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by Abigail Van Buren

Manager Who Grabs Brass Ring Ends Up With Tarnished Hands

DEAR ABBY: Help! I am engaged to a man with three kids -- a 7-year-old girl and 9-year-old twin boys -- and soon to become a stepmom. He has them about half the time.

The family all believe their biological mother is failing miserably, and I feel as though they view me as a suitable substitute. I like his children, but I have three of my own. One is grown; two are teenagers. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and do not want to start over again raising someone else's kids.

Can I marry this man and not have to raise his kids? Or is that what a stepmother does? I would be happy just being their friend. -- UNCERTAIN STEPMOM IN NEW ENGLAND

DEAR UNCERTAIN: Although you would be happy just being their friend, at their ages and with the biological mother "failing miserably," face it: There will be plenty of mothering going on. Of course you will have a hand in raising those children -- it goes with the territory. If that's not what you are willing to sign on for, you should not marry him. Sorry.