Half of the battle of step-parenthood is finding someone who gets it. Who knows your daily struggles, who knows how hard it is to be the middle-man or sometimes even the odd-man out. To be the last one to hear about report cards or not included in decisions for the family. You expect your spouse to understand because they see it every day, but they don’t really experience it.
The kids, they get. They understand that having a step parent is a tough, new adventure and that it “just takes time and it’ll be okay eventually.” They understand that their attitudes may be different toward you and for that, you might just have to deal with it. Some day they’ll learn.
They get that it’s tough for you, but don’t really understand. They “get” the rejection factor, because they deal with it from the other parent (but I promise you it’s 100% different).
But really, they don’t get it.
They don’t get that going from being a single person with zero children and maybe a dog or two to a married person with 2 live-in children, 2 older children, 1 almost grandchild (due in less than 1 month!) and 2 dogs, can be exhausting. Especially when the days switch. You know that we are all on these court-ordered schedules (unless you’re lucky enough to be in a mature relationship that doesn’t need the court system). We have days with kids and days off, weekends on, weekends off, weeks on, weeks off. You get it. You know there are heartbreaks involved in this but there is also this extra sigh of relief when you have a night to yourself and don’t have to worry about what your kids are up to or that they get their homework done, because the other parent has it handled at their house (you hope).
I used to go in extremes on the Monday after we had the kids for the weekend. It was like my entire life had flipped upside down: One day, it’s my husband and I curled up on the couch together. The house is clean, the house is quiet, there isn’t a constant screaming child in the background (usually they’re playing together and one is screaming at the other). The next day, there are at least two children, two riled up dogs, lots of homework, lots of chaos. It is a different life. It exhausted me in a way I can’t describe. Going to church was painful because it meant that I was vulnerable to even more people- more people were going to require energy from me and would require that I can carry a conversation while my mind is on overload. I couldn’t do it.
Often, on Mondays, I would come home from work- no matter if I had homework or dishes, or anything pressing- and sleep. I couldn’t do anything but sleep. My husband was always jealous of my “after work time” that I had alone, I always told him I feared that if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t have a husband anymore. I couldn’t recoup any other way. I had to be quiet, I didn’t even turn music on because my mind was so wound up from the weekend still. I also worked in a high-paced coffee shop that served hundreds of people daily. It was located on the college campus that I attended, so I knew several customers and it, too, was mentally draining.
I felt really alone in the draining battle I was in. I couldn’t explain it to my husband. He’d invite the kids over on nights that weren’t scheduled and it almost physically hurt me because I knew I couldn’t have the recoup time I needed. I felt terrible for needing space from these kids. I loved them deeply, but I needed time away. Prince Charming would have the kids over unannounced and it got to a point that I demanded he ask me or tell me when the kids would be over, or if more children were coming than planned. He couldn’t see what was wrong, he thought I had an issue with them. He couldn’t understand the idea of not wanting to see the kids or not wanting to take the opportunity to be with them. (Which wasn’t the actual case, but that’s how he viewed it.)
Through the Grace of God, I have prayed hard over this and He is slowly helping me to not need recoup days as much as I did one year ago, heck- 6 months ago. I am so grateful for my God who hears my cries.
Last week, Prince Charming said something that shocked me. It was unexpected on every level. I went to bed before him, we were having a tough day, I was drained (see: How to (not) shop for the perfect family Christmas tree ). He crawled into bed, looking defeated, kissed me goodnight, rolled to one side and sighed. In the next breath, he said “We really have it good, being able to have nights where it’s just you and me.”
I almost died, I was so happy. Not that he felt the pure exhaustion and draining feeling I have felt for 2 years, but because he GOT IT. He understood what it meant to have “us” time and “them” time. I felt like I was heard and seen and not forgotten, I felt like my feelings were real. and that felt so good.