“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22).
My daughter, hear the song in your heart for Me. Hear the song of longing, of beauty, of self-forgetfulness, for the sake of joy.
Surrender and receive more joy.
What is it you need to surrender? What is it you need to believe more deeply about Me? What is it, child?
Oh, come, be rescued.
Oh, come, hear the thunder in the distance, the rolling of the beat, my own heart speaking your name.
Lay down, my girl.
Lay down the future.
I’ve got you.
Lay down the past.
I’ve got you.
Believe I am for you, that I come for your heart in ways you don’t yet even know.
But you want to know, don’t you?
You want to see Me coming for you, running, my arms spread open. Daughter, turn it over again, that place in your heart that I touch, that I reach in and grasp and show you what it is you need to lay down.
Lay yourself down, my love.
It won’t hurt too much. I promise. And what is pain? Come—come deeper now.
It is only painful when the old self dies. Let it die again.
Oh, the thunder rolls. My heart beating still. Let that self be killed to receive more of Me. I promise—it’s worth any temporary pain.
“The truth is: a family is a family as long as there are people in a clump who love each other and try really hard to be good and say sorry when they aren’t as good as they could be. It doesn’t matter how that family came to be. It really doesn’t.”
Alright. I’m only about 6 months into dating the man of my dreams who also has a child and I’m exhausted. Not because men smell bad sometimes or children can be assholes, but because I’m tired of being asked the same lame questions by people who are not dating a man who also has a four-year-old son.
I understand that people are curious. I’m a former child actor who is now booze sober and freelances while making her life up as she goes, so I’m super familiar with fielding questions from people who wonder what it’s like to live my best life. I L O V E to talk about myself, so I’m usually pretty cool with answering most inquiries.
I also understand that the dismantling of what we once considered a “traditional family” is a recent development in our species’ evolution. Everyone is curious. But there are some questions that just need to stop.
The truth is: a family is a family as long as there are people in a clump who love each other and try really hard to be good and say sorry when they aren’t as good as they could be. It doesn’t matter how that family came to be. It really doesn’t.
Before I rant, I’d like to note that I’m writing this as a white, heterosexual woman who is dating a straight white guy. I’ve got it the easiest as far as these situations go for more reasons than just that. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for anyone else because I’m not anyone else. If you’re in a similar but different situation, I want to hear about it.
From my experience, these are five common yet useless questions people should really stop asking people who are dating parents:
1. Is it weird that he has a kid?
Is it weird that YOU have a kid? I think what you mean is, “Is it weird that you’re playing house with a baby that isn’t yours?” My personal answer is: this is literally all I’ve ever done. I’ve played with dolls, I’ve babysat other people’s children and I’ve imagined parenting that cute wealthy little wasp of a child on the subway. This is the only thing I know how to do, so it’s not that weird at all. Also, what if I said, “Yeah. It’s super weird, man. It’s like there’s this kid there sometimes and it creeps me out.” THAT would be weird.
2. Are you in the child’s life?
Hahahah. No. For half the week, I live in the bathroom and subsist on used Q-tips and body wash.
3. Do you guys want your own kids?
Before I get into this: just stop asking people in general if they’re going to have children. It’s really annoying and weird and none of your business. Giving birth is not a rite of passage. It’s an optional thing. Get used to it. Beyond that? Ew, none of your business. Also, there’s something gross about saying “your own” kids. It comes across like you’re trying to find a way to ask, “Hey so you wanna have any non-bastard kids or what?” It’s weird and, one more time for those in the back: none of your business.
4. How did the kid happen?
In many cases, kids happen when a man and a woman do sex with each other and the woman’s eggs are ripe. In many other cases, it happens differently. In all cases: it’s none of your business.
5. What’s with his/her/their baby mama/daddy?
This one is my favorite. It’s the nosiest of all the questions. I wish people would just lick their chops and rub their palms together when they ask it so they could look as predatory as they sound. I usually say, “That’s not my story to share. And if you ever say ‘baby mama’ to me again, I’m gonna fart into your mouth.” Look, don’t be a gossip. Maybe deep down, you want to hear some juicy story of passion and betrayal because you haven’t had a sick day in awhile and you miss watching Jerry Springer. But: it ain’t nunya.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask questions, folks. But there’s a right way to ask questions and there are many careless, insensitive ways to ask. Do me a favor and skip all those other questions and just ask this one:
I’d love to hear about your partner’s kid, if you want to talk about it!
That’s it. Super easy. You’ll get the information you actually need, which is whatever the other person decides to share.
“While I don’t mind when you assume I am their mom, my stepkids do. They have a mother. I get to be their bonus mom. It’s hurtful to have to explain that I am their stepmom, or worse, to hear them quickly correct you, by saying, “She’s not our mother.”
This is my least favorite one. It happened last night at the little restaurant our family likes. “You all ordered a lot and I bet Mom here will help make sure you finish it here.” not noticing the fat joke she made, we nodded and carried on.
Then 9 steps in and says, “Step…….mom.”
Can we seriously not get through one public encounter without having to explain the dynamic of our family to perfect strangers?
