Your closest and dearest friend dies. Would you/could you raise their children?

This story hits pretty close to home for me and my wife. My wife’s sister had a serious health crises and we made this same promise to raise her kids if needed. Thankfully she recovered and is doing fine these days. It’s sobering to think about the responsibility of taking over the parenting of someone else’s children. The financial burden and emotional impact on a family is significant.

I haven’t had a friend ask anything like this. But I’d like to think we’d make the same promise if asked.

Where I’m from (New Zealand), or at least in my family and circle of friends, the practice of appointing godparents is still quite common, although usually without any religious connotation. As well as taking extra interest in the child’s life and wellbeing, godparenting also includes a commitment to take over child raising in the event of both parents being unable to do so.

If I had been asked to take on the godparent role, I would have refused the request, in the best interests of the child.

Of my two closest friends, one has kids. He and his SO also have living parents and tons of siblings, so I wouldn’t be the first anyone called if something happened to them, but if the responsibility somehow fell on me, then yeah, I would take his boys in. What kind of friend - what kind of human being - would I be if I didn’t?

I’ve read this was much more common before modern medicine. Something like smallpox or influenza would devastate a community. The adult survivors would take in local children and raise them. There wasn’t else that could be done.

No. My life is not stable enough for children – particularly financially – and is not likely to ever be so. My personality is not suitable for motherhood, either. I respond very poorly to long-term stressors, to put it mildly. I make a great agony auntie, but being entrusted with another human’s well-being 24/7 would probably do me in.

I have never wanted any children of my own, and I think the best thing I could do for any child ever put into my custody is find somewhere else that he or she could be cared for properly, by people who had the resources to do so. I let it be known a long time ago that I was not to be named guardian of anything more complicated than cats and dogs, ever, in anyone’s paperwork.

I made the promise to my sister (who had four children, ye gods, luckily they are all now grown up), and I’ve also made the promise to the mother of the child I am godparent to. I wouldn’t be thrilled at the prospect as I don’t want children myself, but of course I would step in. Anything to save the poor child from her domineering and emotionally insecure grandmother.

I just blended my family with my girlfriends. Four kids now. I put down no because it would be really difficult to add more. But actually its because I can’t think of anyone who would be in that category. No friends close enough to pick us over family. My siblings are older than me and their children are adults. My girlfriend is an only child. Intellectually I would say that if someone was that close to me I could step up and take care of their children. But I wouldn’t really know until I had someone in the position.

It’s something that’s weighed in my mind since I agreed to become my nephew’s godmother. When my brother asked, I pointed out that if worst came to worst, it might take some time and arrangements before I could take care of him as godparents are traditionally expected to do if the parents can’t. He said they wouldn’t expect me to, but… I would.

I’d need a job that let me take on that role; depending on where I landed it, any/either Kidlet who was coming to live with me would have to move. But I would certainly do my best.

(My closest friends either have bunches of relatives including the occasional sane one or there’s no way in Hell their country’s government would send their kids here)

Very common in the parts of Africa where AIDS has hit harder, I imagine it will happen in other areas with bad healthcare.

I went to work a local pizza joint making deliveries during my freshman year of college (in 1993). The guy who ran the place was only a few years older than me and a helluva nice guy, so we were best buds in no time. About two months after I started, I found out from another driver (the only other employee) that our boss was madly in love with some chick who worked at the dry cleaner a few miles down the road! He was love-sick over this girl and too shy to make a move, so after a week or so I decided to make a move on his behalf!

I went to the dry cleaner, pulled up to the window ready to convince this girl to go out with him. I was amazed to discover that the mystery girl was one of my oldest and dearest childhood friends! Our moms were best friends in high school and we were inseparable from kindergarten thru middle school. Our county opened a new high school at the beginning of our sophomore year and that’s when we lost touch, because she was in the district for the new school and I stayed at the old high school. But it was like no time had passed at all and, after we caught up for a few, I told her about my friend (boss) wanting to go out with her. It was almost too good to be true, but it seems she had a similar thing for him as well…

Fast forward three years to 1996, they’re getting married and fighting over whether I’m going to be his Best Man or her ‘Friend/Person of Honor’ (seriously)! He really didn’t have anyone else close to him to be his Best Man and she had alternatives of the female variety, so I was his Best Man.

