Spring break was rough for me. My stepson was with us for the entire week, my husband was working for most of it, a lot of extended family from both sides were at the house (hi mom, you were not at all a burden and I loved having you here), Easter came at the tail end of it along with some high expectations of which we were unaware until they weren’t met…

I realize that a lot of people would look at that list and be like hello every week of my life, and I totally get that. But I don’t thrive on having company or being company and that’s probably the understatement of the century. And doing all of this with a baby, and their unpredictable nature, is a bit harder.

And, probably most of all: when my stepson is with us for long periods of time, things seem to get a little cagey around here. I think there are a lot of emotions bouncing around, for all of us, and maybe we are prone to some kind of emotional entropy that is only perceivable when you let it go for a while.

But just as I’ve realized that long periods of uninterrupted time with him increase the stress level, I’ve realized that a break, even a short one, resets most of it. I do so much better when I have that break. Even just when I know that break is coming soon.

I don’t know how that sounds to an outsider. I really have no idea.

I don’t know how this is going to sound, either, but I’m going to try to say it in the most clinical way possible. When my stepson goes back to his mom’s, I feel a subconscious (sometimes conscious) relief. The relief has the taste of “oh thank god things are back to normal now.”

It creeps in quietly and I snap back and think wait what? who said that?

Because having him here is normal. He is our family and maybe it’s not everyone’s family, but it’s our family, and that is normal. And where did this “normal” thing come from anyway? Deep in my subconscious animal brain? Is this some sort of evolutionary biological thing happening here? Like, the child of someone else triggers some sort of very very subtle animal rejection?

Obviously not every stepparent feels this way because plenty of people consider their stepkids to be “like their own.” And I believe in that, I aspire to that, and I think that that will come some day.

But I’m still working on getting there. And we may have done all of this (meaning marriage, house, baby) a bit too quickly, which has created a vast ocean of difference between how I currently perceive “my child” and “my stepchild” (in quotes because I am uncomfortable with that distinction). Maybe we should have waited until one element felt “normal” before we moved to the next and the next. But we made these decisions consciously; we didn’t do it thoughtlessly or by accident or by default.

I have to believe that these are problems that come with newness and that as we grow, I will evolve.


Image credit: Brian Cronin

2 thoughts on “normal

  1. well if it makes you feel any better, it feels totally normal to have the kids here (they are here 50% of the time) but it is still a big relief when they aren’t! And I actually get along fine with them!! It’s just so.much.work. Step-parenting is so much of the drag of parenting (the nonstop reminders to close the door, clean up your mess, wash your hands, do your homework, stop torturing your brother) without most the joy of having a child.

    It feels impossible that they’ll ever feel like my own. And that is depressing since they’re all I have.

    ugh. sorry. bad night here tonight. they are super tired (because their wack-ass momma kept them up too late AS USUAL) and I am super tired (from a super awesome vacation with my partner, so I should really quit my bellyachin’!) and I already need a break.


  2. I took your response about “normal” to be my thought on “comfortable”. I’m in a situation where I live with my boyfriend of years and his 2 kids are with us 50% of the time. When the kids are around I carry a lot of anxiety around and just feel like everything is just plain harder. I feel like when they leave I can relax and be more comfortable. It also helps me a TON to know when my next break is going to be. And when that break is at some vague time in the future, the stress can become overwhelming. While I’m sorry to hear that others go through this too, it does help me to know that I’m not alone in these feelings. So, thank you for sharing!


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