I'm 26 years old and live with my mother who is a single mother. She adopted two children as newborns who are now 5 years old. My mom has recently started working outside the home so now I even get them up and ready for school in the mornings when she is gone and take them to school and pick them up from school. I feel like I fulfill the role of a father figure. I teach them things, I comfort them, I discipline them.

I sometimes feel conflicted and depressed about not being their father. Especially around father's day. Many people approach me when I am out with them in public or when I take them to the doctors and stuff calling me their dad and it makes me feel bad to say I'm not their dad.

Even the other day when I was picking them up from kindergarten (can't believe they are in school already) another child's father approached me asking if I was my brother's father because he wanted to set up a playdate for the boys... I'm starting to feel really conflicted about it. Because I feel like I am their dad, I fulfill the role in their lives but then I have to tell everyone I'm not their dad and I feel like I can't get any recognition for fulfilling that role because I am "just a brother".

It's come to the point now that I almost want to move out and move away so I won't be their "stand in" father anymore because it depresses me. I just don't know what to do.

I just want peoples' opinions. Has anyone else ever been in this situation?

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    Could you please add whether you've discussed this with your mother, and what her take on it is? It sounds like you're doing a great job, and she should acknowledge that. Also, what would it take for you to feel recognition? (I assume you can't formally adopt them?) Sep 21, 2011 at 7:32
  • No, i haven't spoken to her about it. I get the feeling that she will tell me there is nothing i can do about it cause i'm not their dad. I don't know what it would take for me to feel recognized... they can't call me their dad because of family dynamics. I'm going to have to talk to her about it sometime because for kindergarten they have a father/daughter dance and a mother/son bowling. So will my sister going to miss out on that dance even though my mom takes my brother to bowling or will they both miss out on those events due to "fairness" is something that will have to be addressed.
    – anonymous
    Sep 21, 2011 at 15:07
  • Edit: character limit. Mostly i just wanted opinions and to know if anyone else was ever in a similar situation and what they were able to do about it. Or what someone would do if they were in the same situation.
    – anonymous
    Sep 21, 2011 at 15:09
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    The question for me is what do you mean by "gain recognition"? Are you looking for thanks and appreciation from your Mother for the work you do to help raise your siblings. Or do you want to be recognized as an authority figure?
    – Chris M
    Sep 21, 2011 at 17:23
  • @chris M Well i originally didn't write out the question that way, but i guess a moderator wrote it. I just wanted opinions on what people think about it my situation and whether or not i can do anything about feeling this way. I'm really not sure what i want as recognition. I think yeah i just want some sort of token of appreciation from my mom, even if no one else knows about it, like giving me a trinket or something for father's day. It sounds ridiculous now that i'm saying it though.
    – anonymous
    Sep 21, 2011 at 20:32

3 Answers 3


I sometimes feel conflicted and depressed about not being their father. [...] I feel like I can't get any recognition for fulfilling that role because I am "just a brother".

Question your mindset:

  • Stopp feeling depressed about what you are not.
  • Instead feel awesome about what you are.

You are not "just a brother", you are the older brother, who loves his younger siblings and does an awesome job in responsibly taking care of them. This is a very respectable role and by any means you can and should be proud of it!

Furthermore, you are the man in your family. Yes, this role is generally supposed to be taken by the father, but for matters of life no father is present in your family. So you have taken responsibility and apparently you are doing the best you can in fulfilling that role. This is extremely valuable for your younger brothers, who otherwise would grow up without a male role model. Again, you have taken a very respectable role and by any means you can and should be proud of it!

In fact, doing all this as "just a brother" deserves even more respect than doing it as "their father", because it is by no means your natural responsibility. It is you who has voluntarily taken that responsibility, because you love and care. It is even perfectly okay to "take something back" on that event called "fathers day": As a matter of fact you are the man who cares about them.

Be proud about it and just state it as it is.


It's understandable that the situation frustrates you, especially when it's rubbed in by external events like the dance/bowling events you mention.

One thought I have about this is that in many situations, you really are in the father role, so it should not matter if you're the actual father or not:

In the case of those school events, there's no direct requirement that a legal guardian participates. Let's say that the mother was on a business trip at the time; the school surely wouldn't object if the aunt came in her place. So the school shouldn't object either when you substitute for the father.

Same with setting up a play-date: you're authorized to decide when and if such a play-date should take place. When someone asks you if you're the parent, you know that what they really ask is whether you can decide on what they're about to suggest.

So when you're asked if you're the father, you need to come up with an answer that suits you. Something along the lines of "Yes, practically." or "No, but close enough."

This could work in nearly every situation -- even in legal matters, if your mother is willing to grant you the necessary rights. In most cases, a written and signed note from her would be enough for the purpose of school appointments and perhaps even medical appointments.

Discuss with your mother if she would be prepared to formally grant you those rights -- or rather, in which cases and under what circumstances and conditions, would she grant you the rights. Once you've received this specific recognition verbally, you can work on putting it in writing in a shape that's useful in the situations where you need it. You can most likely write this yourself; no need to involve legal people.

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    Yeah. I know i can do all of that. I do tell some people i'm "kind of" their dad. For all intents and purposes i am. I guess i just feel bad about not being recognized for it in a public setting. I think i just have to suck it up and just do my best and hope that once they are older they will look back on their childhood and remember me for doing what i did and realize that i was the "dad" for their childhood.
    – anonymous
    Sep 21, 2011 at 17:24

My girlfriend became the legal guardian of her brother's son. Many years later, she married me.

Because she was the main person raising him, we all use the term "parents" to describe us. Sometimes when I talk about my nephew I may say "he's basically my stepson", but that's because I feel the need to explain. Usually, it probably doesn't matter.

It's true that people in public will assume you're the kids' father, but it's not that unusual to be a much older sibling. (It's happened in my mom's family.) Don't be sad to say "I'm not their dad." Straighten up and say with pride:

I'm their big brother!

(And be sure to say it loud enough so any ladies can hear it. They love single guys with adorable kids.)

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