What It Looks Like When I Own My Peace

by childless stepparent

It’s one thing for me to write here – many times – that it’s essential for childless stepparents to step back, breathe, and let go.

It’s another thing altogether to actually do it. To put The Childless Stepparent Manifesto into action. To own my peace.

I have made a mindful attempt to take my own advice these past few days. My husband’s daughter has been with us and she’s out of school this week. All her playdates, organized by her dad. Her breakfasts and lunches and dinners, made by her dad. Reminded to practice her piano by her dad. Prodded to take a shower and brush her teeth by her dad. Tucked in by her dad.

All things he usually does, but in the past I would have felt the need to insert myself. I’m letting that go. My husband’s daughter has two involved parents. I can remain a positive presence in her life, but I don’t need to take on a parenting role.

Many days I work at home, but this week I’ve enjoyed driving into town and working from some of my favorite cafes. I treated myself to dinner out at a new restaurant. I took a yoga class from a teacher I’ve been wanting to study with. I went to the library and perused the stacks. Last night I met the ladies from my book group for a wine tasting and then we went to see a film together at our community center. Tomorrow I’m visiting with a dear old friend I haven’t seen in a long while.

In the very recent past, I would done none of this for myself. Instead, I would spent my energy organizing day camps and playdates. I would have filled the days with craft projects and hikes and yoga and ice skating and snowshoeing. I would have painted my stepdaughter’s nails and done her hair. In short, I would dedicated every waking moment to my stepchild. I would have been Super Stepmom (aka the mom I know I could be).

And I would have been stressed out the whole time.

My husband’s daughter, as easy-going as she is, probably would have wished that I’d give her some space so she could sleep in and watch tv and text her friends. I asked my husband how my new approach – stepping back and taking care of myself – was working for him, and he said it’s great. For him and his daughter both.

This is not to say I’m absent completely from my husband and his daughter. We enjoy delicious dinners together at the table, with candles and music. My husband asked me to help her with thank-you cards for the many gifts she received this Christmas, and I was happy to do that. I invited the two of them – and one of her friends – to join me today at the art museum. And tomorrow we’ll do family yoga together with our friends at the ashram, followed by a delicious lunch at the Nepalese restaurant in town and some sledding.

Next week, while my husband is out of the country for work, I will cover what is usually her “visit night” with her dad. We’ll make it a girl’s night out, as we usually do. We have a good time together.

So I am still present. I am still contributing – on my own terms. And I’m creating time for myself, my work, my health, my interests, my friends.

I have found that balance between exertion and relaxation.

Manifesto #2 | I am a wife first and a stepparent second. I will enjoy being childfree. I will create time and space for myself.

Manifesto #6 | I will be kind to my stepchild. I will support my husband in his role as her dad. I will contribute – on my own terms.