I have been hearing from many stepparents that the day the kids come back to their house is “take a breath day”. You have been kid free for a few days, errands are done, had time to relax, you and your partner got to re-ignite the flame; life is good. The week has started again and today the kids are coming. Here comes the energy, issues, dramas, excitement, schedules and activities. Your calm little world is about to go into crazy town so yes, you need to take a breath before you dive into the choppy waters.
Now to any full time parent reading this, this seems outrageous and almost laughable to you doesn’t it? This is something you deal with everyday. You don’t get a break, you don’t have time to re-ignite the flame, you have that level of activity and energy everyday and you don’t get to take a breath so how dare a stepparent say they need one. But that’s just it, a full time parent deals with this everyday. They have adjusted their life and routine to accommodate for this so they don’t know any different. They take short breaths throughout the day, when the baby is sleeping, when the kids go to bed, in the shower, any time they get a moment to themselves they take that breath and then go again. It is easier for them to jump right back into it because the kids are always there. They are in it all the time so they have adjusted their lifestyle and it constant.
Stepparent life is different; they get a long break so jumping back into it is not as easy; it is a life of adapting and shifting mindsets constantly. When the kids are with you, you are on the go just the same as any other parent; making dinners, driving to games, laundry, groceries, homework, playtime, bedtime etc etc. And like every other parent you are holding your breath the entire time with short intervals of inhale/exhale. Just when you are getting into your groove and routine and your breathing is becoming normal, BAM, you are saying goodbye to the kids as you send them off to their other parent. The house is quiet again and you finally exhale. Let the relaxation begin. You finally get used to this quiet, calm life every week and just when you are getting comfortable, BAM, the energy shift happens and you change gears again. So you take a deep breath, dive into the waters and go!
As a side note, as much as a full time parent might roll their eyes at the stepparent who needs to take a breath or exhale, full time parents get their big exhales too. Weekends away, calling the babysitter so they can go out for dinner, having grandma come over while they go grocery shopping and so on. Their breaks are less frequent than that of a divorced person and stepparent (a small perk for team divorced) but full time parents also exhale when having the time to do those things and take a deep breath again going back into their daily grind.
As a stepparent, having to change your mental state frequently is a difficult adjustment. You are continually switching from one life to another in such a short period of time. It’s like turning the light switch on and off continuously; eventually you will blow out the bulb or give yourself a seizure from the light show. It is easier to keep the light on all the time or off all the time. So for the stepparents out there, don’t ever feel bad for taking that breath when the kids come back or exhaling when they leave, it is an adjustment to something new and with any adjustment, everyone takes a deep breath.
Think about it like this, you go to work 5 days a week and you go go go. Then Friday night comes and you exhale, you now have time to relax. Just when you are feeling good Monday morning rolls around and you feel tense and take a deep breath because back to work you go. It’s not necessarily because you hate your job, you have been relaxed and got used to that feeling and now you have to go go go again. You adjust quickly and things are fine but every Monday you have the moment before you leave to take a deep breath before you dive in again. It’s the same for a stepparent; it’s like having a weekend and then going back to work. You love your job but love the leisure as well so you take a deep breath going in and exhale coming out.
Good news to all stepparents out there, you are not alone when feeling like this, even your partner, the bio parents feel the same way, though many will never admit it. They too have the same adjustment and take a deep breath when the kids are back and exhale when they leave. Not because they hate the kids or find them a burden, they love them so much and can’t imagine life without them, but for the same reason you take deep breaths, it’s continuously a lifestyle adjustment. So stop worrying that you are a bad person for feeling like this, stop thinking you are alone, in actuality, you are a parent and are feeling the same thing that the natural parents feel. So take the word STEP out of the equation; you are a parent and in the divorced world of constant change, stepparents and bio parents, part-time or full time all feel the same way in this scenario so take your breath and go.