Monday, January 31, 2011

How step parenting advice relates to office life

I've been a stepparent for about a decade now, and so much of what you read in books, articles, and online highlights the negative aspects to what really can be a very difficult life choice. National Stepfamily Day was in September, and in honor of the occasion, I decided to focus on the positives -- and maybe help a few other stepparents find a way to celebrate what they have.

You can read my stepfamily article over at Work It, Mom!, and you can read my interviews with three stepparenting experts here, because this post isn't going to focus on stepparenting issues, per se. You see, while doing my research and talking to these knowledgeable women, I was surprised to discover that many of the ways one can find happiness as a stepparent also apply to finding satisfaction -- or at least peace -- with your job.

Dr. Rachelle Katz, author of "The Happy Stepmother" and founder of an online forum called Steps for Stepmothers, offered up four great tips for celebrating your stepfamily: Enjoy your time with your stepchildren, keep a gratitude journal, disengage when necessary, and reach out to other stepparents for support. Here's how that same advice applies to the workplace:

1.) When you're at work, focus on your work. It's impossible to ignore your other responsibilities (as a mom or stepmom, as a spouse or girlfriend, as a person in your own right) completely, but work will seem less onerous if you focus on it -- and only it -- as far as possible during the time you're at the office. Compartmentalization isn't necessarily a bad thing; by limiting your distractions while you're at work, you may find yourself more satisfied with what you've accomplished at the end of the work day.

2.) Count your blessings. In this economy, and in this era of the disposable workforce, you should be happy to have a job... yeah, yeah, you know. But still. Take a few minutes each day to actually keep track of the things for which you are grateful, at work or at home, or just in general. "Keeping a gratitude list is an effective way to release stress, and improves physical and emotional well-being," Katz says. "They also experienced more optimism about upcoming events and were closer to achieving their goals after a two-month period than those who did not keep journals." They also felt healthier, had more energy, and exercised more than those, Katz says research showed.

3.) Disengage, when necessary. If you're feeling burned out by toxic coworkers or bosses, if you're feeling overwhelmed, give yourself permission to disengage. I don't mean that you're allowed to blow off your responsibilities. I mean that you should remember two things: cutting yourself slack isn't the same thing as quitting, and you should be working to live, not living to work.

4.) Tap in to your network. Reach out to those in your network -- mentors, coworkers, fellow working parents -- for support and acknowledgment. As with stepparenting, you may not feel comfortable sharing your difficulties with family, but you can release negative feelings by sharing them with the people who have gone through what you're going through.

I think these tips apply equally to stay-at-home moms -- then again, I think that staying at home with your kids is a career choice, and all moms are working moms. But they also apply to your home life, even if you're not a stepparent.

How do you celebrate what you have, at work, at home, or in general?

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