Social Media and Different Perspectives

  • I have to share my thoughts on this…how people see and respond differently to social media. I am one of those old timers on the internet who used it way back when it was IRC just text on Unix (yes I am that old! :-)), this gives you an idea of how long I have been online.

  • I recently had issues with a “friend” when I disclosed that I had looked at some of his family members on Facebook. For me this is an innocent move, I AM a huge Facebook junkie, I like to look people up out of curiosity and the fun of it, but never do I intrude in their lives by sending them messages or in-boxing them….that to me would be crossing the line. People look me up as well, and I don’t mind or care, as long as they are not slandering me or using my information in any negative way. To that end, I do watch what I post on Facebook and Instagram, I am always mindful that others may find me there.

  • I realized this weekend that for some, even the looking is crossing the line, it comes across as you being insecure or nosy, that was a new point of view for me as I am totally cool with who I am and my relationships. This point of view was a bit strange for me as I have a huge online presence, and I view all things online to be free, open and public information to be accessed by anyone, anytime, however. My bar is what the information is used for, and how it is used. Anyway, some people do feel that way, and for those of us who are internet, online junkies, we have to be aware and respect these perspectives when we are in relationships with others. Ask clearly what their views are regarding this. Don’t assume that it’s harmless.

  • Since it was a strange point of view for me, I did a poll, and yes, about 30% of people interviewed do find it offensive for others to poke around on any social media looking for them. My question is though, if someone is so private, why are they on social media? Anyway, I learned a huge lesson, “If you look, don’t say you did!” (chuckle). Ok guys that was a joke….if you don’t disclose, then it becomes snooping vs browsing.

  • What is your opinion? Should people be free to look up anyone, whenever, however?

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    Handling Heartbreak of Any Kind

    How do you handle heartbreak?
    – Do you cry?
    – Do you scream?
    – Do you Lash out at the person who caused it?
    – Do you Lash out at yourself for making a mistake and beat yourself up about it?

    I am a bit more practical. I figure you can’t get back the spilt milk, if you apologize to the hurt party and try to make amends and they want to move on with their lives, then give them room to do so. Don’t lash out, don’t try to get mean or nasty to get back at anyone. Life is too short to be angry. Figure out how to deal with your hurt the best way you can and move on.

    Life happens and hurt happens, find your good place and go there. Don’t ever let heartbreak determine the rest of your life, the path you take and how you deal with others.

    Move on!! and do it gracefully.

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    Should we give allowance to kids?

    I am writing not to offer advice this time but more in a seeking capacity, so anyone who has insight and can offer some feedback on allowance giving, please do.
    I have teenagers, and I struggle with whether to give the allowance or not.
    I have always been against:

    1. Paying for grades, I think it’s my kid’s responsibility to do their work and bring in good grades, and I don’t think they should be paid for this, am I wrong?
    2. Paying for chores, I think they need to contribute to the home as members of our community, and again don’t feel I should need to pay for doing what they need to do.
    3. So with me being against these things, how do I encourage and develop money management skills if they are not working? What are my options here?
      I have thought about giving them a weekly allowance as a matter of course, then deducting as behavior and grades fluctuate. Is this a good strategy? What do you guys do?

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    Life after divorce

    No one enters into marriage planning a divorce, at least no one I know. When the marriage doesn’t work individuals are left with hurt feeling, probably bitter, and feeling war torn. But how long should those feeling last, and should you let these feeling influence your attitude towards future relationships and the institution of marriage itself?
    I think if you are that person who has been so damaged by the divorce process that you can no longer trust another, therapy may be needed. Everyone is different, and the fact that your marriage did not work is not a reflection of the process or institution itself, it’s a reflection of you and the individual you were married to. Marriage as an institution is a beautiful thing; it’s about two people loving each other, committing to each and taking care of each other. Yes, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but again this is not because marriage as a concept is bad. I will concede that the court system is screwed up, the lawyers are on the take and the spurned ex spouses are hell, BUT the system only does what we ask it to do, lawyers work for us and not the other way around. We ultimately control the direction that our divorce process takes. We make the decision on how much we want to fight and what we think is worth fighting for.
    You must look at yourself and ask, what was my contribution to my failed marriage and divorce? It take two, there are two sides to the story and each will tell it differently. Only after facing the reality of your shortcoming and the reality that issues are a part of life and marriage can you be healed to move one to the next phase. So don’t let your passion and emotional health be destroyed by this one event in your life….life is too short to be spent being bitter. Staying angry hurts you, not the person you are divorced from. As a matter of fact, the ex-spouse has won if he or she has succeeded at keeping you angry and keeps you away for developing and maintaining a new caring and loving relationship; that’s exactly what they don’t want you to have as you move on with your life.
    I say live life to the fullest, move on from your divorce and let yourself love again!

