The Agony of Summer

As a working mom, one of my most dreaded time of the year is Summer.  The school year is ending and the big question is what to do with the kids? Keeping them at home is one option, however, my phone would not stop ringing at work, I might as well be home as I will be playing referee over the phone all day and coming up with ideas daily to keep them out of trouble in the neighborhood.   The other option is summer camps, and this is the best one for me; although expensive, it works best as I know where they are, and I don’t have to worry about them being bored and doing something they are not supposed to.  Summer is the one time of the year when I regret not being a teacher!  They get to spend summers with their kids, oh, such luxury!

So , as the school year winds down, I start to look for Summer camps starting in March, believe it or not, the really good ones get filled up even before then, I usually end up on the waiting list of some.   I try to do a mix of educational and sports camps.   This year we are doing football, basketball, swimming, a sleep away christian camp, Spanish, and rock band.   It cost a whole lot to do these camps, but the alternative of the kids running around with nothing to do could end up costing a lot more, so I justify the cost with this rationale and move on.

Another summer wish I have is that the kids had grandparents that they could go and spend the summers with on a farm, that would be so nice.  As a matter of fact, that would be a really nice summer camp idea, someone could start a farm, and kids come and work it for the summer for minimum pay!  Of course the government would be getting them for child labor, but I am telling you, it would not be a bad idea.  I think the thirteen year olds should be able to start working, but they are viewed as minors and are not allowed.

Summer should not and does not have to be a time of misery for you, make sure you schedule some vacation time during this time.  I do take two weeks off from work and spend it with the kids doing fun activities.  This is usually the highlight of their and my summer.  So as we roll into another Summer, I look forward to the two weeks, and groan in misery about the other eight…..how about you?

Do you like summers as a working mom?  Does the three months give you a headache just thinking about it?  Share your thoughts.

 

 

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WeMomsWork

WeMomsWork is a Blog that covers all aspects of a working mother’s life. Issues ranging from protection the kids on social media such as Facebook are discussed. We share how to deal with kids and cell phones, step parenting strategies, and many work related topics such as interviewing.
This is a one stop shop for moms looking for advice and tools!

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Dealing With A Stepchild

It is a known fact that divorces in America is about 50% and that of second marriages is even higher. One of the factors affecting second marriages is the kids that are taken in the marriage from either previous marriage. In some places, there is a saying, “Once you have accepted the cow, you must take the calf.” This is true of the relationship with the spouse and his or her child. It is a recipe for disaster when one goes into such relationship thinking that they will love the spouse, but choose to have an adversarial relationship with the child or child’s other parent. Let’s look at some of the common issues.

Relationship with the Ex-Spouse

If you are reading this, and you have contributed to the breaking up of the marriage, then this section will not be of much since there might be constant bitterness between you and the ex-spouse, otherwise, there should not be reason for animosity, and all parties should work to create harmony the sake of the children in the middle.
After meeting and dating the divorced or single parent with a child, I am assuming that you made a conscious decision to move forward with the relationship. In doing so, you must have known that there has to be and will some interaction between your now spouse and other parent. Parents’ collaboration on issues regarding their child is healthy and should be encouraged; don’t try to prevent that from happening due to any form of jealousy. You should also try to have a relationship with the ex-spouse. If the relationship is amicable enough that all three or probably four parents can meet and discuss joint parenting and shared responsibilities, that is the best scenario, however in the absence of such arrangement, a best effort attempt should be made to have reasonable discourse with the other parent. You don’t have to be buddies with the ex, but having a pleasant relationship wherein you are able to discuss issues regarding the child should be developed, and is beneficial to all involved. It is also wise never to ask the ex-spouse about the demise of the relationship or try to compare notes, if you need information on what occurred in that relationship, ask your spouse. In my opinion ask only for relevant information, as it concerns the well-being of the child. You might find yourself in a situation wherein the divorce was very bitter, and through no fault of your own, the ex-spouse has decided that there will be no relationship with you. That is ok. Your job is to be a good adult person to the child involved. Try never to get involved in any bickering between the ex-spouses, and try to keep the child away from such arguments as best as you can. In addition, don’t add any fire to the already burning flames, remember you might never be in a position to hear the other side, and yes, there are two sides. Relationships are complicated as we all know, but we must try to make them work for the sake of the children. Always!

Child Support and Your Support

If your spouse pays child support, don’t try to prevent him or her from meeting that obligation, again, you knew going in that this was something that has to be taken care of. Once you have a family together, there may be some financial hardships with two families, if that’s the case, then there is legal recourse in the system to make adjustments, but the child should never be dragged into this process, or be made to feel as if he or she is a financial burden. All this should be handled without the child’s knowledge and hopefully without you being pulled into the process as well. Your attitude and encouragement will go a long way here. Typically what I have heard is that most exes had no problem paying their child support until they met a new person. Don’t be that negative influence. Taking care of a child involves emotional as well and financial support.

