It’s painful to feel like you don’t belong in your own home..or in what is supposed to be your own family. Or even to feel safe there. Or being on the outside looking in. Feeling like you can’t penetrate the “secret circle” and being ignored. The two most commonly identified hardships of stepmoms are the issues with the ex and the issues with the stepkids. Some stepmamas have it easier than others as they are able build relationships with their stepkids. Others may never establish a ‘relationship’ with the stepkids and are lucky enough to achieve acceptance of existence. It strikes to the heart of stepmama anguish. I have heard from some stepmamas about hiding in their rooms or bathrooms not wanting to come out when their step kids are over. I‘ve heard of some not wanting to go home after work because of the stepkids.
It’s a huge disconnect for some women: to be home is to be in your refuge. A place to let your guard down, be yourself and unwind. The stress of the kids can be overwhelming for some. It can be particularly difficult for the single and childfree stepmom. Going from a single to an instafamily of 4 or 5 in less than a year. Having your space invaded by kids clothes, school backpacks, toys, and devices. Your intimate space (master bedroom and private bathroom) shows the tell tale signs of Hurricane Kiddos. It can be hard to even carve out some breathing space!
Then add to that the change that comes over your spouse. No more intimate moments of stolen kisses and sneak- upon- hugs, leisurely sleep ins, or the peace of mind to walk around naked. Privacy?! What privacy??? You feel like the walking forgotten as he lavishes all of his time and attention on the kids.
Ok so what can be done about this?
First, talk to your spouse. He may act like the Disney Dad for a few reasons. It’s like a honeymoon for the kids every time they come over. Out goes the budget, out go the manners, respect and boundaries. But from his perspective he doesn’t get to see the kids often so he wants to make up for lost time. Or he wants the kids to know he’s actually a good guy despite what their mom might think and tell them. He may have his own reasons so explore and talk about why he feels the need to overcompensate. Then discuss with him some reasonable boundaries and expectations for the kiddos. How about knocking before entering bedrooms? How about kids belongings staying in their rooms and picking up after themselves? How about half an hour earlier to bed but reading for the last half hour so you can have some adult time? Simple boundaries and manners that reflect respect and create peace. Please and thank you and acknowledging you are minimal requirements and basic expectations. You deserve respect.
I know I felt I needed to take a step back from it all to take a few deep breaths and a few downward dogs. While the kids are there make sure you still get out to meet with YOUR friends and are still doing the things that bring you joy and rejuvenation. Keep going to the gym on Saturday afternoons or taking your dog to the dog park. Take the scenic route home after work. Create some personal, sacred space where it’s just a spot for you and your spouse. No kids stuff allowed. Mark your territory- in a non canine sort of way 🙂 Maintaining those things for yourself will hand you over more patience which is what you will need.
You don’t HAVE to be the enforcer of rules and routines either. Take the “not my kids not my problem” approach. He is their parent after all. Let him deal with the fall out of too much sugar and not enough sleep (now is a good time to meet up with the gals for some mimosas!)
And as far as belonging goes- go low and go slow with the expectations. It takes time to develop trust – yours and theirs. Focus on having fun: baking, crafts, card/board games, getting them to teach you how to play Mine Craft, movie nights with a popcorn or ice cream buffet. Plan events or activities that you ALL look forward to when they come back. And again leave the parenting to your spouse.