This Christmas, Darren and I have been doing a lot of talking about how far we’ve come in our stepfamily struggles. As I said in an Instagram post earlier this week, for the last couple Christmases we’ve actually found ourselves stress free when it comes to our coparenting/stepfamily stressors. It feels nice. Really freakin’ nice.
And I don’t say that to rub it in your face.
I say that to let you know that it can be better.
If you’re struggling and stressing about your stepfamily dynamics this Christmas, please know that as time passes it does get easier.
Looking back on that first year as a stepmom, one of my biggest stressors was Darren. It was Darren’s first Christmas without the kids and it was tough.
Tough on him for obvious reasons.
It was all new territory.
But also for me, I had no idea what to say or do to make it easier on him.
To be honest, I didn’t really understand.
Having both never had kids myself or experienced a full Christmas with kids, I didn’t totally understand how he felt. I didn’t understand how magical Christmas is with kids running around! I didn’t understand what I was missing!
Truthfully it wasn’t until having Reese, that I could totally relate to what he may be going through in having to split his time with the kids over Christmas Holidays.
On Friday evening, as we sat in our kitchen having a cocktail to celebrate the end of a crazy week, I asked Darren to help me write a list of ways that childless stepmoms, in this position, can support their husband when they miss the kids this Christmas.
I know that if I struggled, someone else is currently struggling.
Here’s what we came up with.
1..TALK ABOUT IT AHEAD OF TIME…
Before the big day, ask your husband how he’s feeling about it all. Talk about the possibility that it may be difficult when the kids leave early or you wake up without the kids on Christmas morning. The first step is to identify that it may be a hurdle to overcome.
It also gives everyone permission to open up. It gives your husband permission to feel whatever it is he is feeling. He doesn’t need to be “tough” and keep it all inside.
2. ASK HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT HIM
Come right out and ask him how you can best support him if he does struggle. Don’t assume you know what he wants .
Does he want space? Cuddles? To stay busy? To go on with the show as usual? His answer to this question may surprise you!
3. BE PATIENT WITH HIM
Even when you prepare and talk about how you can support him ahead of time, it may be difficult.
Be patient, Be supportive. Just be there. Manage your expectations about the holidays.
Especially at the beginning, when the kids would leave after a holiday or vacation, my husband would often break down. There was nothing I could say or do to help ease his pain - it was what it was. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being there.
4. START NEW TRADITIONS
The house can be REALLY empty when you don’t have the kids at Christmas, so do something to fill the void. It acts as a distraction for him and gives you guys something to look forward to.
Make a nice steak dinner, or plan a great movie night, make love by the fire, do something special. It’s fun to start new traditions while still respecting the old!
Again, plan this ahead of time so that it acts as a distraction! It can be a one time thing or turn into an annual tradition for when you don’t have the kids.
5. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
Sometimes stepmoms take it personally that their husband struggles on those first holidays. They wonder why he isn’t excited to have the time with them. Some also feel offended.
Don’t do that. Don’t be like that. It’s not about you.
He can be excited the first Christmas with you, while still struggling with the fact that he doesn’t have his kids.
It’s a transition for everyone… so like I said above, just be patient and be there! As time goes on, it WILL get easier.