Important Life Events

If you spouse has to go to school events for his or her child in town, out of town or state, encourage that involvement, and be a part of it as much as you can, but know when to take a step back and let two be a company instead of three. There will be instances when you will need to step aside and let the relationship between the spouse and child develop, give them some space to make that happen. I usually advise friends who are jealous of the parent-child relationship to let go, don’t try to prevent a bond from developing between child and parent, you would want this for your child. You will not have less husband or wife because he or she loves their child; you will have a better spouse and relationship all around.

Discipline and Your Role – Just My Opinion

I have heard many experts say that the step parent should not be involved in the disciplining of the stepchild; this should be left solely up to the biological parent. I disagree. If there are children in the marriage, they should all be treated equally, this includes discipline. Why should the family have two sets of rules, and two modes of operation? That premise alone gives too much power to the stepchild, and will possibly alienate the step parent, relegating them to the sidelines. Discipline should be carried out as usual with love and caring as you would any child, it should not be carried out in anger or be abusive. The fact that the child is the stepchild should not be mentioned at all as any disciplinary action is being executed. In my experience, a child knows that he or she is loved when the right discipline is applied and boundaries are set.
In my case, I recall an instance when my step daughter was 5 years old, and she did something to put herself in danger. I swatted her on the bottom, after she went home her mom called and was angry asking why did I swat her daughter. I explained to her that every child in my care will be given love and discipline, both go hand in hand, and she cannot ask me to do one without the other. Plus, I asked if she wanted me to treat her child any different than I would treat mine, and her answer was no. So that was that, and we never had that discussion again. There are times however when you must consult the other parent, especially if your values are different. You don’t want to tell the child something that is not supported by the other parent, so know your boundaries, and defer to the other parents when necessary. Case in point, when my step daughter was turning 21 years old, she called my husband and told him that she was going to go out and drink some alcohol to celebrate, he freaked out and asked me to call her and tell her not to drink ever as this was dangerous and could ruin her future (by the way he drinks). This was not what I thought, so I told him no, I would not call her; this was for him and her mom to handle. Personally, I would prefer a young person not to drink, but if they choose to do so, it must be done responsibly, they should not be driving to put themselves or anyone else at risk, and it must be done in moderation. In this case, my personal opinion differed from his, and might have been different from her mom’s, so it was not my place to interfere. Know when you need to offer an opinion and when you don’t.

The Blended Family

Once you have started a family of your own with your spouse, it’s very crucial to not treat the stepchild as if he or she is a separate entity, they are a part of your family, even if not a resident one. Yes, there will be some differences if they live with the custodial parent and visits, but the difference should not be in the quality of the relationship, just an occasional physical location. If it’s possible for you to do, have a space in your home, so that when he or she visits, there will be a feeling of ownership and belonging in the home. If that is not possible, and space is being shared with your child, the room should be viewed as “our” room, and not “my” room by the resident child. You can and must promote this attitude in your home between your child and half sibling. The stepchild should be included in family photos, and all family trips if possible. Don’t try to do anything to make this child feel as if he or she is not a part of your home, there is nothing to be gained here.

My Experience

As a stepmother, I met my stepchild when she was four, and she is now 21 years old. I consider myself a parent to her just as her mom is, and feel lucky to have been a part of her life. I have always told her that I am not her mom, and don’t want to be, she already has one. However, when she is with me, I am the responsible adult and she must abide by my rules. I will give my opinion when asked; however, I try to leave most life changing and financial decisions such as choice of college between her, her dad and her mom to discuss. You have to know when to step in and when to step back. I do have a cordial relationship with her mom as I am not the one who caused the end of their marriage, actually that happened 3 years prior to me meeting my husband. I have always encouraged my husband to be a part of his daughter’s life. When she visits, he has to go to the movies with her, without me or my children, unless she requests our presence. There are times of course for family activity, but fostering his relationship with her is important especially since she resides with her mom. In addition, I have never tried preventing or try to get in the way of his paying his child support either, this is his obligation, and must be met. He has also been encouraged as much as he is capable to go to her important events such as graduation, etc. All in all, I would say, I have had a pleasant experience. It does not have to be unpleasant for you as long as you are pleasant.
In this end, the step child should have two homes, “my homes” and two families, “my families.” This is your task, to foster this feeling! Go be a great step parent.

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Why Won’t Americans Take Vacation?

I have been working now for over 20 years in the technology industry, and in every company that I have worked, people will complain that they don’t get enough time off, but still refuse to use the vacation times that are given.

When did the phenomenon begin?

