When you’re not your biological child’s “first” parents

Guest post by DeniseMQ

Our family! Photo by JP Photography.
My favorite gentleman and I became parents when my biological daughter was six years old. I was 20 when she was born, just about to enter my third year in college, not in a relationship with her biological father, and not ready to be a mommy yet. When adoption wasn’t an option, my family members all stepped up and raised her (which is not an uncommon thing in Filipino culture).

She spent the first five years of her life in the Philippines with my aunt and grandma, where my aunt became a second mom to her. I’d visit her in the summer time, and she would come here to the United States every year, too. To this day, my daughter says she has two moms; my aunt and me.

In 2012, several events came into play that made it such that my little one would be best suited to live here: citizenship issues, academics, and just the plain fact that now, I was ready to be a full-time mom. I was ready to take care of my little girl, both emotionally and financially. I was in a relationship with a gentleman who adored me, and had met and loved my little girl. So after several months of planning to have a child live with us full time — moving to the suburbs, registering her for school, mentally preparing ourselves — my daughter finally had a permanent home with us.

We were so pleasantly surprised by how easy this transition was. Aside from a handful of times where my daughter would say she wanted to move back to the Philippines, almost always after we would discipline her or tell her that she couldn’t have a third cupcake, her insertion into our lives and our family was so seamless it was almost like she’s always been ours.

My husband immediately fell into the role of doting dad, and if you didn’t know any better you would have no idea she wasn’t biologically his. It took her all of 13 months to start calling him Dad (and that was only because she insisted on doing so only after we got married!). The father-daughter bond had already been put into place after just over half a calendar year.

Even though our story is somewhat unique, the idea of bringing a child into your home years after they’re born isn’t a new one. So often folks are hesitant to bring older children through their home, through adoption or other means, because of a fear that it’ll be more difficult to bond with a child you don’t receive as an infant. Through my limited experience (my own family experience!), I understand where this fear is coming from, but want to say that children bond with people who take care of them. Even without a genetic connection, a child, regardless of age, wants to feel love and likes the idea of being part of a family.

Comments on When you’re not your biological child’s “first” parents

  1. Lovely. I’m so happy for you. While I’m sure it hasn’t always and won’t always be easy, having several loving parents is a wonderful thing.

  2. What a fabulous story! I am so glad it all worked out for all of you. And great points about adopting older children “children bond with people who take care of them”. I adopted a 6 month old so our bonding was pretty easy and at 3 1/2 we’re stuck together like crazy glue 😀 But I hope we can adopt an older child some day so am working on that.

  3. This is such a neat story! I love the way your family was able to step in and raise your daughter during the years you weren’t able to, and how they supported you in bringing her back into your home when you were ready.

  4. Inspiring, beautiful story! Very happy for you and I love that your family was able to help out when you weren’t ready for parenthood.

    The only question in my mind, after reading this, is what about your aunt who was/is your daughter’s “other” mom? I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it would be to have to give up a child you’ve raised since its infancy, after forming such a close bond. I know many people do this in foster homes and other situations, which is wonderful as much as I’m sure it’s difficult. Was this always the plan when you brought her to live with your aunt and grandmother? Just curious, I would love to hear how they’re dealing with this change in their lifestyle & how you’re incorporating them into this new family structure.

    • My daughter continues to have a relationship with her other mother (my aunt), and we make it a point to have phone calls, Skype and regular visits.

      Of course, my aunt misses her little one dearly, and we actually didn’t make any clear decisions after the birth of my daughter because none of us in the family knew what would be best. In regards to family structure, we make it clear that our daughter has 2 moms who love her very much, and first she was living with one mom and now she’s living with her biological mom (or tummy mom as she says) and a dad too.

      • I love “tummy mom”! 🙂

        One of my favorite things about Offbeat Families is learning about so many different ways that families are created. Thank you for adding your story to the collection.

  5. I LOVE this story.
    To make a long story short: My parents split just after I was born and after deciding not to get married just for my sake (they were both busy 30 something business people who hadn’t really planned for parenthood) and my stepdad came into my life around the time that I was 2. He and my mom got married a few years later and he adopted me. Though I am now in my 20s and have a good relationship with my bioDad, I adore my “stepdad” (whom I just call Dad), but people often have a hard time understanding how I can have “two Dads” that I love equally.
    Your daughter’s story sounds a lot like mine and it really makes me happy to know that there are other people out there, like me, who sort of “get it”, because growing up, I faced a lot of adversity from other children (and sadly adults alike) for being the “bastard child” of an “otherwise lovely Christian family.”
    F-that! As you said: As a child, people who are around you and who love you and see after you are the people that you bond with–anyone from an Aunt/Uncle, Cousin, Sibling, Grandparent, adopted/step parent or even a Nanny or Babysitter! Children just need constructive love and care to grow–it doesn’t matter who from!

    Congratulations on your new family and give your gal a hug from me!

    • We’re lucky to live in a very liberal state (Massachusetts) and have yet to come across anyone who has been judgemental about our family structure; not to say we won’t, but it’s definitely been a blessing! Sorry to hear about your adversity though.

      It’s always nice to hear from adults who have a similar childhood as my daughter, thanks for sharing.

  6. I love this story. I worked in India for 3 years and met many families that cared for their neices, nephews or grandkids while the parents worked abroad or in another city, sometimes they wouldn’t see their child for years but the family bond was there and there was no judgement or doubting the parents love. That’s the great thing about other (non-Western) cultures where extended family is important. Here in America, many people would judge the parents very harshly for “abondoning” the child.

  7. Overall a beautiful story. My question is about when your daughter missed the Phillipines, the only home she had ever known and your response to this was to punish her? This is an unreasonable and nasty response to a natural feeling your daughter was having and you taught her it was not ok to miss her home, in fact you taught her it was a punishable offence!! My other question is about her father. Did he have the choice to raise her as you did not want to? I do hope he had first option and was offered the chance to be a father to his daughter and that his family had the opportunity to be involved with his daughter.

    • I believe what the author is saying is that her daughter said she wanted to move back to the Philippines after she was disciplined or told she couldn’t have a third cupcake, not that she was disciplined or told she couldn’t have a third cupcake after she said she wanted to move back to the Philippines.

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