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    Bad marriages and the kids

    I have heard many people say regardless of how bad marriages are couples should stay in it for the kids as they need and deserve to be in a two parents household. Frankly, I disagree. being in a miserable household where the two parents are fighting all the time or are simply not affectionate doesn’t model what marriages is for the kids, let alone what a good marriage should look like, and it’s important for kids to see this.
    If for whatever reason the marriage no longer works and both people are miserable, in my opinion it’s best for the children to have two happy, sane and loving parents living apart than two bad behaving adults living together. Again by separating, we are modeling how conflicts can be resolved in a mutually agreed up manner.
    My marriage disintegrated and was dysfunctional for years, when I finally ended it, one of my children asked, “what took you so long.”
    I was surprised that this question was asked. Children are observant, they are living the marriage just as we are, and if we are miserable, chances are they are too.
    Adults need to realize when a marriage is over, accept that it is over, separate and be mature adults about the process. A marriage is a contract and partnership between two people, and just as some contracts and partnerships should be dissolved so should some marriages.
    Don’t get me wrong, parents should do all they can to rehabilitate their marriages, however when all attempts have failed, it can mean it’s time to pull the plug, and that can be best for all including the children.

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    It’s ok for a child to be disappointed

    True story…..a friend of mine came over with her kids to my house for a play date. One of her kids had pink eye, but she did not want to disappoint her, so she took her over anyway, risking passing the bacteria on to my kids.
    As if that was not bad enough, they wanted to go to the swimming pool, and she intended to have child hide her condition from the lifeguard and others by keeping her goggles, on. Ok, that’s where I drew the line! I had to explain that it was ok for the child to be disappointed…and she was! she cried :-(.

    I explained to the mom and child how selfish it would be to pass the infection on to an entire community to satisfy one person. They now understand that they were being as selfish as the person who might have knowingly passed the sickness by coming to school. After our conversation, I think the child was more understanding than the mother. The mother then asked if they can now go to the swimming pool, but go to the movies instead just so that the child would not be disappointed. My response was that it’s ok, if that’s what all the kids wanted to do.

    I really want to emphasize that it’s ok for your kids to be disappointed at times, we can’t shield them from all natural consequences and rob them of the growth and learning experiences that they will need to deal with real life.

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    Working mom and the challenging teenager

    What do you do if you are a working mom raising a challenging teenager who is heavily influenced by his peers, the culture and ignore many of your values? I have one of those, and boy is he a lot of work! He has been keeping me busy and away from my blog 🙂
    Here are some of the steps I take. They might be controversial to some new age parents, but might appeal to others, read on.

    What are some challenges?

