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That’s the question people have been asking ever since her ex-husband, the great Michael Jackson, passed away June 25 at the age of 50.

Rowe is mother to two of Michael Jackson’s children, Prince and Paris, 12 and 11.

At the singer’s memorial service, the children took the stage in one of the only public appearances they’ve ever made, bringing Rowe (watching at home) to tears. But her relationship with the two kids has barely existed.

In a 2003 interview, Rowe said: “Just because you give birth, because you impregnate someone, that does not automatically give you that title of mother or father.”

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“My kids don’t call me Mom because I don’t want them to.”

Will the real Debbie Rowe please stand up?

So what does Debbie Rowe, who has said she will attend any custody hearing pertaining to the children (who were entrusted to Michael’s mom Katherine Jackson in his last will) want in the wake of the star’s tragic death?

“At the end of the day, Debbie just wants what’s best for the children,” Rowe’s close friend and former business partner of Jackson, Marc Schaffel, says.

“Her interest is that the children are going to be taken care of.”

Rowe has said since Jackson’s death that she is considering asserting her legal, parental rights and filing for custody of the children – including Blanket, 7, who was born to an unnamed surrogate after she divorced Michael.

Living on her ranch in Palmdale, Calif., where she tends to her horses and dogs, Rowe does not seek attention and “is a very simple-living person,” Schaffer says. “Does she want to live in a mansion in Beverly Hills? No.”

While it is unclear exactly how the three children view Debbie Rowe – whether as an acquaintance, aunt, friend of the family or even as their mother – she has definitely made an effort to see them over the years, says Schaffel:

“Debbie does love those kids. She really does. Absolutely.”

As for why Rowe is stepping in now, he says: “Debbie’s deal was that Michael would take care of the children. That’s what she was comfortable with.”

With the kids’ grandmother Katherine Jackson petitioning for custody, Rowe is concerned about other influences, such as Michael’s father Joe Jackson.

Rowe planned to attend a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing on July 20 for temporary guardianship of the children, until the hearing was postponed.

She told a reporter for Los Angeles station NBC 4 she would even consider seeking a restraining order to keep Joe Jackson away from the children.

That said, Rowe would make sure the children have constancy and substantial visitation with the rest of their extended family, sources close to her say.

“People don’t even know Debbie,” Schaffel says.

“If one of her dogs is sick, or one of her horses is sick, she will stay up all night long sleeping on the floor of the barn with them. Debbie is not a cold person. She is a very loving, warm, motherly type person.”

She has denied rumors that she is seeking a large custody buyout from the Jacksons and has threatened lawsuits against sources of such rumors.