I’m spending a couple of much-needed days away at the moment while the Lovely Man takes a week’s “Boy Time” in the kids’ city.
As much as I support the Boys getting time alone with their Dad, it wasn’t a plan I was particularly happy about initially – there’s nothing like feeling excluded from what I consider my family (even if the other people in it don’t feel the same way about me!) to reinforce those inevitable stepmother outsider feelings. The Boys actually get a lot of time with their Dad without me there, and the timing of this particular trip certainly hasn’t felt ideal…
But now, looking out of my hotel window at the blue sky and glassy river beyond, I feel very glad to be here, catching up with myself as I am outside and beyond my stepmother role.
Part of the “shutting down” feeling that I get from being depressed (and just as a reminder, stepmothers suffer stress and depression at significantly higher rates than other stepfamily members, mothers without stepchildren or women generally) has included a kind of distancing from spending time with people I love, so it feels like a big step forward to have invited a couple of friends and my sister to each spend a night with me as part of this mini-holiday.
And in between their comings and goings I’ve got hours each day to myself for walking on the beach, shopping, reading and writing. I also carefully chose the cheapest hotel I could find that had a gym so I can keep up with the all-important exercise regimen that’s been so helpful in lifting my mood and cutting the dreaded rumination cycle off at the knees.
I’m very lucky to have this option – lots of other women wouldn’t be able to get away from work, or couldn’t spare the extra cash that three nights in even an inexpensive hotel costs. As much as I love our home, the Lovely Man’s long hours and extra travel to see the Boys without me for two weekends in four means I spend way too much time alone there, so actually being in a different environment is a big part of the self-care investment of this trip.
Especially for stepmothers without children of our own, there’s an enormous benefit in getting away from our usual routine and consciously connecting with the things that make us who we are beyond our partner and his kids.
Common sense tells us there are real benefits to getting away, even if the best you can manage is sending your man and the children out for a day of Dad-Kid time and consciously taking that few hours to do something enjoyable that you have let slide away under the pressure of stepfamily life. Or for some women maybe deliberately setting out to do something new and different might be more nurturing – what about packing a book, a blanket, a sandwich and a drink, heading to the prettiest park you can find and turning your phone off for a guaranteed two hours of solitude? I’ll stow that idea away for the next time the Boys come to visit…
I’ve put so much energy into cultivating my relationship with the Lovely Man and with his kids that the most important relationship I have got neglected. It feels so good to be gradually getting back together with me again.