When they had their first daughter in 2001, we had lost touch because I had moved away and it had been almost four years since we last saw each other. But they called me from the hospital to share the news and asked me to find a time to visit them as soon as I could because they wanted to talk to me about something very important. I drove 90 miles back to our podunk hometown the next weekend to see them and the baby and, honestly, to find out what they heck they wanted to talk about that they couldn’t do over the phone!

After I did the requisite baby-holding and catching up on our lives, my friend (Beau, the hubby) pulled out a big folder and told me why they asked me to come. Just before Izzy (Isabella) was born, they decided to make their wills and make a plan for Izzy’s future if both of them were to die. Even though I was a 26-year-old, single gay man, they wanted to name me as her legal guardian if they both died before she turned 18! They also wanted to honor me by naming me as her godfather and having me participate in her ‘dedication’ ceremony’ at their church (dedication = Protestant version of chistening).

Of course I accepted and signed the legal docs acknowledging that I would do so. In 2005, when their second daughter was born, it was a much easier conversation and Jenn (the mom) TOLD me that they had already changed their wills and added Sophie to the deal along with her big sister, Izzy. Jenn basically said, now you’ll have a pair…you know there’s no one else in this world we trust them to, not even my mom!"

When I drafted my will (the first time) back in 2007, I included a contingency plan for the girls in case I had custody of them and I died before the youngest turned 18! I also bought life insurance to pay for college and any post-graduate education either of them desires (even if their mom and dad don’t bite the dust). In the event that I don’t meet an untimely end and fund their education with life insurance proceeds, I just get to pay for it out of pocket! =)

I’ve also had custody of my little niece and nephew more than once over the past four years. Their mommy (my baby sister is a recoving heroin addict) and I would never dream of letting the kids go into foster care! I actually brought my nephew, now 3, home from the hospital as a newborn and had custody of him for the fist 14 months of his life! I was fully prepared to adopt and raise him and his sister because I didn’t expect my little sister to kick her habit…I actually didn’t expect her to be alive very long, period. By some miracle, she got clean and has remained clean and sober for 26 months and counting! She also married my nephew’s father and they’re doing very well (my niece’s father is in prison and will hopefully die there).

Fuck no. Luckily she has five siblings to take the responsibility.

My wife and I have that agreement with her sister and brother-in-law; it’s even in our wills. They have four kids ages 10-18 and ours our 7 and 9, and either couple would take in the other kids if necessary. Of course as their older ones turn 18 it becomes less of an issue.

Yes, of course, absolutely. I have friends who know and expect it of me.

And I’d do a better job.


It’s a little be of a moot point for us, as we’re older and don’t have friends with kids that need raising. I certainly would have done it for my siblings or close friends.

My two best friends are a married couple and they have a very lovely little boy. I don’t want kids of my own but I would be honored to take him in - especially now that he’s got the potty thing down! It’d be like being given a ready-to-go service dog instead of an unruly puppy. Speaking of puppies, I hope they train him out of his fear of dogs…

However, the dad has 4 siblings and they are like…children hoarders (a million kids between them already) so there’d be a really long line before I got the kid. So unless something happens where my best friends somehow disown their families, I’ve got no kid coming my way anyway.

Yes. I’ve raised the children of relatives I despised because they were family, so taking care of a friends’ children (children whose parents are actually liked) would be no problem. That’s what true friendship is about.

Given that the girls in question are 19 and 20…sure. :smiley:

I voted yes. I have a related experience and so I can be pretty sure of my answer. I wrote a blog post about it, which I present here in partial form. Names are changed.

*Takes a Village, #3 in a series

Of all the children who have come into and out of my life, Maura is the hardest to write about. Oh, Maura herself is a wonderful child. She was much easier to parent than a lot of children would have been given the circumstances. What makes it hard to write about her hinges on how she came to live with us.

When I was little, I was practically raised with a boy named Gus. His family and my family went on every vacation together. We all crowded into one car each Christmas to go shopping at Lazarus department store. We spent our weekends together in family activities. Gus and I were like brother and sister, or at least first cousins. He was the brightest, funniest, most charming boy: everyone loved him.

Once we grew up, Gus and I had little contact. Our lives were far flung, in lifestyle and geographically. While I was a graduate student in Southern California, Gus was a laborer in West Texas. That kind of far flung.

Gus had a little girl with a woman he was later divorced from. The mother was in prison for drugs and Gus had full custody of their daughter. I had a little boy about his girl’s age with my partner. Gus and I saw each other’s child only once, when we were all back home for Christmas. The kids were toddlers: my son, Eli, and Gus’s daughter, Maura.

