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The Joys and Struggles That Only Stepparents Would Understand

The Joys and Struggles That Only Stepparents Would Understand

For most kids, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “stepparent” is Snow White’s or Cinderella’s evil stepmother. From their youngest age, children are only introduced to this kind of relationship, so it’s no wonder they very often refuse to even try to make it work. No one tells them that there are stepparents who don’t mind you being prettier, or those who won’t make you sleep on the floor next to the fireplace.

Parenting itself is challenging enough, but trying to take a place in already existing family is even harder. But, just like everything else in life, after defeating the obstacles, the rewards are amazing. If you decided to take this big step in your life and become a part of someone else’s, here is what you need to know.

So, let’s start with the struggles you’ll probably meet on this journey and some advice on how to cope with them.

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The Struggles

1. You will never be the “real” one.

You need to make peace with this fact. You can never (nor should you try to) replace the actual parent. It just won’t work. Even if the kids tell you that they think of you as mom, even if they call you “dad,” don’t make a mistake and think they will ever love you the way they love their parents—even if they are not around often, even if they aren’t really good parents.

Biology did its thing and the child will always feel connected to their parents. That may mean they will resent you at the beginning, or feel that their parents’ separation is your fault, but don’t blame them. Be consistent and try very hard and eventually you too will have a place in their heart.

2. You will have a hard time making the kids listen to you.

Even though you know that you deserve respect, you may find that your stepchildren don’t feel the same way. You are new to the family, and from their perspective, you don’t belong there. This may be the reason they deliberately ignore your requests, act in the most bratty way, or talk behind your back. Putting things in order will be hard, and you will need to be firm and fair to earn their respect.

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Try to make them listen, try showing them that you are there and don’t plan to leave, but also be careful not to overstep. Leave the punishments to your new spouse at least for the beginning and try different approaches, such as helping when they are in trouble, talking to them when they are upset etc.

3. You may have problems with the “ex.”

Whether he/she is there constantly or just occasionally, chances are they won’t like you, and they’ll like the fact you spend so much time with their kids even less. They may even try to turn them against you and there is very little you can do about it. All you can do is try to make the young ones like you for who you are by showing them that you have no intention replacing their parent, and that you just want to be their friend.

4. You may not love the children the way you think you should.

Since you are not biologically connected, you may at some point realize that you just find them awfully annoying (especially if they refuse to take you seriously). Keep in mind that you will never be more important to your loved one than their kids and also remember that they are your new family. You will be staying that way for quite some time, so you might as well invest in the relationship and try to see their good sides—just like what you expect them to do about you. How about taking them for a trip—just you and them—maybe go to the cinema or the local zoo and spend time alone, giving each other chance to grow positive feelings about each other.

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As hard as the downsides of step parenting may be, the rewards you get are sure to overcome them, and here is what you can expect once things are finally in order.

The Joys

5. You get all the joys of having children, even if they aren’t biologically yours.

If they are young, it’s stuff like reading them a good-night book, baking cookies together, getting them ready for school, teaching them the important stuff etc. If they are older, it’s seeing them off to prom, talking about boys (or girls), taking them shopping and so on. They will love you for it, and you will feel accomplished in a way only a parent can.

6. You will feel unimaginable happiness when they come to you for advice.

After the rough road, you finally managed to form some kind of a relationship with your stepchild—and now, they need your help. Whether it is a girl-to-girl talk about boys or just help with your stepsons homework, it feels amazing, as if you finally broke through the great wall of ignoring (and maybe a bit of resentment too) and got straight to heaven. Try to justify their trust and it will improve your relationship even more. Just be careful not to end up in between your spouse and the kids if they ask you to keep something a secret. Balance!

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7. You will want your kids and your step kids to get along.

Assuming you have your own kids, that is. And if they do get along, there is no better thing in the world. That means you are actually a family now. They may not consider each other siblings yet, but being friends is a great start. Now you can go to real family camping trips, or maybe all the children will go to the prom together. And that is when you will feel the most accomplished!

8. Your efforts WILL pay off.

It may be hard at the beginning (it probably will be) but then there will be a day your stepdaughter introduces you to her friends, or when your stepson invites you to see him play a football game. They will accept you for who you are and they will come to love you. All it takes is patience and courage, and the results will dazzle you!

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

More About Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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