had a special “other” family.
When it comes to making the decision, there are several factors:
- Parenting philosophies (do you generally agree with how children should be raised?)
- Resources (would they have the resources to take your child/ren if something happened to you?)
- Existing relationship (do your kids already know and like them? From a child’s perspective, this makes things much less scary.)
- Their willingness
For that last bullet point, this is key: you don’t just TELL someone you’ve picked them to be godparents. You ASK them if they’re interested. I’m the same opinion about marriage proposals — it shouldn’t be a “popping the question,” it should be a long heartfelt discussion.
For those of you who have chosen godparents for your children, how did you do it? How did you bring up the issue with the friends/family you were considering, and how did you talk to your children about it.