Monday, April 28, 2008

Are You a Working Stepmom?

I was talking with a new friend recently, and the conversation touched on the differences between motherhood vs. stepmotherhood. In my case, the only real difference has been in the way other people see me -- and that includes at work:

People who know me well often say that I grew up taking care of other people’s children. I started babysitting when I was about 11, and mothered — or smothered, as the case may be — my brothers well before that. I worked as a nanny for years during college and ran a playgroup for toddlers when I was in my early 20s. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that when I got married, it was to a man who already had three kids of his own.

Contrary to popular belief (think Snow White, think Julia Roberts in Stepmom, think pretty much any soap opera or sitcom) stepmotherhood has been neither traumatic nor dramatic for me. The kids were very young when I came into their lives — just 5, 3, and 1 year old — and on my wedding day, four years later, I exchanged vows with them as well as with their dad.
Interestingly enough, life as a Working Stepmom was different than life as a Working Mom. After all, they were somebody else’s children, right? Wouldn’t their “real parent” handle all of the rough stuff, leaving me ample time in which to work?

Well, when you’re parenting, step or not, you’re a parent. That’s really all there is to it.

For years, I arranged playdates, kissed boo-boos, changed diapers, soothed away bad dreams, packed lunches … the list of real, honest-to-goodness “Mom”-type stuff goes on and on. But things didn’t really change at work when I was “just” a Stepmom.

I still worked nights, usually 3 to 11 p.m., so my colleauges never saw me race to meet a daycare deadline (they do now that I’m on days). My annual performance reviews still ended with a little tidbit about what I needed to do in order to advance through the ranks (oddly enough, they don’t now). It wasn’t that I was expected to work overtime as much as it was that I was expected to want to work overtime, because I wasn’t “really a parent.” “You can stay late tonight, right?” my then-boss once asked as he got ready to duck out early. “It’s not like you’re rushing home to see your stepkids, right?”

Um… actually, I can’t. Because, yes. Yes, I am.

Working stepmoms: Do you feel like you’re considered less of a working parent than your colleauges? Why or why not? Read the comments and weigh in at The 36-Hour Day, peruse the archives, and check out the discussions going on at Work It, Mom...


Anonymous said...

I think being a mom is hard but being a stepmom is even harder.To me a woman doesnt have to give birth to be a mother.I have worked for a place that frowned upon pregnancies and family time off.It was never out right said but it was obvious by their mannerism.They expected work with overtime no exceptions.They figured if you left you could be replaced.I of course no longer work for them.And I am pleased to say the business didnt make it and shut down.Sticking my tongue at them:)

Nicole said...

I'm a working stepmother. His ex-wife does not look at my working schedule the same. Not that I expect her to. She doesn't like his schedule because he can't be at every practice, game and other events his children have, just like he can't with mine. He works retail so his schedule is a mess. He works until 6pm at night and doesn't get home until 6:30. He does all he can for his kids, but as those who work in retail know, you don't work normal 8-4 or 9-5 hours.

And since I work from home, it's not considered real work to his ex, so she has no issues with talking down about me and people like me to her children and anyone else who will listen. I'm expected to drop everything for her two kids. Now if her kid's dad did the same for mine, he's a bad father. She has a fit if he does anything for my children, but it's okay for her married boyfriend to do things for his kids.

It's such a mess. I hate the doublestandards.