- Get to a doctor and get some anti-anxiety meds before you develop panic attacks. I waited too many years on that one... And it was really easy to get. (Yay prescription drugs!) Maybe because if you say "I'm a stepmom" to any certified doctor, they instantly get it.
- How do you know if you are experiencing anxiety and attacks? Hard to breathe? Super nervous? Sweaty? Hating life right now? Wishing you could run, run, run away?
Maybe even freaking out?
- Why are you picking up the kids again?
- Yeah, I know, it is impossible for your husband to make it. He doesn't want to lawyer up again. He doesn't want to fight her for a more reasonable custody arrangement. He's happy for what he got. I know. I know.
- You're doing your part to make sure the kids stay in your family, to make your husband's life easier, to make sure your husband sees his kids even though he works an hour away and struggles through insane traffic just to get there to see his kids for at least half an hour. You are doing your part, you are honorable, you are working hard to maintain composure. You left work early for this. You are thinking this was a mistake. You are not sure what they will say and do when they get to your car. You're not sure what she will do and say, making everything so much worse and something you have to record for court. You're watching the clock. She's late. Again. Why are you doing this!?!?
- Then you hear the kids laughing with their Dad- one hour later. You hear the joy. You hear his love for them, and you realize how different of a night it would have been if you had not been able to pick up the kids.
A lot of stepmom guides, articles, books suggest that you give up and stop doing this stuff for your husband.
Sure, sure. And you want him to lose his kids? Why is that not covered?
Some books and articles argue that if he can't handle it, then he shouldn't be making you do it.
I get that logic, and I would have supported it if his kids had been complete hellions, I guess. Maybe. Not even then maybe, because as demonstrated above, the love that fills your home, FINALLY, when he has not seen the kids for a week...It's worth it.
But do try to do more for you. Make sure he understands what it is like. Make sure he does his part. Make sure he takes some time off work. Make sure you go out. Make sure you get you time.
Sometimes, drop them off to him, and go out by yourself. DO IT. Don't cook dinner every night. Let him cook dinner, even though he had a long day of work. (There's plenty of microwavable stuff out there.) Let him take the kids out. You did your part and got them home; but now he can take them out and have time with them alone, which is great no matter what for all parties. You are allowed breaks. You are allowed you time. You are allowed your friends.
There are plenty of nights where I realized I couldn't do it anymore, and I called him to let him know that things were not well between the skids and I. I would let him know, and he now knows without explanation, "You are taking them out tonight." And there were nights that he knew were so bad that he needed to keep them out. They had their homework with them, or he had books or tablets with fun things in them to do, and they would entertain themselves somewhere else. Honestly, I consider that stepmom-forced-quality time. (Often when they are all home together, he defaults to just TV watching. On the nights where I asked they go out and stay out, he truly spent time with them- and they loved it. Completely doubtful that they even asked why they weren't going home instead. Dad time is Dad time, period.)
So, do that. Don't be afraid. Ask for You time, and make sure that you get a return on your part. You don't have to do it all; but I completely understand why you aren't giving up on one of the most stressful parts of this life. I totally get it. And not all stepmoms are in agreement that you should completely disengage. Trust me. And we're here for you. Let's do virtual drinks sometime. =)