Our goal is to provide information, ideas and support for working women who are also full-time mothers.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Returning From Maternity Leave

Well, my time home with baby boy is just about up. I gave birth to our second child in early March and was fortunate enough to take the full 12 weeks alloted by FMLA. When I had my daughter almost 3 years ago, I wasn't working, so I never experienced a real "maternity leave". I had been laid off a year previous to her birth and was looking for a job throughout my entire pregnancy. I got the job I currently have right after she was born, and coincidentally started that job when she was 12 weeks old. It was such a different circumstance, though. I had been out of work for so long and I needed to work. We had survived for a year without my income, but it was getting tough and my husband's employer had just changed our insurance benefit so that we were paying an outrageous amount per month just to have the insurance. So I was in the "survivor" mindset and didn't give myself much time to think about how it would be to leave her, when the time came. My first day of work was at a new job and I was nervous and excited but it also meant the first day I had to leave her in the care of someone I didn't even know. I cried the minute I got to daycare and the only thing that got me through was her parting smile--she didn't know what that meant to me, but it gave me the courage to walk out that door and start a new job. Leaving her was horrible, but just like everyone said, it did get better over time. Unfortunately, she was one of those babies that got sick from the minute she went into daycare until she was 1 year old. You name it, she had it, I think. It was a rough year for all of us. But we all made it through, and she was happy and thriving in her daycare environment. She was spoiled rotten with love by her teacher and still is to this day!

When I got pregnant with my son, I figured this time it was going to be better. I would have more relaxed time with him while on maternity leave and since I had already gone through that first time drop off with my daughter, I would be an old pro. Well, I go back to work in just over a week and let me tell you, I am not feeling anything like an old pro! I think it's actually going to be worse for me this time. My maternity leave has been wonderful--lots of relaxed days with my son, and extra time with my daughter. I kept my daughter in daycare part-time to ensure her spot would be there when I returned to work, and to maintain some of her normal routine. She is in a preschool class there now and is learning so much. I am really happy I made the decision to keep her there but knowing I am going to be missing that extra time with her makes it even harder for me to go back to work. My son is a wonderful, happy baby and I have been able to spend so much time just enjoying him. I didn't really think about going back to work until about a week ago, and it just hit me--I have to leave him with someone else all day for 5 days per week. I got nauseous and started hyperventilating. A real panic attack! I had never experienced that before. I don't know why it just hit me like that, I mean, I had done this before so I knew it was coming. And the fact is, I have to go back to work. Not just for the money and the medical benefits, but for me. I know I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom, I have always known this. I enjoy working and I enjoy that professional interaction. I like contributing to my family's income and I like that I am a role model for my children,but specifically my daughter. I am not super mom by any means, but I am showing her that you can be a mom and have a career and be happy. I think this is an incredibly important life lesson for her and for me. So going back to work is necessary. I have decided that I am not going to let myself think about it until the night before I go back. Sure, I will get things prepared and make lists, etc., but I will not let myself think about how it will feel to leave him. I want to enjoy this last week with him and take in every last smile and coo. I know he will love no one else like he loves his mommy, and I am just trying to concentrate on that. Being a working mom can be tough, but in the long run, it's the best decision for me and my family. I have to believe that or I will go insane.

Being a Step-parent

My situation is quite similar to Sam's in many ways. I am stepmom to 3 boys, ages 16, 14 & 10. I have a sweet little girl of my own who will be 3 in a few months. The boys also have another little sister who will be 2 in a few months, by their mom & stepdad . Confused?

Life in our household is pretty chaotic. We have joint legal custody but only partial physical custody, although at least one of the boys is at our house after school just about every day. Because of the way my work schedule is, I end up making sure they have dinner and running them around to a lot of their after school/evening activities. It is very difficult at times and I often feel un- or underappreciated for all that I do by them, my husband and their mother. But it is a choice that I made a number of years ago, and there are a lot of good things about it. I love having a big family (next step - a big house!). I love that my little girl has three big brothers that love her to bits. I love having had the privilege of watching the boys grow from little kids into fine young men, and having been a part of that.

