“Normal” families see each other every day.
But as I wrote last week, blended families … don’t.
A lot of things “normal” families take for granted are conspicuously missing in families like mine, where part-time custody means, for a decent percentage of time, we don’t have the kids with us because they’re with their mom.
And while that hits me as sad sometimes, I have to admit, there are also some serious upsides.
ALL OR NOTHING
Becoming a stepmom in a blended family is a leap, from being alone to being in a pre-fab family of four. It’s a big adjustment, especially at the beginning (and even now, almost four years into this thing).
Part-time custody, though, helped with that transition.
If I’d jumped into a family that was together ALL the time, I would have had a much harder time committing to being a part of it. Having days off was (and is) a huge deal.
NOT JUST ABOUT THE KIDS
Because let’s be honest, here: When I became a stepmom,
it wasn’t because I wanted to be a stepmom.
I wanted to be a wife.
This whole stepmomming journey became a thing because I fell in love, not with the kids, but with their dad.
And for my now-husband and me, forming a strong relationship takes TIME.
When you’re around kids every single day, guess what those kids take a lot of: TIME.
I’m not saying I’m an expert in any way other than my own experience, but — as a new girlfriend, as a fiance, and now as a wife, what I really wanted, deep down, was (and is) to spend time with my guy.
Part-time custody allowed us to do that, as we were forming our relationship. And it allows us to keep at it, now that we’re married. Whether that’s taking the time to go out to dinner, or cook together, or read by the fire, or hit the store, or even do chores — we get to do it together, without worrying about the kids.
When we’re good with each other because we’ve had that time together each week, I think we actually are better with the kids when they are with us, because —
IT’S ALSO ABOUT THE KIDS
During the times we are with the kids, we can fully commit to being with the kids.
We don’t have to feel like we’re missing out on each other because we’re giving most of our attention to these little people who just got dropped off.
That isn’t to say we don’t pay any attention to each other; we do (and I think that sets a good example for the kids, too; just this past weekend, my 11-year-old stepson commented that “You guys are so cute!” which is so awesome to hear). But we also get to be fully present as a family, because we’ve already been recharged as a couple.
THE FUN STUFF
It isn’t just our relationship that benefits from our setup, though. It’s everything else in our lives. Hobbies, chores, side hustles, friendships can all get a decent percentage of our attention because we don’t have to work as hard to make the time for them.
Even things like travel are so much easier, because of part-time custody. If we want to take a trip, we can, because we have non-kid days.
If we want to take a trip with the kids, we can do that too, and then have some days afterwards to recharge once we give them back to their mom.
And when we go for a few days without seeing the kids — we actually get to miss them. Which means, when we do see them, I think we all enjoy each other’s company more.
Writing this, I feel like I focus a lot on how part-time custody benefits me.
Is that really selfish, though? Because if I’m benefiting personally, doesn’t that put me in a better mindset to be there for the kids? If I’m less burnt out, won’t I be more available to them when they’re with us?
I love being around my stepkids. I really do.
I also love being around my husband, with no kids around.
I also love being by myself.
And I love that all three things are possible, because of the schedule we have.
My husband and I get to be fun, young newlyweds — and then we get to be responsible parental units.
I get to chase my own goals and engage in my own dreams — and then I get to encourage the kids to chase and engage in theirs.
We get to have two different lives, but they complement each other pretty darn well.
It isn’t for everybody. But I’m quite glad it’s for me.
Originally published in The Herald News on Dec. 9, 2018.