David and I have been a Stepcouple for 40 years. In a way, it has gone by in a blink. I remember well when time didn’t seem to move so fast, especially when our children were young…the endless car rides to see friends, to the mall, to sports activities, to the grocery store, to the other parent for visitation time. It seemed it went on and on. There was never enough time. Those days were stressful and they were also miraculous. Each moment was a stepping stone in the development of our stepfamily.
Being in the middle of it all can seem overwhelming. Summer break is here, and I can put myself in your shoes like it was yesterday! I was concerned about how I would keep the kids active and engaged while still having time to work. How would I juggle all the day to day demands, and still have time and energy for my spouse, let alone myself? This was before the age of smart phones and video on demand, which are all too easy to fall back on. I can imagine this makes summer planning even more imperative.
After 40 years of learned wisdom, I can offer you some ways that we got through those summers with five kids. Thinking it through now won’t make it perfect, but it will make it better. I promise you, these are memories that you will look back on often as an aging Stepcouple.
As we know, history repeats itself. How did we get through those summers? This is how:
- Get on the same page. Talk with your partner/spouse about what you want the summer to be like. Make a plan, and then involve the kids. Ask them what they most want from their summer. Share your wishes with them. You’ll be surprised at how they remember, and also want to help you (at times).
- Ask for help. Do you have other mom friends you could trade a day with here and there? Make a list of those you could contact to help when needed. Neighbors, parents of your children’s friends, the other parent, family members, community group members, etc. If you have the option, hiring a babysitter even a few hours a week can make a difference.
- Plan for boredom. Make a list of activities that the kids can do on their own that you can all refer to when you hear the words “I’m bored! There is nothing to do!” (Involve your kids in this if age appropriate.) Having this list ready for the whole family can ease tension and frustration. It will also allow you 15 or 30 minutes of peace and quiet.
- Plan for fun. Choose how many outings you can realistically fit in as a family, and plan for them so you can all look forward to them. Is it a trip to the river? A bike ride? Ice cream? Whatever it is, make the majority of these outings easily doable for you, the parent. The idea is to keep you less-stressed while still making it family-fun.
- Summer day-camps can give you all a break. Resources abound for this type of fun. The kids will meet new people, get some energy out, and you’ll get several hours to yourself. Check your local community center, the school, local martial arts schools, or create your own “camp” with your mom friends, where you trade off.
Yes, we were glad when the school bell rang in September. However, looking back, our summertime memories are happy ones. We spent a lot of time together and it helped us become the stepfamily that we are. Over time, you realize that the little things become the big things.
I wish you well this summer. Stay calm and take breaks for yourself. I hope you can create some happy memories, and even more importantly, don’t dwell on the “not so happy” ones!”
Take good care of yourself.