Holidays are a crazy time, trying to figure out how we're going to get to see everyone. Over the years, it has worked out to where we pretty much do it the same way every year for their mom's side and my husband's side, but its hit or miss as to whether my extended family (aunts, uncles, grandparents) gets to see the boys over the holidays. That's just the way it goes with so many people's schedules to try to work around.

I had tried to let my husband deal with scheduling things with his ex, but over the past year, I've taken on a lot more of this directly with her. Its just easier that way. My relationship with her has always been alright, sometimes even cordial. There are definitely things that I don't agree with, but she probably has similar feelings about me (and definitely about my husband, LOL!). Ultimately, the most important thing is that we are all looking out for the boys.

I don't get a whole lot of attitude from them, like the dreaded "you're not my mother!" I've always thought that maybe thats b/c they're boys. I think their stepdad may get a bit more of such attitude. And I think that if they were girls, I would take the brunt of it. But it could be something else entirely. Ultimately, I think its mostly the kids that they are. But a couple of things may have helped. My husband eased me into their lives when we began dating. I've never said a bad word to them about their mom. When it comes to discipline, I let my husband lead the way on that for the most part. Of course I have to step in at times on little squabbles that happen btwn brothers but thankfully, we haven't had a whole lot in the way of bigger issues up to this point. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hats Off To Step Parents

I sometimes think that being a stepmom has got to be harder than mothering your own children. All of the responsibilities, non of the rights. A child that you love like your own saying "you're not my mother". Having to constantly deal with your spouse's ex, and respect the decisions that you don't agree with, well it would kill me. The sacrifices I have seen my friends who are stepmothers make amaze me. Your stepkids are blessed to have you in their lives. Hats off to you.

Another Helpful Link for Step Families

Stepfamily Association of America: The site provides an online support group as well as information on real world support groups and other resources.

BBC Board for StepParents

ParentCenter/BabyCenter has a great board for Step Parents to share their joys and frustrations: Raising Stepchildren

Monday, May 15, 2006

Step Moms/Blended "Splendid" Families

Let me start out by trying to sort out all of the crazy details for you. I am a stepmom to 13 year old twin boys. I have been their stepmom for a little more than 5 years. The twins live with my husband and I about half of the time and with their mom and stepdad the other half of the time. Technically speaking my husband has joint legal and joint physical custody of the twins. We live about 25 minutes away from their mom and they go to school by their mom's house. The twins have a younger brother, my 2.5 year old son, and a younger sister, their mom's almost 2.5 year old daughter. There are so many more details I could go into but sometimes I can't even keep them all straight!

I was a stepmother before I was a mother. You know what's it like before you are really a parent? You think you have all the answers, you don't understand why people do what they do, or why they let their kids do what they do! I had to learn that not only were my views on parenthood completely skewed but that as a step parent my boundaries were totally different. I generally learned this the hard way. OUCH. I learned that as a stepmom I can establish bounadries in my own home (e.g. bedtimes, dinner time, chores, etc.) but when it comes to the things that happen outside the home (e.g. school, doctor visits, etc.) I have influence but I am not a decision maker. That sounds so simple but for me that was a lesson that took about 2 years to learn.

So for the question everyone asks me.......do I get along with my husbands ex? That is a hard question to answer. We do not see eye to eye on a lot of things but I make every attempt to remain civil and remember that while we may have different opinions we are both trying to do what is best for the twins. The reality is that she and I talk more than she and my husband. Because in the real world it's the moms (step or biological) who get the details ironed out. Who is dropping them off at the baseball game, did they finish their homework, who has a fever and when was the last dose of Tylenol given. You all know what I'm talking about!

I have often said that being a step parent is like parenting with one hand tied behind your back.

I do love my stepsons very much. They are part of my family. I worry about them, I have hopes and dreams for them. Our dinner table just doesn't feel complete unless all 5 of us are sitting at it!