    1. Monitoring his activities. Lately my teenager had gotten involved in what’s called the sneaker game, he used his money to buy “cool” sneakers, wore them for bragging rights, then tried to put them back on the market. This was a shocker as it’s a dangerous activity, plus it’s totally against my value system.
      On the buying side, I refuse to accept that a teenager should spend $200 for a pair of sneakers, I don’t care if the money was saved from grandma, birthdays, or earned. On the selling side, I think the kids who buys these sneakers for status are being exploited, and I won’t allow my kid to be a part of that even if he makes a profit. Who knows where this activity could have lead, and what dangerous people he could have gotten involved with if I had not been vigilant.
    2. Monitoring his text. Some of you might disagree with me here, but it’s my personal opinion that until they start paying for the phone, and the bill, or reach 18yrs of age, I reserve the right to monitor what is sent or received. We have had many fruitful and valuable conversations around some the texts that are exchanged. Some of these texts were hints that lead me to the ongoing shoe buying/selling activity.
    3. Monitoring his friends. I try to meet all my teenager’s friends and their parents. These are not always folks who would normally be in my social circle, but I have to make the effort if I want to know what his environmental influences are outside the home.
    4. Having meaningful conversations. I don’t like monosyllabic answers, and I don’t allow him to get away with just “ok”, “hmhm” or “good”, I always like to probe for more. I can tell when he’s have a bad day and just don’t want to talk right then, in those cases, I will let him have his own space, but since every day can’t be bad, I do expect to have conversations, and we do. When riding in the car, just the two of us I don’t accept the headphones on, I actually consider that to be quite rude. I ask for them to be off and encourage conversation, you’d be surprised how soon the annoyance goes away and we connect with each other.
    5. Monitoring the grades. Have you heard, “mom everyone failed, so a C is actually good.” Well, no it’s not! I am very involved in my kids’ school, but not in school work, I expect my children to be self motivated and driven so I step in only as needed, so this makes the grades monitoring a bit hard, as on one hand I am trying to encourage independence, but on the other, I don’t want the grades to slip, so I do jump in and offer help or suggestions if I think it’s needed. I have heard, “mom I have this under control.” In that case, I just move on and give an expected date to see improvement, if there is none, we move on to consequences.

    These are only some of my challenges, I will continue soon….reply if you’d like and share your challenges.

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    Sick Kid

    Do you have a kid who is more needy than the others? It feels like that one takes more out of you? sicker, whinier, and in general harder to manage.

    I have one of those, and one of the hardest thing to determine; is he truly sick and can’t go to school, or is he just faking it?
    I have a general philosophy, if you have no fever, and does not show visible signs of dying, then you must go to school. This guy has always find ways to get around that rule 🙂 He can make himself show visible signs of dying. I will allow him to sit out school, and I am told as soon as I leave home to head out to work, he’s fine, up and watching television. Of course, when I call home, he’s groaning and whining.

    I will have him for another 4 years before he’s gone off to college, until then, we will keep playing the game of sick or no no sick.

     
    How about yours?

     

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    Lottery Dreams

    Have you dreamed of winning the lottery? I have…..

    Dreams of:

  • Helping all family members
  • Donating to all my favorite charities
  • Building a park in my home town
  • Fixing all the schools in my town
  • Donating to hospitals
  • Best of all – Opening a technical engineering type school of which I am the principal
  •  
    So many great dreams, and what do I do….forget to buy a ticket….how you? 🙂 

     

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    Do you tell employees about potential layoffs?

    Here is the dilemma, you are a middle level manager, and changes or potential layoffs are coming to the organization that could possible have an impact on your employees’ lives.  You were told by upper level management not to disclose anything as yet, what do you do?

    I think it’s ok to disclose some information, and here is why:

    1. Imagine that you were in your employees’ shoes, and about to make some big purchase or decision, wouldn’t you want to know that layoffs could be coming?
    2. Secondly, I think trust is very important.  If you want to maintain the trust of you team, they need to know that you care about them, and not just about the talking points of the management team.
    3. There might be rumors going around the company, and if asked, and you lie, eventually when the layoffs come, that would not be good for your relationship with the remaining team members.  You would either look like a liar or a fool, not to be trusted.

    So now that we have gone over the reasons to disclose some information, how do you go about doing it without causing panic and work disruption?

