Question: My fiance has two children, 9 and 7. We were recently engaged. We have lived together for about a year, and dated for another year prior. I have a wonderful relationship with both children, and very thankfully with my fiance’s ex-wife. We are so lucky in fact, that people often comment on how civil we all are to each other — and more than that… that we genuinely like and respect each other.
We are all nice people, but more than anything, we all have one common goal… what is best for the kids. Both my fiance and his ex are incredible parents. Their children are absolutely the priority in their lives. Both my fiance and his ex have expressed to me their appreciation for my role and care in their kids’ lives.
From the moment we got engaged and began discussing wedding plans, we decided to have a destination wedding. We also decided to invite our friends with their children to make it more fun for my future step kids. My exact words to my fiance were, “I don’t want the kids to feel like guests at their Dad’s wedding.”
With that in mind, I have been planning our wedding with them in mind. Everything from how to include them in the ceremony, to choosing clothing they’ll feel comfortable in, to creating an entire kid’s zone at the reception — so all the kids feel like they are having their own “kids only” reception. I don’t want the kids to feel like they are stuck at a grown-up party.
With all of that said… I have been thinking ahead to the days preceding our wedding, the days after our wedding (the kids will be with us and we’ll take an official honeymoon later) and the wedding day itself — all of which will be in another country.
At this time, we do not think we will be inviting their mom (my fiance’s ex), but haven’t made a final decision on that. Though we have a great relationship, I just don’t know if I would feel weird (or for that matter our guests) being open and “bride-like” with my fiance’s ex at our wedding. Especially since it will be a destination wedding, so people will be hanging around talking wedding and love for days. I also don’t know if the kids might feel a little weird with their Mom at their Dad’s wedding.
My fiance’s mother and father will be there, but the kids are not used to spending a lot of time with them — they maybe see them once a year.
Basically, the kids feel comfortable with their mom and dad, and then me or their maternal grandparents. They almost never have babysitters, so they are very attached to their parents sides at social gatherings.
We will have about 80 adult guests and 20 kid guests on this trip. Most of whom they know well and many of which have kids whom they are close to.
I talked to my fiance tonight about the possibility of bringing someone with us to help with the kids. Though family and friends will be around — they will have their own kids to tend to and as I mentioned, the kids really aren’t completely comfortable with anyone who is coming other than my fiance or me.
I am not looking to pawn the kids off — our whole wedding is being planned around making them feel special and included. I just want to have someone there to help with all the day-to-day mom things that I usually do at home. I would just like that week away to be one where the time we all spend together is fun time and quality time, and know someone is there to not only help us out, but so that the kids know that no matter what is going on… there is someone there to meet their needs. Even the most basic, like if they need a snack, or need someone to run up to the room to get sunscreen, or someone needs an adult to chaperone them to the nearest bathroom…. you get the idea.
I suggested that because the kids don’t have a babysitter they are used to… maybe we should start thinking about incorporating someone into our lives now, so that over the next year, the kids could develop a relationship with them.
My fiance definitely had a defensive reaction. Commenting on how that week more than any other, his biggest priority is being with his kids and making them feel comfortable. I was a bit taken aback by his response and felt like he was turning my request into something different than my intent.
He also says he doesn’t think it is going to be a big deal because most of our friends will have their kids with them too. The difference in my mind is that they are there as guests… and we are there as the bride and groom. I think it is safe to say our attention will be pulled in more directions than our guests.
Please advise. Is it terrible for me to want some help while we are away?
Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, Certified Stepfamily Counsellor and Coach, Co-Founder and Director of the Step and Blended Family Institute
Actually, it sounds like a practical solution and if it was someone the kids had a connection to, it might even make it better for them. Unfortunately, this is the main issue that causes problems for couples in your situation. There is a blood bond between your fiance and his chidlren, that comes in conflict with the bond between you and him. Your fiance has his children as a first priority and although it sounds like you’ve both done everything to make them feel special and involved in the events and in your lives, he perceives this suggestion as putting them second behind your needs as a couple. If all couples in these situations could just understand that you also need to nurture and safeguard your own relationship as a couple in order to create that loving stable foundation for the children, then we would see a much lower divorce rate among blended families than we are currently seeing.
I think it’s a good idea and it’s also absolutely critical for you to articulate your own needs as well, and present it in such a way that it isn’t an all or nothing situation. As a newlywed you want and deserve some time with your new husband, and although the kids are a top priority and will be with you on this initial “honeymoon”, you just want to make sure that “all” of their needs will be met as well as your own. Having someone else there to attend to some of the details and give the kids an additional person to enjoy and count on is just a way of allowing everyone to enjoy themselves as much as possible. It will also allow the two of you some rest and relaxation (much needed after planning and executing a wedding – I think this is the real reason they invented honeymoons), that will in turn give you more strength and energy in order to fully enjoy this holiday with the kids.
Try this approach – perhaps it will be less threatening to him. It needs to be handled delicately and you need to let him know that in no way are you trying to put off responsbility for the kids. You just want everyone to enjoy the holiday to the fullest and think this will make it more possible. Remember, as delicate as this might be to discuss, especially after you got the reaction you were least expecting, it is never unwise to share your thoughts and feelings on the subject. You need to let your partner know what your needs are or you will grow to resent this huge commitment you are about to make. These may be his biological children, but you are about to take on a life-time commitment in terms of raising them and being a part of their lives so you deserve to and need to have a say in all of these decisions.