Back in the eighties, it was said that the Japanese were hard working and that Americans were lazy.  I think this caused an industrial complex to develop in the USA, especially in the technology industry.   We resolved to do better, and catch up with the competition, and in doing so we created a work culture of not necessarily working smarter, but of working harder.  Engineers in American are now working themselves to death (known as Karoshi in Japan), similarly to what the Japanese did in the past.  Recognizing that there was a problem then, the Japanese government implemented a possible fix with the mandate of required time off work with pay.  So the Japanese are smarter yet again, realizing the value of family and time off work, and has left us stuck with the legacy of this unhealthy competition. Some might claim that our work culture has enabled us to have better standard of living, but this is debatable, and even if it did, at what cost to our families!

For a summary on how much vacation times are given in some countries including the USA, take a look at the site from a CNN special on the subject.

Our attitude towards vacation

If we compare Europeans and Japanese with Americans, there is a distinct difference in how personal time given by companies is viewed and used by employees.  I am now working for a company based in Europe, people there get roughly two times the amount of vacation times Americans get per year, and for the most part, they use every bit of this time to unwind and spend time with their families, they cannot even be reached when on vacation.  Compare that to how we use our time in America; at the end of the year, the companies I have worked for has to beg us Americans to take time off, some vacation times end up being rolled over and eventually paid out, and others are oftentimes lost.   Also, when Americans are on vacation, many still keep in touch with what’s happening in the office, still answering emails, and frequently checking into the office to see if they are needed.  There are many reasons Americans are afraid or hesitant to take a vacation, one of this is the fear of competition and another is uncertainty of the future due of the struggling economy thus the fragility of the labor market.
Bloomberg’s Businessweek magazine addressed the issue of our reluctance to vacation in the article, “Do Us A Favor Take A Vacation.” In the article, the argument for Americans to take a vacation is addressed.  Very interesting read, and mirrors most of what I am saying here.

Fear of Competition

The culture of layoffs in the nineties did not help; it has exacerbated the problem as now American workers are figuring that if they work harder, then they might not be chosen in the pack to be laid off when that time comes.  In addition to the fear of layoff, there is also the fear of being replaced by more savvy and lower paid worker.  As companies turn more and more to imported labor, bringing in  skilled foreign professionals into the country, workers are becoming more fearful of being replaced, and to ally this fear, they spend more time working harder with the hope that their value will be elevated.  This is not a healthy situation, and hopefully as the economy recovers, some of this fear will be reduced and people will get back to the point where they feel safe enough to stop and spend time outside of the office.

Looking to the future

As I think about what the future holds for us and our children, I don’t foresee any improvements in the near term as the job market gets more and more global each day. Workers here and elsewhere have to prove their worth, and the best way most people know how is to work harder. However, some newer and younger companies are beginning to realize that employee overwork is an issue, and that innovation cannot be driven in this climate, so they are giving employees incentives and time to be innovative, that is encouragement to be working smarter instead of harder. With this approach, although the job market is expanding, and there is more competition for available job, if employees are allowed to build their knowledge base even while working, if they are laid off, or have to change jobs for any numerous reasons, they could still be marketable since they will still have current skills that the market demands. If workers feel safe in their knowledge, chances are they will have a more relaxed attitude in knowing that they can recover from any job situation, and thus will tend to spend less time being overworked, and more time with family. Although the future is bleak, with the right company culture, changes can be made.

Finding balance yourself

There must be balance between work and life, we need to work hard to meet our obligations and fulfill the contract we entered into with our employers, yet we still need to step back from time to time, relax and enjoy our families. Let’s examine our motives for working long hours, and make sure, it’s not insecurities that’s driving us, but a genuine desire to be a contributor. In addition, If your job is one that does not encourage employees to be cross trained and be updated in the latest technology, instead of spending all the overtime in the office, invest in yourself, and get some external training to ensure your marketability, and thus improve yourself worth. In the end know where you are on the job and what your needs are for job satisfaction, rest and relaxation. There must be balance.
So if you fall into this category of the overworked, go use your time off, work to live, not live to work!

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Sharing Personal Information With The Kids —- How Much Is Too Much?

In teaching our kids how to live, and to help them gain some perspective, we sometimes end up sharing our past experiences.  Because of this desire to be honest and not hypocritical, do we end up sharing too much information?  How much is too much, and should we feel guilty or hypocritical for telling them not to do things that we might have done ourselves?

First, let me begin with the sharing experiences aspect.  I think we can share as much as it relates to the particular situation on hand, there is no need to delve into the gory details of our past experiences or into subject matters that are not age appropriate while doing so.  Here is a common scenario….a 13 year old asking if you had sex before marriage after you told her not to.  I think you can be honest in the matter and tell the truth whatever it is.  If the answer is yes, you can then explain the negatives consequences of that action, and explain that for those reasons you just outlined, you are discouraging the same to protect her from the hurt and pain that you might have experienced.  Your painful experience or experiences this has caused in your life can be used to further drive home your point.  On the other hand, if the answer was no, you can then explain why you went this route, and what the benefits were of doing so, and why it’s beneficial for her to wait as well.

