Hubs and I got engaged in a whirlwind. We'd only dated for three months, but we knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was "it."
Just one problem. He had kids.
Or maybe I should rephrase. The world at large seemed to think this was a problem. I just thought it was fantastic and couldn't wait to tell everyone. But I found that when I would tell people about my new love and his offspring, they'd knit their brows together in concern, wring their hands like a wet washcloth and gently prod, "are you going to be okay with an instant family like that?"
Or, in an only slightly more annoying scenario, they would use over-zealousness to mask concern, going completely insane at the news. There was a lot "OMG! NO WAY!"'s and throwing hands in the air shouting, "you're going to be an instant family!!!!! How amazing!!!"
Both reactions bug me.
My family is not a box of mashed potatoes. We didn't become a family because you threw a cup of water and three tablespoons of butter on us. I realize I just sound nitpicky and combative. After all, what else are people supposed to call it when a person with a child(ren) marries someone without a child(ren)?
Oh, I don't know. Maybe just a "family?"
Why do we need special words to describe my husband, his children and myself? If the divorce rate is still holding strong around 50%, I'd venture to say my situation is probably the norm rather than the exception. And you don't see me giving a special labels to families who aren't divorced, do you?
At the root of it, here is why I'm really opposed to the phrase "instant family." IT WAS NOT INSTANT. When I said my vows, it wasn't like some magical pixie fairy floated down from a cumulus cloud and bestowed stepmother love-dust on me. In the seven months leading up to my marriage, I worked my (quite firm at the time) ass off to be sure that my future stepchildren were comfortable with our marriage. More importantly, I worked hard to make I had earned a place in their family and their hearts. I didn't just expect it since Hubs had put a ring on it.
I have seen my share of women who have married a man with children, and never taken the time to care about the kids or what their existence meant. Kids were simply an unfortunate reminder of their future spouse's past decisions - like a bad tattoo that you just pretend isn't there. And you know what? Even people like that are still referred to as an "instant family." Call me crazy, but I personally don't wish to be lumped together in a big, gigantic misleading label with people like that.
Think of it this way. By telling me I have an "instant family," you are diluting what it really is - hard work. Relationships with two people are hard enough on their own. When you add children to the mix, that tough part gets even tougher. There is no instant about it. We have fought, cried, loved and laughed our way here. I will earn the privilege of being called a stepmom for the rest of my life. The job is never over. The work is never over.
So, you ask, what am I supposed to say when a friend of mine is marrying a man that has kids??
I would suggest you get super excited, gush over her ring, hug her and tell her that you're excited for her and you will support her in her new marriage. Maybe even squeak a little. Tell her you're so excited for her and her new husband and they are going to make a wonderful couple and have an amazing life together.
But that just sounds like a "normal" reaction to an engagement, you say.