Step- Parenting: Recharging your Batteries

 

It wasn’t until I met my partner and his daughter that I realised just how important it is to take time out for yourself.
Being a step- parent figure is incredibly hard, especially if your partner’s children aren’t as welcoming of you as you would like. It is a thankless job (I think in this day and age we deserve a ‘Step-Mother / Step-Father Day) made all the more harder because there is this unspoken expectation that you will automatically (and successfully) assume the parent- type role. This expectation isn’t just from external sources either, but can be an unconscious expectation of yourself.
‘Surely, my partner wouldn’t be with me if he didn’t see me being a good role model for his daughter?’
Whether this is true or not I can’t say but this is what I unconsciously assumed the expectation was and have since tried desperately to be the best role model and guiding figure I could be.
I have since learned that he didn’t expect me to be all- singing- all- dancing but that doesn’t detract from that fact that by stepping into an already formed familial unit, you feel an obligation to automatically assume a particular role.

I am still young(ish) and don’t have children of my own however, from conversations with friends who do, being a mother in general is exhausting. Tiring, never-ending, incessant and rewarding, they all agree they wouldn’t have it any other way because they’re “their kids” and they love them unconditionally.
So what does this mean for the step-parent? For me?
We go through all the same trials and experiences but we are fought all the way by the kids who don’t see us as an authoritative figure; by undermining partners who can’t see the potentially devastating effect their actions have on an already tentative relationship; and even our own consciousness second guessing if this is OK. And we do this for kids we don’t automatically love. We might be lucky enough to learn to love them but it is not an automatic, intuitive state for us- we are in this situation because of our love for our partners.

I have always said that I have been incredibly lucky with Miss E. and I will say it again- Since day one she has been nothing but lovely and accepting of me and I am very aware of how lucky I have been with her. I do love her and keenly want the very best for her and her future. However, this does not mean that this role and its transition has been easy.
Miss E. will listen to me when I ask her to do something but if she doesn’t want to, she will choose to ignore me and either push or overstep my boundaries. Unfortunately, this is because her father still (unconsciously) undermines me- despite telling me I can give her boundaries and say no if I feel I need to- on pretty much everything which means that I perpetually feel at limbo in our little unit when she is around.

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I do find this incredibly difficult as each time this happens, I feel that the path I’ve been on needs to be reset each time he undermines me because suddenly I don’t know where my parameters lie any more.
Am I not allowed to say that any more? Can I not do that? Is she allowed to do that in future? I thought you said you would support me?
I find this state of limbo incredibly unsettling and distressing because I feel like no matter what I do, there will always be that rejection and denial.
As I’m sure many of you are familiar, things like this eventually add up until you literally feel like you have nothing left to offer- that you’ve tried everything to get it right and still your efforts are shunned. For me it stacks up into this big ball of anxiety, frustration, resentment and displacement which I eventually vent hopelessly at my partner amid tissues and tears, exclaiming that ‘I can’t do this any more’ and that ‘I don’t know what you want from me’.

We have just had a fantastic weekend with Miss E, which unfortunately ended on a low note as I discovered the cake tin I lent her- my only one- to take her mothers day cake over to her mums, ended up in the bin because she ‘forgot’ to tell her mum that I wanted it back. (Before any of you ask, her mother is f***ing useless so yes of course she just binned it without checking with Miss E. if she needed to return it.)
I later found out that my partner was aware of this and they both “forgot” to tell me. Miss E is nearly 13 years old and I have been trying to teach her about taking responsibility and ownership for her actions, but obviously I am alone in this as neither parent (nor her) thought it right that she owned up and apologised.

Rude
That’s just RUDE.

Neither Miss E. nor her mother have offered to replace my tin- so much for responsibility and ownership!-  so I’ve just decided not to lend anything out again and she will have to improvise from now on.

This may seem trivial but I believe that if someone is kind enough to trust you with their property, you look after it or replace it if you don’t. At the moment I feel like I am the only one out of the four of us that believes that.

So today I have taken some time out and taken a day for me. I left the house at 08:30 am for breakfast and had a lovely smashed avocado and bacon bagel with a strong cup of tea before mooching into town to do some clothes shopping for my holiday in 5 weeks and to buy a new cake tin (Didn’t happen as couldn’t find one I liked- if i’m going to buy another one I may as well get a pretty one!).

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It seems mad to think that simple issues like the above can take such a toll on your patience but when you constantly find yourself in situations where you, the things you care about and your property are so easily overlooked and dismissed, it is easy to see how situations can escalate and stack up and tempers fray.

This is why it is so important to take time out for you on a regular basis.

