We are excited to welcome our featured guest Lorriane Ladish. Lorraine is a 17-times published author of s now the Editor in Chief of Mamiverse.com, a digital hub for multicultural moms and their families, in both English and Spanish.
MOLLY: Lorraine added that she and her partner have been together for four years, her kids are 9 and 12, both girls, and her partner's son is 10. Their respective kids refer to each other as "almost step-brothers" and to the adults, as "almost step-mom" and "almost step-dad." She's been wondering "whether the fact that we are not married, and may not marry, could be confusing to the kiddos or if, on the contrary, since we have a solid family relationship, we can teach them that it's just a label and they can actually nix the word "almost" even if our union is not legal?"
She said that although they all get along like biological brothers and sisters the "almost" word does get to her sometimes and makes her heart sink a little. What, if anything, should she do?
Dr. Susan Rutherford (MOM): I think this is not an uncommon issue in blended families, and it sounds like this family does very well in that there are no big areas of conflict, but there is this sort of nagging feeling –and maybe the kids have it, too– about the parents not being married.
Lorraine can continue to do it the way she’s doing it, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but my experience is that if the parents marry, the children seem to become quite relieved. I think it means to them that there’s something more permanent, more committed, and more stable in the fact that their parents are actually married. After a marriage, kids in blended families often begin referring to the parent and step-parent as their "parents” rather than their “almost parents.” Being actually married does seem to make a difference to the children involved.
MOLLY: Do you think it’s important that they get married even if it’s not something that the parents think is important, or should they encourage the kids to drop the “almost?”
MOM: Well, this can be a tricky issue. First of all, children know the truth. The parent can drop the “almost” because the parent feels committed to the relationship, but the kids will probably continue to think and say almost because the parents aren’t married. Children can be fairly concrete about this issue.
I think a lot depends on....
Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford are behind the blog “Conversations With My Mother”: a blog about raising kids and how our parenting decisions now can have long term effects.
Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist in practice for over 30 years. She has degrees from Duke University, New York University (NYU), and the University of Denver.
Molly is Dr. Rutherford's younger daughter and the mother of two children under six.