In the latter case, I don’t think you need to delve into or share the excruciating detail of any past relationships.  You only need to be sharing information as it is relevant to the exact question.  The situation is similar to a 4 year old asking where babies come from, we don’t bog them down with a detailed discussion of biology, we answer only the question asked with a general answer such as, “A baby comes from a mommy and daddy when they love each other.”   This was a simple example of course, but I am just trying to illustrate that we need to share only necessary information, making it brief and to the point.  The amount of personal information and experiences shared will of course increase as the kid grows, but in all cases, only share what is relevant.

The same is true for conversations regarding smoking or drug use.  If you are a parent who had indulged at some point in your life, and your kids want to experiment, I think you can be open with sharing information when explaining why they should not by giving your negative experiences, ensuring that at no point in the conversation you glorify the behavior.  If your kids are not moving in that direction nor are asking drug usage questions as it relates to you, I see no purpose in sharing such information about your past experiences.  In my opinion, such experiences are only worth sharing if they serve the greater good to be a teaching tool by presenting the information in a more real and relational way.  If it’s just information being presented for information’s sake, to open up unnecessarily or to even seem cool to your kids, then I think it can be left alone.  Of course, at some point you will and absolutely should be discussing drugs and sex with your kids, however, what I am talking about here are the demerits of the unnecessary sharing of some personal experiences and information when a generic answer would suffice.

Let’s address the hypocritical or guilty feelings when telling our kids not to do things that we probably did ourselves.  Personally, I don’t feel any guilt at all when telling my kids to do the rights things, regardless of my past experiences.  If I myself had made a mistake in the past, I tell them just that.  I made some terrible judgments, and then let them know that it’s my job to protect them from the pain that could possibly come to them if they make the same mistake or mistakes.  Why should we feel guilt or hypocrisy in the attempt to protect our kids from harm, or possible pain, and or hurt?

In the end, you have your own value system, and will do what is right for your kids and family.  Keep in mind that some kids may be more mature than others and can handle amounts of information differently, so you will need to make the determination on how much information to give to each kid, if you choose the path of full disclosure.  Just remember, kids are not miniature adults, so let’s be careful about how much we share and when.

 

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Grandparents – How Important Are They?

I have always wished that my kids grandparents were close by, the fact that I have moved away from home, and don’t see my parents very often.  I sometimes wonder if I did my did a dis-service by moving away from my parents.  How important are grandparents in our kids life?

Grandparents give children and society a sense of continuity, I thinks kids need to develop respect and empathy for all ages and stages of life.  Not only do they develop respect for elderly individuals, they get to see how we care for our parents.  This will provide a model for them on how to care for us as we age.

As parents and primary caregivers of our kids, we are always teaching, disciplining and coaching.  Grandparents provides a reprieve for both us and our kids.  The kids can be around the grandparents and be spoiled for a while, and we can relax and possibly rejuvenate our relationship knowing that the kids are with the grandparents, who hopefully share our values.

Grandparents benefit from being around the kids as well.  I have seen that kids enhance their life; the grandparents’ can participate in youthful activities, and not be stuck in activities for retired people only.

If you have parents who want to be involved in the grand children’s lives, and can be close enough to participate, this relationship should be encouraged.

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Vacation Time — No more Hotels

Vacations can be stressful; the planning, packing, traveling, and keeping the kids together.  One of the biggest decision of the vacation is where to stay, choosing the right place to stay can make your vacation much easier and less stressful.

Making the decision to choose a hotel or private home is largely dependent on the number of people traveling and your desire for privacy.  We were staying in hotels until my family grew from 4 to 6, now it’s just too expensive to rent an hotel suite, and a rooms are too small, so we rent vacation homes, typically from sites such as VRBO.com or Homeaway.com.  I have found these to be much more convenient and cost effective now that my family has grown and the kids are older and bigger.  Some of the advantages of staying in a home rather than a hotel are:

  1. You don’t have to worry about the kids disturbing the neighbors in the next room
  2. Having a stove and refrigerator is convenient, and significantly reduces the cost of eating out
  3. Having more space is also a plus, as everyone can have a bedroom if you choose a place with the right space
  4. Entertainment is provided as the homes typically have foosball and pool tables, games such as Wii and Xbox and cable television.

Currently we are in Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains and are staying in a Chalet with 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms.  We have chosen to share with another family, each of us paying $750.00 for 4 days.  This definitely beats the price of staying in a hotel.

Next time you decide to vacation with your family, take a look at this option, it will definitely make your life a lot easier!

 

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