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The 36-Hour Day

with Lylah M. Alphonse

I'm a full-time editor, a part-time writer, and a mom and stepmom to five amazing kids, ages 1 to 14. For me it's not about finding balance, it's about the daily juggle-- my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting-- and finding the time to get it all done.

To learn more about Lylah, check out her Work It, Mom! profile and read her blog at

Before I Became a Working Mother, I Was a Working Mother

Categories: Making Time, Parenting, The Juggle


People who know me well often say that I grew up taking care of other people’s children. I started babysitting when I was about 11, and mothered — or smothered, as the case may be — my brothers well before that. I worked as a nanny for years during college and ran a playgroup for toddlers when I was in my early 20s. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that when I got married, it was to a man who already had three kids of his own.

Contrary to popular belief (think Snow White, think Julia Roberts in Stepmom, think pretty much any soap opera or sitcom) stepmotherhood has been neither traumatic nor dramatic for me. The kids were very young when I came into their lives — just 5, 3, and 1 year old — and on my wedding day, four years later, I exchanged vows with them as well as with their dad.

Interestingly enough, life as a Working Stepmom was different than life as a Working Mom. After all, they were somebody else’s children, right? Wouldn’t their “real parent” handle all of the rough stuff, leaving me ample time in which to work?

Well, when you’re parenting, step or not, you’re a parent. That’s really all there is to it.

For years, I arranged playdates, kissed boo-boos, changed diapers, soothed away bad dreams, packed lunches … the list of real, honest-to-goodness “Mom”-type stuff goes on and on. But things didn’t really change at work when I was “just” a Stepmom. I still worked nights, usually 3 to 11 p.m., so my colleauges never saw me race to meet a daycare deadline (they do now that I’m on days). My annual performance reviews still ended with a little tidbit about what I needed to do in order to advance through the ranks (oddly enough, they don’t now). It wasn’t that I was expected to work overtime as much as it was that I was expected to want to work overtime, because I wasn’t “really a parent.” “You can stay late tonight, right?” my then-boss once asked as he got ready to duck out early. “It’s not like you’re rushing home to see your stepkids, right?”

Um… actually, I can’t. Because, yes. Yes, I am.

Working stepmoms: Do you feel like you’re considered less of a working parent than your colleauges? Why or why not?

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3 comments so far...

  • As a step-parent I know exactly what you mean. Occasionally I get the feeling that some of my coworkers think that I’m not as much of a parent as they are, but they would never blatantly say something about it. I really get hassled more about it by my friends - and occasionally family members that don’t understand. If some of my friends want me to do something they just assume I can leave “the kid” at home with her dad. But that’s not really the way it works. And that is definitely not the message that I want to send to my step-daughter. I don’t have any other kids at this point but I don’t want her to ever think back on her childhood and think that she was less important to me than any kids that we may have later.

    Jenni  |  April 28th, 2008 at 10:43 am

  • I came to this kind of backwards. I had one child, raised him through college, and had a couple of years on my own before I “backtracked” into step-motherhood, marrying a man whose children were 10 and 15 years younger than my son.

    But I absolutely agree that the work of parenting is no different; the main difference is that due to shared custody, it’s not being done all the time, every day. There are nights and weekends when the kids are with their mom and she’s responsible for them. But when they’re with their dad and me, the schedule-juggling, caretaking, and everything else is up to us.

    So while I may be considered less of a “working mom” by others because I have part-time stepkids, I’m not, and I don’t consider myself any less of a working mom.

    Great topic, Lylah!

    Florinda  |  April 28th, 2008 at 1:56 pm

  • [...] I’ve said before, I was a step mom for years before I gave birth to my youngest children. I’m of mixed ethnicity, and so are my step kids, so we look related, all caramel-colored [...]

    Step kids vs. bio kids: Do you see a difference? - The 36-Hour Day - Work It, Mom!  |  October 20th, 2008 at 12:50 am

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