In the Parenthood
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Babies

Avoiding the pitfalls of step parenthood

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse September 16, 2010 02:51 AM

Note to readers: As of Sept. 29, 2010, Boston.com/Moms will be syndicating content for In the Parenthood from my blog, Write. Edit. Repeat. You can find my older In the Parenthood and Child Caring posts (and comments!) here and here; more recent posts are archived at WriteEditRepeat.blogspot.com. Looking forward to continuing the great parenting discussions there! -- LMA


September 16th is National Stepfamily day, a great opportunity to honor your non-traditional family while acknowledging that parenting in general -- and stepparenting in particular -- is no easy gig.

With as many as 36 million stepmothers in the United States (when adult stepchildren are taken into account), some studies project that 40 percent of all women will be part of some type of blended family (married or not) at some point in their lives. If you're a step parent, it's unrealistic to pretend that your family is identical to a traditional family in every way. But you can still accept it as normal and celebrate what you have.

"Spending time with your stepfamily and fostering meaningful relationships is the best way to honor and celebrate it," says Dr. Rachelle Katz, "The Happy Stepmother" and founder of Steps for Stepmothers online forum. "Setting aside time for fun activities -- or even just mealtime -- with the whole stepfamily will give you the opportunity to celebrate your blended family."

Wednesday Martin, author of "Stepmonster," points out that even calling a stepfamily "blended" sets stepmoms, in particular, up for disappointment. "The metaphor of blending is a unrealistic expectation that makes normal stepfamilies feel like failures," she points out. "And it doesn't describe stepfamily experience accurately." (In an article in today's Globe, I've asked Martin, Katz, and author Joanne Pedro-Carroll what they think is the biggest mistake stepparents make -- and how to fix it. You can read my entire interviews with all three experts here.)

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Car seat safety: Is your child using the right one?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 21, 2010 12:23 PM

When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to ride unfettered in the "way back" of the family station wagon. We rarely used seatbelts back in the '70s, let alone cushy car seats with five-point harnesses and cup holders.

We've come a long way since then, thank goodness, and today's parents are quick to make sure that their kids are strapped in before they even start the car.

But the best car seats out there still aren't secure if aren't being used properly and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 75 percent of car seats being used today are installed incorrectly. To help answer questions and demonstrate proper installation techniques, AAA and the Dorel Juvenile Group are hosting a car seat safety check in the Target parking lot at the South Bay Plaza in Dorchester (7 Allstate Road) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, July 23 (yes, that's tomorrow). If you can't make it to the event, you can still benefit from some of the tips Kimberlee Mitchell, National Child Safety Expert and Child Passenger Safety Technician, gave me to share with you.

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New parents: Would you bring your baby to work with you?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 15, 2010 12:46 PM

When I went back to work after my first baby was born, I felt guilty and excited at the same time. Guilty because I'd fallen in love with my baby and wanted to spend more time with her. Excited because I'd be able to have conversations with actual adults again, and be productive in a pre-parenthood way. And guilty, of course, about feeling excited about being back in the office.

Being able to leave the baby at home with my husband made me feel better (here's how we managed that and how I dealt with the second-shift stress), but if my company had offered to allow me to bring her in to the office with me for those first few months, I would have turned them down. It was hard enough trying to concentrate on work once I was back in the office, I can't imagine trying to multitask with an infant at the same time.

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Does having kids really make you unhappy?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 7, 2010 10:58 PM

Scores of studies over the years have shown that having kids doesn't make people happier. Ask any parent, though, and many will say that they adore their children, even when they're frustrated by them -- it's the parenting part that's a chore.

In the most recent edition of New York Magazine, Jennifer Senior explores these studies in a piece called "All Joy and No Fun" and makes several key points, including:

1. There's a difference between feeling happy and feeling rewarded.
2. In countries with strong support systems, like Scandinavia, parents feel happier.
3. The gulf between our familial fantasies and reality is huge.

All of which makes sense, but you know what? I think being able to consider personal happiness so carefully is a privilege afforded to those for whom the basic necessities -- food, clothing, shelter -- aren't an issue. And I also think that happiness is relative.

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Jealous of the nanny?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 6, 2010 10:19 AM

One of the more difficult aspects about going back to work after having a baby is figuring out which childcare set-up will work for your family. Will you and your spouse work opposite shifts, so one of you is on kid-duty while the other is at the office? Find a small family daycare or go with a larger daycare center? Hire a babysitter or nanny?

And then there's the issue most parents don't want to discuss: What if you find yourself feeling jealous of your child care provider?

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Do dads get short shrift at home?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 23, 2010 08:20 AM

A newly released Boston College study called "The New Dad: Exploring Fatherhood Within a Career Context" points to a sea change in the workplace: Fathers may be facing a bias similar to that which working mothers know all too well.

But there's a twist: It seems that their wives are also discounting the work these dads do at home.

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Advice for new parents, from those who have been there

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 17, 2010 10:24 AM

There's an old joke about how your parenting style changes with each child. First-time parents are apt to sterilze the baby's toys each night and boil the binkie the instant it drops on the floor. Second-time parents wash the toys when they look a little grubby and rinse the pacifier with tap water. Parents with three or more kids? The toys get outgrown before they get cleaned and the paci gets wiped off on a clean corner of mom's shirt before being popped back into the baby's mouth. A little dirt helps build the immune system, right?

Kerry Colburn and Rob Sorensen's new book, "How to Have Your Second Child First: 100 Things That Are Good to Know... the First Time Around," is full of easy-to-read nuggets of wisdom and quotes from experienced moms and dads, as well as short "Second-Timer Tips" from parents who have been there, done that, laundered the spit-up covered T-shirt. It's the book I wish I had when my first baby was born.

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Are you using your kids to escape your marriage?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 14, 2010 05:22 AM

David Code.jpgIt runs counter to our instincts as parents, but a new book suggests that making your kids your top priority may be doing them more harm than good.

An Episcopal minister and family coach, David Code suggests that parents who focus first on maintaining a strong marriage end up having happier, better-adjusted children than those who make their kids their top priority.

"The truth is, we often find it easier to be with our kids than our partners," Code said in an interivew. "This seems child-friendly, but we don't realize we're using our kids as an escape from our spouses."

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Dads can develop postpartum depression

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 3, 2010 10:24 AM

New fathers generally don't have a wealth of information to fall back on. Pregnancy books are usually aimed at women, obviously, though there are a few notable exceptions, like Christopher Healy's Pop Culture: The Sane Manís Guide to the Insane World of New Fatherhood and Dad's Pregnant, Too by Harlan Cohen. But dads-to-be and new fathers need help as much as moms do: A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 10 percent of husbands experience depression sometime between their wives' first trimester and the end of the baby's first year, and 25.6 percent of new dads are depressed during the first 3 to 6 months of the baby's life -- in other words, 3 to 6 months postpartum.

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Wakefield vows to continue vaccine-autism research

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 24, 2010 04:14 PM

Stripped today of his license to practice medicine, Dr. Andrew Wakefield -- whose 1998 study on the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine and autism led millions of parents to stop vaccinating their children -- insists that he will continue with his research into vaccines and autism. 

"My concern is for vaccine safety, for a safety-first vaccine policy," Dr. Wakefield told me in an interview today. "I have every intention of continuing to serve this population of children for as long as I can."

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about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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