I perpetually feel like I have completely subsumed myself into my partners life (I gave up my flat, sold a lot of furniture, given up my free time to plan meals and activities etc around my partner and his daughter) and it is the only way I can do something for me to combat these feelings and not feel guilty.
Giving yourself permission to do something for you is a double edged sword however. You shouldn’t have to give yourself permission to make you the priority- the child is your partner’s after all and not yours, you are still independent from your partner to some degree. But by giving yourself permission you remove all the guilt you would normally feel and you can really enjoy your day.
I try and do this at least once every fortnight and if I leave it for much longer I find my energy and patience reserves waning.

This morning was a beautiful, sunny morning when I walked into town and as it is Easter Monday there weren’t many people about which really made it so much better.
I sat at my table, looked out the window at the world waking up, enjoying my bagel and tea and started writing this post- I can’t tell you how easily these words came to me and how carefree it made me feel.

I am wondering if this is the routine I should adopt every fortnight if it feels this good.

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13 thoughts on “Step- Parenting: Recharging your Batteries

      1. Sometimes it feels like I’m failing and I do struggle with it. It wears you down eventually and I do start to feel like I’m not as resilient with it as I used to be. I find I shut myself off now rather than try to compromise and I don’t feel that’s the best action to take.
        But I’ll get there I’m sure. Just makes me feel uncertain as I seriously hope it won’t be like this forever. After 2.5 years I had hoped this would be a well oiled machine of unity but Obviously not.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well damn, you keep trying and not seeing much effort on anyone else’s part, right? Makes perfect sense you’ve gotten tired of feeling like you are the only one putting in an effort. I will say that as much as you have changed in that time, everyone else has, too. You might not see it when frustrated, who would? Ah I don’t know, just trying to give you some hope here. The best thing is this: you CARE. That can’t ever be changed or diminished.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Like you say, you see less when you’re frustrated so maybe eventually I will start to see my efforts rewarded. 🙂
        And you are right. People change perpetually so maybe eventually we will all change and synchronise together one day?
        All I know for sure is that I need to regularly take a day for me and treat myself on that occasion.
        I don’t know how full time step parents do it though if I’m honest. It must be exhausting. X

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Must be easier if the other parent has no visitation rights, or doesn’t care. You’ve got what you’ve got! Just remember there should never be any expectation that you change who you are, or that you can change him. If that is something either of you expect it will never work out. And that is a hard thing to realise.

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      5. That is very true and I think that possibly on some unconscious level there is a degree of assumption from both of us about how we see each other’s role. Every time I have to ‘reset’ I try and address our expectations of each other but despite what he says I don’t think he really sees me as an authoritative figure in his daughters life, just a carer, and he will deal with any issues that arise.
        For me, and I have said it many times, I can’t care for her and look after her and sit idly by when I see things in her make up and moral compass that needs to be addressed.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Sounds like a serious talk is in order. I just read some good tips on how to not be an asshole when bringing up issues (despite how I write, I know I can be a jackass in our relationship!). I’ll pull it back out of my trash bin and post. Seems good advice, if antiquated.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yes please that would be great. I think we can all be assholes but depends on the situation and frustrations. I know I probably don’t approach things in a way that my partner would respond to. Just need to understand how to talk to one another without putting each other on the defensive.x

        Liked by 1 person

      8. • Solve your solvable problems. Not all problems are solvable, but you should certainly solve those that can be solved. Gottman proposes how to go about it, too. To quote:

        Step 1. Use a softened startup: Complain but don’t criticize or attack your spouse. State your feelings without blame, and express a positive need (what you want, not what you don’t want). Make statements that start with “I” instead of “you.” Describe what is happening; don’t evaluate or judge. Be clear. Be polite. Be appreciative. Don’t store things up.

        Step 2. Learn to make and receive repair attempts: De-escalate the tension and pull out of a downward cycle of negativity by asking for a break, sharing what you are feeling, apologizing, or expressing appreciation.

        Step 3. Soothe yourself and each other: Conflict discussions can lead to “flooding.” When this occurs, you feel overwhelmed both emotionally and physically, and you are too agitated to really hear what your spouse is saying. Take a break to soothe and distract yourself, and learn techniques to soothe your spouse.

        Step 4. Compromise: Here’s an exercise to try. Decide together on a solvable problem to tackle. Then separately draw two circles—a smaller one inside a larger one. In the inner circle list aspects of the problem you can’t give in on. In the outer circle, list the aspects you can compromise about. Try to make the outer circle as large as possible and your inner circle as small as possible. Then come back and look for common bases for agreement.

        *Sounds like a lot of work to me! Spiders*

        Liked by 1 person

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