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.

6920798999_4cb4c6b116_n

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!).

17881256_1879934678941919_7286786998373711872_n

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.

bakeshop-2

Anxiety: Tempering the Irrational Fear [Infographic]

Like many people now-a-days I struggle with depression and anxiety.  I have always been determined to avoid taking medication to temper the effects and because of this I have had to find my own way to balance / cope with the effects without letting it impact my working and personal life.

It wasn’t until recently when I had a week off work that I realised just how integral my daily routine was for my mental well being, especially when I was feeling so low and anxious.

Initially intended as a week off to play the latest of World of Warcraft (it was the latest expansion release and I have always taken  5 days off on the latest release to play it), it ended up being a bit of a sham.

Stocking up with munchies and easy to cook oven meals, I ignored my normal sleeping routine and slept very little when I did, only allowing maybe 5 hours of sleep. I drank copious amounts of tea rather than the usual fruit juice and water, and I stared at a screen from the moment I woke until the moment I slept.

This lasted 3 days and then my anxiety kicked in and the worst part about anxiety is you know when it’s happening.
You know that the anxiety is causing you to become irrational and erratic but you just can’t stop yourself.

The below steps are what helped me get control of my anxiety issues. It isn’t by any means a quick- fix solution but it is a starting point and gives you a routine to be pro-active and busy. By continuing to make sure I did as many of these things as possible every morning I began to feel happier in myself and slowly the anxiety subsided.

6-steps-to-a-happier-you

These six steps helped me sort my head and my issues out and because I was doing them for me and no one else, it allowed me to feel like I had gained a sense of self back, something I felt I had lost in amongst all the noise of the anxiety.

There are of course other things you can do to promote inner well being such as getting fresh air, smiling, drinking lots of water and eating healthily. However, with so much around these days concerning healthy living, these should already be in peoples peripheral and pretty much a no-brainer!


I would just like to point out that these steps helped me cope with my depression and anxiety issues however they are not a cure- all solution. My anxiety has peaks and troughs and will always re-emerge and then subside. There have been points where I did struggle and I did seek help. The important bit is knowing when you have reach the limits of your capabilities and when you need to seek alternative help.
If you are struggling, please don’t hesitate to see a doctor if you need. There is no shame or weakness  in asking for help . Strength does come from within however it is the support and advice from sources around us that keeps us strong.


 

bakeshop-2

The Adult Imposter

 

 

Early 30’s and I wonder where all the time has gone- anyone know if memory loss is common at 32?
Left in suspended animation for the majority of my teens through to late 20’s due to issues with chronic illnesses meant I  missed out on all the mistakes and general character building of those key years of social development. Mentally it aged me about 10 years but I was more than lacking in life experience– Looking backthis was inconvenient.

Sure, it gave me a wider perspective than most people my age, but suddenly I found I’d missed out on all the fun that I was now too old to participate in without getting some funny looks and wide berths.
All that missed experience,  exchanged only for that well mastered eye roll of someone who knows a trivial first world problem when its plastered all over their social media. 19 and already I hated viewing other peoples statuses about how they were dying from the common cold.

When you’ve actually been told that you will be dead in under 4 weeks if you don’t have this life saving surgery you gain a bit of perspective that suddenly makes you hate the shortsightedness of the people you know.

Congratulations! You are now older, wiser and boring in your young years.

It’s a great way to alienate yourself and lose friends if anyone is interested in giving it a go.
At 19, who wants to be that person?
I wish I’d had the opportunity to be an idiotic / stupid adolescent discovering the do’s and do not’s of life in that blind, directionless manner most young adults do.

After a quick desertion from my not-so-supportive-and-accepting group of friends after a major operation (the kind of ‘quick’ you get when stuck in a lift with an individual who has yet to discover that personal hygiene is actually a thing) -apparently it changed me. I’m guessing at 19 nearly dying isn’t supposed to do that to you?), I somehow managed to get through university to obtain my degree in English and Popular Culture– in truth I have no clue how, I hated the latter half of it.

Stepping in line with the world again, I still felt that I had skipped and missed out on an integral step in the right of passage to adulthood and so far it has never left me.
I feel that by missing out on that decade of my life I am somehow missing out on some key ingredient that would make me feel better prepared for this very adult life I now find myself awkwardly participating in.

Unsure of how I got here, I am a full time participant in the adult practices of daily routine; a 9 – 5 job; co-habiting with a boy (when the hell did that happen??); step parenting a truly lovely 12 year old (going on 16) girl who is sprinting towards adulthood before she’s even hit puberty and pretty much stumbling through everything else.

In the past 18 months I  have:

  • Developed Anxiety and Eczema- apparently dealing with Crohns and Cancer over the space of 14 years wasn’t enough.
  • Fallen in love with my imperfectly perfect unromantic soul mate.
  • Moved in with a man with enough OCD that his house is beautifully decorated,  adorned and tidy
  • Been prohibited from using the washing machine and dryer by my partner for fear I may break them.
  • Adopted a beautiful and sweet pre-teen and 3 Bengal cats.
  • Put on enough weight that my clothes are tighter than I’m happy with- I sincerely hope I won’t become one of those women that balloons once she gets comfortable in a relationship.
  • Become happier than I can remember ever being. (This is the important one right here!)

In the past 18 months I’ve learned:

  • How to cook a mean roast.
  • To put up with complaints of ‘horrid’ meals from the pre-teen because its not pizza or chips and has a lot of green in it.
  • How awkward it is to care about a child you’re not able to parent properly because of the limbo state of the step- parent.
  • To accept that my time is no longer my own when we have my partners daughter over.
  • Pre-teen strops are infuriating and I dread to imagine what we will have to put up with when the full force of puperty hits.
  • Dreamies and ham are a cat owners best friend when it becomes necessary to coax the daft Bengal down off the roof when he’s yowling about being stuck.
  • Cat hair will not come off anything….ever.
  • Finding time for me now I have been subsumed into this little family unit is paramount.
  • Taking the small box room in the house just for me was not only a fantastic idea to store my belongings, but also incredibly necessary when I need time for me.

 

Looking back, I’m not doing too badly with being an adult imposter, but it still doesn’t come easily and most days I feel I’m just winging it and hoping to whichever deity and their uncle that I’m at least getting the general gist of how things should be done.

Anyone else ever feel like this?

I’m just hoping one day it will all click into a place and feel like my place in the world rather than this space I feel I am fraudulently inhabiting.

 

bakeshop-2