As parenthood looms 3 months from now, I take in as many great and horrible stories from current parents. Women at work are a great source for material as they love to exploit their kids, praise them, whine about them, and scare people out of having kids. I still have not told them I'm going to be a dad in January, as I don't want to. Plus, it will be more fun to drop it on them with one month to go. As I talk more with these people, my respect and sympathy grows for the women and men who enter built in families as step-parents.
Developing love for a partner is a wonderful and mysterious process. It is not like the (usual) familial love that is developed even before we have our proper identities. It is a truly great act of love to look past the issue of a ready made family to still love someone. It is even more amazing the parent-child love that can develop between a step-parent and a child. My sister walked into a situation like this and I commend her 100% effort in being a supportive parent with her husband. I have a coworker in that situation as well who does an admirable job. I also have several single moms in my office, and I wonder who is going to look past that for anything long term.
Built in parenting is thrown into the whole 'package' of evaluating a potential long term lover. It can be a minor obstacle or it could be a dealbreaker. When I was a younger man, I considered a woman with children a no-go. No way was I going to raise some other @sshole's child or deal with that guy entering my household on weekends to take a member of my family unit away. Friends talking over cards would say to one another, "Are we going to find the girl of our dreams 5-10 years from now with a kid? Will we have to date them then?" At 20, we were stupid to the fact that older men can always date down in age due to partner picking habits of women. We saw everything through early 20s male prisms. As I age, I've softened a bit on the no existing kids embargo, but I can say that as a married man. If I were still single, I'd probably go right back to my 'no kids' rule. This makes me consider the love people have for their partners with pre-existing children so special. To love someone so much that one would accept the role of parent from day one is a testament to the strength and depth of their devotion and love.