In the Parenthood
all entries with the category

Blended families

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, 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 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.)


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.


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.


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."


In memory of Henry: A fund to help kids battling with addiction

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 11, 2010 02:11 AM

I didn't know Henry Louis Granju, who died on May 31 at the age of 18, after a horrible beating over an illegal drug transaction. I don't know his family, though I've been a fan of his mother Katie's blog, Mama Pundit, for ages. I can't fathom what his parents and step parents are going through right now -- losing their oldest son after watching him fight for his life for five weeks in the hospital, trying to help their other children cope, just weeks away from the birth of their youngest daughter.

But there are thousands of people who experience the nightmare of losing a child -- young or old -- to drugs. In order to wring something positive out of this pain, Katie Granju and her family have established a fund to assist others who are struggling with the costs of helping their children overcome drug and alcohol addiction.


Fostering a love of music in your family

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 10, 2010 06:31 AM

The benefits of music education are well known: Playing an instrument can help the development of areas of the brain devoted to language and reasoning, reading music can help children understand fractions and proportional math and boost their abilities in science and technology, practicing music underscores the rewards of dedication and hard work, and performing in front of a crowd helps kids learn how to evaluate risk and handle anxiety. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, really.

In spite of this, music and arts education continues to be one of the first things on the chopping block as cash-strapped schools try to trim their budgets. What can parents do to bridge the gap at home?

From the Top is a Boston based non-profit organization that celebrates the performances and stories of the nationís best young classical musicians. The experts there have plenty of information and advice about how parents can help foster a love of music within their kids, as well as profiles of some pretty inspirational young people. This is the first of a series of guest posts that From the Top will offer about music and children; it was written by the organization's co-founder and co-CEO Jennifer Hurley-Wales.


Should a 14-year-old babysit her siblings overnight?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse April 26, 2010 01:29 PM

If you work during the day while your spouse works at night -- something my husband and I did for years -- what do you do for childcare if the parent on the day shift has to go out of town?

A reader wrote to me a few weeks ago, facing just that dilemma. The kids are 14, 12, 7, and 5. The mom, who works days, had to travel for a family emergency. She wanted the kids to stay with her mom, so her husband wouldn't have to take off from work. Her husband, who works nights, wanted the kids to be at home and had no problem with them being alone at night, since they'd be asleep.

What would you do?


Single parents: Would you let your ex stay in your home?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse April 19, 2010 08:18 AM

At, Dr. Leah describes a situation that might make many single parents nod and cringe at the same time. A single dad, who has been the primary caregiver of his kids for the past five years, fields a request from his broke ex-wife: "Will you please let me stay on your couch for Mothers Day?"


Welcome to the parenthood!

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse April 19, 2010 06:55 AM

Welcome to "In the Parenthood!" There's a lot of information out there and, no matter what's going on with the economy or the Red Sox, people still need to parent. So grab a cup of coffee and join in the discussion! Here's where we'll be keeping track of the latest parenting news, tips, and trends.

Looking for my posts from Child Caring? They're migrating over, but in the meantime you can find them -- and all of the insightful comments and discussions -- right here. And be sure to take a look at the new blog roll, at right... there are a lot of great parents in this neighborood!

Is there a parenting issue that's sparked your interest? Feel free to email me at Want to know what's on my radar? Follow me on Twitter: @WriteEditRepeat.

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at


How old is too old to be a parent?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse March 22, 2010 10:05 AM

The Globe Magazine story last weekend, excerpted from the book Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand, touched off a firestorm of negative discussion about assisted reproduction and single parenthood. But what I found myself thinking about was the fact that all three woman chose to have children relatively late in life.

There's a biological start and end to a woman's childbearing years, of course, though men have more leeway (example: Tony Randall, who became a first-time father at the age of 77). Even so, medical science has allowed us to push the envelope quite a bit.

In July 2008, 70-year-old Omkari Panwar, a mother of two and grandmother of five, gave birth to twins in Uttar Pradesh, India. According to a report at Allvoices, Panwar and her husband, Charam Singh, who was in his mid-70s at the time, had two adult daughters but spent their life savings and went into debt in order to try to conceive a male heir via in-vitro fertilization, or IVF.

"We already have two girls but we wanted a boy so that he could have taken care of our property. This boy and girl are God's greatest gift to us," Omkari told the BBC.

The trend toward having children very, very late in life is on the rise, which begs the question: Should there be a cut-off point for parenthood?



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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