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...