It was a Sunday, and I woke up at 6:30 a.m. The jetlag from the honeymoon still hadn’t worn off.
But awake or not, I had no intention of getting out of bed.
Originally published on HeraldNews.com on June 8, 2017
That would have meant being immediately surrounded by two little stepkids, the 10-year-old already awake, the 6-year-old likely soon to be.
Within a few minutes, the younger was up too. I knew this because she came bubbling into our room, tapping me awake and asking me to come play.
Some mornings, I can do it. Some mornings, I get up when I’m tapped on the shoulder. Some mornings, I agree to the makeup and the jewelry and the video games.
But this Sunday, I couldn’t.
I realized just how much I couldn’t, when one of her requests was — “Can we make breakfast in bed for Daddy?”
The understanding of how much effort that would have required jabbed my brain like a knockout punch. I felt exhausted at the prospect, not just physically, but mentally.
It was sweet of her to ask. It would have been a sweet gesture if I could have pulled it off.
But I couldn’t. I told her I couldn’t, I didn’t have it in me today.
I rolled over, even if I couldn’t fall back asleep.
I didn’t need to sleep. I needed to not “adult.”
I’m 28 years old, one of those annoying millennials that uses “adulting” as a verb. There are some days that I can “adult” just fine; I can make decisions and lead activities and do chores with the kids like it’s nobody’s business. There are days I can make breakfast. But there are also days like Sunday, that I can’t.
What’s odd is, it wasn’t our first day back from the honeymoon. We’d returned on Friday, picked the kids up Saturday. Both those days had gone just fine. But Sunday, our third day home, my mental circuits refused to connect.
Instead of bounding out of bed and being entertaining and responsible and disciplinary, I hid in bed until my now-husband woke up, too. Then I hid behind folding the laundry alone until he’d made breakfast. Then I hid in the closet and cried, because he’d made breakfast — the exact thing I’d told his daughter I didn’t have the energy to do.
He’d been on the same honeymoon that I’d been on, he’d taken the same trip, had the same jetlag, but he’d found the energy to cook breakfast.
He didn’t make me feel bad about it. I just felt bad that I felt so bad. Was I a horrible person because I didn’t want to deal with the kids that morning? Did that make me an evil stepmother because I wanted to hide from the responsibilities and the activities and the world in general?
When Monday morning came, was I despicable for looking forward to going to the office, because work was less work than chasing after the kids all weekend?
Back at the newsroom, my coworker Kevin asked me how much I’d missed the kids while we’d been away all week. And I felt bad giving him an honest answer. Is it normal to not miss your stepkids terribly when you’re away, because you secretly dread the amount of energy it takes keeping up with them?
Or is it just a stepmom thing, because they’re not my biological kids, that I don’t have whatever extra reserves of oomph that birth moms have?
And should I be ashamed to admit this?
I made it through Sunday, mostly with a smile. The kids seemed none the wiser for how upset I was, though I did apologize for being short with them a few times. We met my parents for lunch, and my mom asked if I was running out of steam. “Running out?” I asked with a chuckle. “I started the day on empty!”
And I wonder if that’s OK, to run on empty. To have days when you just can’t. You can’t wake up. You can’t “adult.” You can’t even cook breakfast.
I hope that maybe that’s just called being human.