“You are such a good stepdad!” an innocent lady on Facebook typed under a picture of my husband and our son.
Wait, a good what? Who is she talking about? It took me a few moments to realize she was talking about my family. My husband, a stepdad? It sounded a bit bizarre.
I fumed over the comment for a good while. Despite her good intentions, the word she chose to describe my husband had nothing to do with our family (other than the good part, my husband is a really good dad).
He is his dad. He is his son. This is our family. Please don’t use labels we didn’t create.
Specifically, please don’t use the “S” word with our family.
I think the first time I heard about a stepparent was as a child when watching Cinderella. Poor little Ella, who was forced to sleep amongst the cinders, had a wicked stepmother and two evil stepsisters. What a terrible image that must have set for blended families. Those labels shouldn’t have been given such negative connotations.
It’s not because of Cinderella that our family has chosen to not use blended family labels, it’s because it’s not a label that makes sense for us. For many families though it does, and I wholeheartedly believe it’s okay – for them. But for ours, it’s not appropriate.
We reject this label and ask others to respect that of our family and others who do the same.
For our family, the real reason why is simple; my husband is the only father our son has ever known. He is 100% his father. Our son is the only son my husband has ever had and it doesn’t require any shared biological makeup to make it that way. There is no division between them and if someone called my son’s father his stepfather, he would have no idea who they are speaking of. And while many other families reject these labels for other reasons, the truth is, we don’t really need a reason at all. The names we call each other in our family sort of just happened in an organic way, just like any other family with a mommy or daddy or papa or mum.
So why do people think to use labels such as “stepfather” or “stepson” or “half-sibling” without asking? I think it used to be more common. I didn’t necessarily realize that until the three of us became a family and I found myself having such a negative reaction to the sound of those words. But we all know it’s very normal for some families. Because it makes sense for some families. But just because it makes sense for some doesn’t mean we can assume it makes sense for all.
And here’s what happens when you use those labels with our family. It does more harm than good. It appears to create a division that doesn’t exist. It puts a step between members of a family that are closer than a biological tie could create. So, does this mean we are ignoring the blended aspect of our family and all the challenges and blessings that come with it?
It means we’ve fought hard to create a tight bond within our family because those biological ties were not there from birth. It’s a bond that will never be threatened by a simple label, but when that label is used with our family, it can be a difficult reminder that what we’ve worked so hard to create isn’t always seen quite as whole by the rest of the world as it is by us.
Of course there is room for grace in these situations and we know no one is trying to do harm to our family by using these labels. We appreciate all the positive comments and love that we can get! However, if you’re not really sure what names a family uses to describe their family members, just ask. I’m sure they’ll be happy to share them with you because the names they use are most likely as special and unique as they are.
Though our family doesn’t use them, I believe blended family labels can be a good thing and make perfect sense for some families. What has your family decided to do?