    1. First of all, be honest with your team, let them you that you cannot share all the details, but you want to inform that that some “changes” are coming.  Don’t use the word layoffs!
    2. Identify with them by sharing your concerns as well, and that you too might be vulnerable (one never knows!)
    3. Let them know that you value them and so does the company, so whatever happens, you and the company will try your best to get them a fair deal, and try to keep their talents in house; after-all, the company has invested time and money in training each of them.
    4. If you know that someone on your team will definitely be affected by the layoffs, there is no need to share that specific piece of information.  This may cause problems for you and the company later, as you would be giving a heads-up to one person.  What about others from other teams?  Be careful here!  Just saying some change is coming is sufficient to trigger actions in employees if they feel the need to look around for new positions.
    5. Offer your support for internal placement to all on your team whether it’s needed or not.  Let them know that if anything happens you will support them as best you can.  Don’t promise another job or retention, as this could be potentially out of your control.
    6. Don’t ask your employees to keep secrets, however, ask them not to disclose to other teams, as you’d prefer others to learn of the changes from their respective managers.
    7. Since you are not keeping secrets, you need to inform your manager of you pre-emptive action letting him know that you thought this was best.  Hopefully you have a relationship in which he trust your judgement.

    In the end, managing is about relationships, not just about work, money and company profits.  Treat your team as you would like to be treated by your manager.

     

     

     

     

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    Are You A Breastfeeding Mom Enough?

    Are you mom enough?  What makes you mom enough, is it how long you breastfeed, is it how much time you spend doing for your kids instead of teaching them to do for themselves?

    We women have been called many names, helicopter moms, soccer moms, and hockey moms.    It seems as though we are always been defined in the media by what and how much we do for the kids and their activities.  All these names are annoying, but none of these names have annoyed me as much as the Newsweek cover I saw today with the question, “Are you mom enough.”  Are they now trying to define us by how long we breastfeed our kids?

    Today, when I saw the Time magazine cover of a woman breastfeeding an older child,  I was quite appalled.  I was not appalled because of the breastfeeding act itself, I just wondered why a mother would subject her son to such public scrutiny for her own financial gain.  I have no doubt in my mind that this is what it’s all about, as I have learned that her blog site got so much hits the server that hosted her site went down.   Let me give some famous examples of two kids who did nothing themselves and yet made the news and are still followed around today:

    1. Kurt Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean.  She was a baby when he died, but even today, she is known by all and followed by the tabloids

    2. The baby on the cover of “Nevermind” album.  I think there was a write up on him last year when he turned 20 years old.  He did nothing to merit such attention except being born.  He is forever labeled the Nirvana baby.

    Can you imagine what that boy will be called, the “breastfeeding baby”?  Will we be following stories of the breastfeeding baby as he turn 20?  Were his mom, Time magazine and the photographer oblivious to the possible impacts in his future, and totally ignore this for financial gain?  as I have stated earlier, I think so.

     

    Breastfeeding is certainly good for babies, not only do they get the necessary antibodies to protect them in the early stages of development, it provides a bonding experience for both mother and child.  How long show we breastfeed?  It is my opinion that this is a personal decision.  The mother or family decides based on family circumstances, such as the mother’s job, health concerns.  There is no hard and fast rule.  Different cultures also have different standards and mores regarding the topic.

    All my three kids were breastfed.  The first went for 1 year, the second 9 months, and the third only 4 months.  Notice that it tapered off as our family grew.  One of the biggest factors with the third guys was that my job at the time did not have a convenient pumping room, so the milk dried up before we were finished, plus he did not want to continue as long as the others, so it also depends on the child as in this case.   In the case of the woman on the magazine cover, I have learned that the boy is 4 years old.  That is fine if she wants to breastfeed that one, it’s her prerogative.   I am just disgusted with the use of the child so publicly and distastefully to make a point.  She could have concealed his identity by putting a blanket over his head the way we do when we breastfeed in public.

     

    Being a working mom in this work certainly makes us mom enough, we don’t need to feel any further guilt about breastfeeding.  We get up in the morning and make breakfast, put the kids on the bus or drive them to school, we go to work for 8 to 10 hours, go to after school activities, volunteer in school, and cook, clean and the rest.

    The people who writes articles for these large magazines seems so out of touch at times at the real issues and real problems of real mothers and women.  We are mom enough, and it has nothing to do with breastfeeding!

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    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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    Working Moms

    WeMomsWork is a Blog that covers all aspects of a working mother’s life. Issues ranging from protecting 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! If you visit and think a particular topic should be discussed let us know, suggestions are welcome!!

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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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