No parent wants to imagine that they aren’t going to always be able to be the parent for their child. However, the responsible thing to do is find an attorney and to make a will.
As a former estate planning attorney, I have an advantage in knowing what to expect and what I want in this process. I already have a will that I drafted for myself when I did such things and it does anticipate my having children. However, my choices for charitable bequests and guardians are different than they were at the time I made that will (approximately five years ago). I’m not sure if my feelings about guardians are more about changes in what I want, becoming more certain in what is important to me, getting to know the folks I originally selected better or changes in them. It’s likely a combination of all the above. But the bottom line is that I am no longer comfortable with the idea of them raising my child(ren).
I’ve come up with some deal-breakers. Specifically: Religion and Guns. I chose my church because it embraces alternative families. In my experience even the more liberal of the mainstream Christian churches are filled with folks raised so conservatively that they feel it’s safe to disparage people who are of alternative families (from divorce to gays, but certainly single mothers also) within the walls of the church. I want my child to have a spiritual upbringing, but I don’t want him or her to hear within his/her church family that I’m in Hell because of the way I chose to conceive. So, I would really like someone of my religion, but I have a short list of alternatives that I think would also be acceptable. The truth is I don’t want to think that I would discriminate against someone for this, but it is very important to me that my child not be told hateful things about his/her creation in a place that is supposed to be his/her community.
I also have strong feelings about guns and children being a dangerous combination. I want to believe that even those who have different views than I do on the politics around guns would still be willing to keep my child safe from them… but then I learned the the folks I had originally as guardians take their children to the gun range as a reward for good grades or good behavior – and started doing so before their youngest was 10 years old. (I am NOT okay with the idea of handing a child a loaded weapon… and I have concerns about guns in the home as well).
My mother who will be my primary daycare at least in the very beginning, is going to be hurt if I don’t choose her. However, I don’t think I can bank on someone who will be 67 when my child is born being fit to be a primary care giver for 18 years and beyond. What’s even worse – my mother won’t talk about things that are important to me. She avoids topics that I think are important, so I don’t know where she stands – what if my child has questions? What will she tell my child? Will she make my child feel bad about caring about things? I had a father who was willing to talk about politics and religion and the liked to balance out my mother’s refusal to discuss such things. Now that my father has passed, where will my child find someone to discuss such things if I choose my mother as guardian?
So, I’ve spent months mentally combing through my friends from church and the local SMC organization. The ones I like best have health issues or marital issues or are transient (moving around the country for school or work). I need someone who is likely to stay put – someone who will let my family be a part of my child’s life, even if they aren’t family. And preferably someone who will know my child as he/she grows. What I’ve come to realize is that frequent updating of my will is going to be a “must.”
If something happens to me in childbirth, it is probably better that I pick a family member. It will be more peaceful that way. But, as my child ages, I will be better able to see who interacts well with my child, who loves my child, who loves my child, who supports me as a mother, who supports my child’s development as a person… and maybe get to know some fellow parents in my church or through my child’s school who are people I admire and are stable and trustworthy and local.
It’s a really tough thing to think about. But, I’m getting closer to a decision.