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The anatomy of an assumption

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We’ve all heard the cliché about what happens when you assume things, but in reality, the world is full of people eager to stick their feet in their mouths.Something happened the other day, which followed on the heels of a similar occurrence that happened last week, and another one last month, and the month before, which reminds me of something similar that happened 15 years ago when I was about three months postpartum. I had been slowly regaining my composure after the trenches of childbirth and colic with my second baby and was out enjoying an hour of shopping when a beanstalk of a salesclerk approached me to ask when I was due. Granted, I was still sporting a bit of baby fat, but was so embarrassed I couldn’t even respond with a cheeky reply about being due to punch her in the face or something equally mature. Instead, I sheepishly mentioned my baby was born three months ago, made a beeline for the door and went home and cried.Thanks to spending about $8,550 in gym memberships, $3,200 on yoga and $500 on pilates DVDs since my postpartum days, it’s been a while since I’ve been mistaken for being ‘in the family way.’The assumption I’m now taking offence to is not embarrassing but equally awkward. It’s the constant inference from salespeople or the public in general that I’m my stepdaughters’ mother when we’re out together. Casual references are one thing, but the direct ‘go ask your mom,’ or ‘you’re as pretty as your mom’ comments (believe it or not, someone did say that. Mind you, we were at the Ex) from people who assume I’m the mom are troubling. Labels are a sensitive issue for stepfamilies, especially in the beginning. It took my sons a few years to begin referring to their dad’s wife as their stepmom and I would argue most kids, regardless of age or circumstance, need a bit more than witnessing the swapping of a few vows to entrust an otherwise stranger with the awesome responsibility and honour of being a parent of any sort. The title of a stepparent is one you ease into slowly as you build trust and develop a loving relationship. And the title of mom, well, each blended family has to decide for themselves the qualifications of that moniker, but for us, we’re pretty fine with my initial title as 'Rochelle, my dad’s wife,' and now, as time passed, 'Rochelle, my stepmom.' My point is, labels are sensitive for blended families and it's all the more awkward when salespeople or well-meaning strangers unknowingly hold up a mirror and make you stare right into the heart of that sensitivity.With nearly half the population involved in a blended family, I think it’s no longer safe to assume every adult is biologically related to the children with whom she or he is caring for.

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