A few years went by. One day I got a call from my father. He had shocking news. Numbing, nauseating news:

Gus had been charged with child molestation and pandering underage porn. He’d had sex with Maura’s 14 year old babysitter, and he’d filmed it.

I can still feel the shock and the grief. You know how, when you hear something like that about a stranger, you think that scum, that sub-human, a monster like that deserves to die. Well, let me tell you: it is a different feeling when you love the person involved. It is waves of confusion and complexity. Denial is the only refuge.

And there was Maura, 6 years old. She stayed with her grandma, and then an aunt, and then a second cousin. When Gus’s trial was over, I asked if they’d send her to me. I wanted to make sure she heard good stories about her daddy. I figured I had more of those stories than anyone. Gus figured I did, too, and signed the paperwork.

Gus was sentenced to 24 years. I’m not sure what “hard time” means exactly, but that sounds like it to me. While Maura lived here in Maine, we would fly to Ohio to visit Gus in prison. I don’t know if I can capture the tension of those visits.

We were there for 6 hours. Come in at 9; go through a degrading search; no one out ‘til 3. An open room with fixed tables and chairs. A hundred people with disheartening stories sitting in that stark, gleaming room on those hard chairs all day. Mothers trying to keep their children from running around.

One of the dozens of rules: Inmates are not allowed to touch visitors… so, no hugging when you see them. Try explaining that to his daughter. You stand feet apart and say, “Hello!” and “I’m so glad to see you!” and he says, “Thanks for coming. Thanks for bringing her,” and starts to cry.

Maura was with us in Maine for four years. She had been held back a grade the year she shuffled from relative to relative, but she thrived in a new atmosphere. We didn’t do anything special. I remember thinking, gah, it takes so little to keep a child feeling stable and happy and safe–how come it’s so often not done?

At the end of the third school year here, at age 10, Maura decided to go back to family and be closer to Daddy. I’m ashamed to admit that I felt released from a heavy physical and emotional burden.

It is hard to raise another person’s child. I don’t mean if you’ve adopted; but when they have a fall-back position, things get sticky. For the child, someone else should be in charge. Not you, who have made an unfavorable decision. And poor Maura–she desperately wanted Daddy to come back so she could just live with him again. I heard “Daddy would never do that,” so many times that I was afraid I’d respond.

But in the end, we made it through and at the very least, Maura was away from the small town back home long enough for people not to think of what Gus had done every time they saw her.

Maura called me after she had been back home a while and said, “Mama, thank you so much for teaching me manners. None of the kids here have any!” I tell that story a lot.

Perhaps more relevant to the OP is to note that one of the hardest parts of this was trying to treat your children equally. It is very hard–at least it was for me–not to favor Eli, not to want to spend more time with him, not to take more delight in his daily life. I’m a person who loves other people’s kids almost as much as my own–but that almost is significant. I hope that if I ever raise another’s child again, I will do at least as well as I did with Maura. I know I could do better.

This right here. I realized early in high school, to my surprise - my best friend at the time recalls my confession at the time to her, even a couple decades later - that I did not want children. Every message in greater society is that of course women want to be mothers. But I didn’t, and still don’t, and intentionally am not one.

I think I could be a quite adequate mother, but children, especially orphaned ones, deserve far better than that.

My two closest friends both have teenagers. I have a teenager. I would certainly make a valiant attempt to finish raising their kids should they ask me to. One of my friends has a very similar parenting style to mine. While it would take adjusting to go from one teen boy, to two teen boys and a teen girl, I think we could make it work.

My other friend would never ask me because our parent styles are so different. Her kids are fairly sheltered from the pop culture world. TV, video games and such are severely limited to the point where my son and hers have very little to talk about other than school subjects. If she did ask, I would give it a go, but it would be culture shock for her boys. They would find different freedoms and different responsibilities from their currently lifestyles.

tapu, that was a heart-wrenching read and made me really consider more of the implications behind the question than I first thought. I bet Maura still thinks of you fondly, and often. Bless you for stepping up to the plate.

As for my answer to the OP… my closest friend has a severely autistic son. I’d love to take him in if it was a necessity, but between my husband and my health issues, there’s be no way he’d get all the adequate attention he needs and deserves, physically or financially. Sadly then, I’d have to pass. Of course, he’s got plenty of family to step in, so this would also be moot for us.