Good morning and welcome to the Monday Morning Guilt Hour.
We are in the midst of having my stepson for three solid weeks (summer schedule). It gets stressful for me when we just have him for the long, four-day weekends, so I was really gearing up for this. I will say that it has been much easier and better than I had expected. But it’s hard. It’s always hard. For all of us.
There’s a constellation of related, domino-like reasons why it is stressful for me to have him for long periods and none of the reasons is “he’s terrible.” Because he’s not terrible. It’s just really, really hard emotionally and logistically and physically to have another variable – a pretty unpredictable one – in the house. And also, you know, the step relationship is complicated and can be uneasy and awkward, which means just living and existing in our house can be complicated and uneasy and awkward, for all of us. It’s tiring. This is something people in non-step families don’t realize – it’s like you’re running this computer and everything works but there’s a big, silent program running constantly in the background and even when things are generally running fine, it can really slow down the system and sometimes it freezes and you’re like what the heck I didn’t even do anything…
It only took a few minutes after waking this morning to feel guilty. This time, like many times, it’s because I talked about it last night.
I need to talk about things because it helps me work through them and that’s pretty normal. I’m lucky because I don’t necessarily have to find an external source to talk. My husband is willing to talk these things out with me and is amazing at handling some rough emotions, but he’s human. I love that he is human and I love when I am reminded that he is human. I love that we are two humans in this together. But the human parts of us are the most difficult to negotiate.
And I think I said something last night that triggered the human in him and it surprised me because I meant it in kind of a general sense, but nevertheless it hit and I take responsibility for it. I said that my stepson was demanding, but I meant in the way that all kids are demanding, of time, energy, attention, etc. I said it in the context of one parent watching the two kids at the same time – demanding of attention. The baby is obviously the most demanding person in the house because babies can’t do a single goddamn thing.
And maybe it came off differently because my stepson can be kind of demanding at times (like FATHER, RUN TO THE STORE AND FETCH MY BAGEL NOW I AM BUSY WATCHING TV), but not exceptionally (he’s a kid), and that was not what I was referring to.
It was too much for my husband in that moment, though, and there was also the fear that my stepson would overhear. It didn’t go well and I woke up feeling guilty about it. I wake up feeling guilty no matter what, but this was a little worse.
We have these kinds of conversations about how things are going about every other night after my stepson goes to sleep. That’s the only time we can feasibly talk about anything and it is pretty limited because we are parents and cannot function much after 10pm. We also have to talk quietly because my stepson has superhero ears and sound travels in the house like it’s a studio apartment. We don’t have a lot of time alone together and I hate that a lot of that time alone is spent in a whispered debrief, but that’s the emotional priority sometimes and it feels like it has to come out first before anything else can.
It’s hard. It’s exhausting. And then I wake up feeling guilty and the cycle continues. There is no break and that is the hardest thing.
Image credit: Yoshitomo Nara