Only a stepmom would know what I mean when I say the "transition days." Right? It is the day that the kids come and the day that they leave. It also includes the anticipation before and after their stay.
Have you ever felt the anxiety of anticipating your step kids' arrival? Did you secretly feel as if you don't want them to come? It's okay. We've all had those feelings. You don't have to be ashamed of it; those feelings are normal.
Why is this normal? It's change.
Any change can cause anxiety. Our left brain harbors thoughts of what it has seen as "normalcy." It conjures thoughts about step kids hating their step moms and a chaotic household or anxieties about getting the food ready in time and whether the kids will behave. Some step moms believe that they are under the microscope once the step kids arrive. Why? We are afraid of making a mistake. We truly want to do our best for the kids. We want our marriages to work.
Once any version of these thoughts starts to float through your mind, the limbic system is alerted. Our reptilian brain that resides within the limbic system is responsible for our flight or fight response. Now, the anxiety kicks in and the desire to flee surfaces. Our brain believes that there is real danger coming. (Okay, I know that I'm going to get comments from those of you that will tell me that your step kids are really dangerous. Feel free to write!) It all feels very real.
Now, the frustration and the shame set in. Who can you tell that you really want don't want your kids to come? Answer: no one. (Actually, you can tell all of us at The Evil Stepmother Speaks.) You feel like such a bad person. A loser. Who thinks like that?
These feelings are normal and physiological. In most cases, they don't damper our love for our kids. It is our nerves.
What can we do to fix It? Here are six tips to fight the transition depression:
1. Reverse the thought
Use Byron Katie's technique and change your thinking. When you are thinking, "I really don't want them to come over." Ask yourself, "Is this true?" Then, ask yourself, "Is this 100% true?" State to yourself, "How does this thought affect your behavior?" "Who would you be without that thought?" Reverse the thought. State to yourself the opposite of your initial thought. Reversals may include, "I can't wait for the kids to come over. My thinking makes me think that I don't want the kids to come over. The kids can't wait to come over." These exercises may seem silly, but they reprogram your brain.
2. Prepare ahead of time
It always helped me to prepare for the weekend. Cooking ahead of time really helped me as meal preparation stressed me out. Depending on if you are a morning or a night person, bake a chicken or make meatballs the day before. Don't forget about your crockpot; it is a lifesaver.
Also, I like to have a general idea of what we are doing over the weekend. If there is an opportunity to plan something fun, do it. It can be simple, like playing games.
3. Change to casual clothes
When you get home from work, take the time to change into comfy clothes. It helps you calm down.
4. Buy yourself some time
I need transition time. I just don't do well with change. When I come home from work, I need time to adjust. Usually I transition in about an hour, but it isn't practical to disappear for an hour. So, in addition to changing your clothes, leave a puzzle out on a table. It becomes the family puzzle and you can work on it together whenever the mood hits you.
5. Don't talk, just listen
Silence helps you transition. Avoid the urge to talk or constantly give your opinion. Ask the kids, "What was the funniest thing that happened to you this week?" or "Tell me the hardest school assignment you had." Just listen to the answers.
6. Anticipate that the kids may be grumpy
The kids bear the brunt of this transition. How would you feel if you had to move every few days or so? As the kids go through this transition, anticipate discipline issues or moodiness. Give the kids space for their own transition time and be flexible. After all, they are probably feeling the same as we are.
Before you know it, your transition time will pass and, once again, you will be joyful that your kids are home with you.
Follow Barbara Goldberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@StepmomSpeaks