I am the mother at the table. I may not be your biological mother, but I am the one who is doing the mothering at this given time. I am mothering these kids when they cry, when they spin in circles on their spinny chairs and have nothing else to do, when I pick up their dirty laundry, when we play video games on our phones, when I drive them to and from the bus stop. I am mothering, even though I am not their mother.
Does this perfect stranger need to know that our family is confusing and is a mess? No. Can’t we just sweep the extra “Step” words under the rug for just this meal? Why is it so much?
What will our meals look like when we take new kids to dinner with the older kids and the waitress says “Mom, what’re you having?” Will 9 say, “She’s not our mom. She’s their mom but not ours. She’s our step mom,” ?
Once upon a time, an evil stepmother spent her days thinking of ways to make her stepkids miserable. Oh wait, that’s not right. She actually spent her days thinking of ways to bond with them, engage with them, and not step on anyone’s toes. Being a stepmom is seriously hard. Sometimes harder than being a mom, and society has some serious preconceived notions about what I’m like, only because I married a man with kids. There are so many ways you don’t realize you’re shaming stepmoms and, honestly, it hurts.
My husband and I have worked hard to build a family with each other and his, my, and our children. Being a stepmom is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, and it has taken a lot of patience, creativity, and occasionally locking myself in the bathroom to cry, to get through the hard days. To be perfectly honest, you don’t instantly fall in love with your stepkids and they don’t instantly fall in love with you. To make matters worse, stepmoms are rarely the heroes in fairy tales, often finding themselves the object of other characters’ hatred and fear.
In the end, I am often the scapegoat and whatever is going on, it’s all my fault. Seriously, the list of things that are my fault goes on forever. Psychologists theorize that we blame and stigmatize stepmothers in our culture as a way to deflect bad feelings away from our mothers. However, it’s 2017, and so many parents divorce and remarry and have to find ways to blend their families. It’s time to give stepmoms a break and stop shaming them, because it’s already hard enough. Trust me.
When You Make Comments About Our Family Size
Our blended family has five kids, ages newborn to tween. I don’t go a day without someone commenting about our family size, from sarcastic comments about me not knowing “how those things are made,” to questioning how many times I’ve been pregnant given that my “body doesn’t look like I’ve had five kids.” I know it’s supposed to be a compliment, but it’s gross. Please don’t.
When You Forget We’re Stepmoms
While I don’t mind when you assume I am their mom, my stepkids do. They have a mother. I get to be their bonus mom. It’s hurtful to have to explain that I am their stepmom, or worse, to hear them quickly correct you, by saying, “She’s not our mother.”
When You Ask Which Ones Are Our “Real” Kids
None of them. I’m pretty sure they are all robots, specially designed to wake up early on Saturday mornings, make annoying sounds, and interrupt their parents having sex. Seriously, though, love doesn’t require biology.
When You Assume We Hate Our Stepkids’ Mother
Like it or not, I am always going to have their mother in my life. It’s seriously hard to have to plan your life around another person’s schedule and disagree with their parenting choices. However, for the most part, things work better when we get along, so I try really hard to do so for our kids’ sake.
When You Make Jokes About Evil Stepmothers
Disney has seriously given stepmoms a bad reputation. It’s not funny, and it’s so not true. I love my stepkids, and I try really hard to treat my stepkids and my bio kids the same. Of course, that makes them think I am “evil” when I do things like enforce bedtime and make them clean up after themselves.
When You Assume We All Have The Same Last Name
This one is subtle. My husband and I don’t have the same last name, and neither do our children. So, things get complicated at school, work, and the doctor’s office, and we regularly have to explain how our family works to strangers. Awkward.
When You Don’t Include Them When Asking About Our Kids
Our family is one team. When you ask me how my biological kids are doing, but forget to ask about, or worse, deliberately exclude my stepkids, you send a subtle message that you don’t approve of my family, or don’t consider them to be important enough to mention. That’s not OK.
When You Don’t Include Us When Talking About Our Stepkids’ Family
It’s totally awkward to be at a parent-teacher meeting, school concert, or family event, and get treated like the elephant in the room. You can include me. It’s OK. I wouldn’t show up if I wasn’t a part of their lives, and while I’m not their mother, I do matter.
When You Assume We Hate Being Stepmoms
It definitely has its difficult moments, but being a stepmom is one of the best (and the hardest) things I’ve ever done, and there have been so many wonderful moments I will never forget. I still remember the first time each of them hugged me. Moments like running a race with my stepdaughter, watching her hold her baby brother for the first time, hearing my stepson excitedly describe his newest Pokémon card, and watching him play in the yard with his sisters and brother, make it all worth it.
When You Assume Our Stepkids Hate Us
Over the past couple of years, we’ve had our share of ups and downs, and definitely some eye rolls and tantrums, but please don’t assume you know anything about how our relationship works. I love my stepkids, and I hope that someday they’ll love me. However, and always, I’m not trying to be their mom.
A little known secret about blended families: stepkids get to have more than two parents to help them navigate the world. While I am sometimes still the scapegoat, and occasionally still hear, “You’re not my mom,” I’m learning to be a major source of good in their lives, too, even if that means being “evil” and making them do their homework. If that makes me an evil stepmother, I totally want a crown.