If I asked the question "Is Christmas a wonderful experience for you?" how would you answer?
Stepmums, more often than not, cannot answer this question with an unqualified “yes”. In fact many stepparents – step mums in particular – shudder in horror in response to this question. Why? Because they often find that Christmas is filled with a multitude of obstacles, hurdles and potholes. Some stepparents who cannot fathom that they might enjoy this special time without the (step) ankle-biters gathered around the tree, are distressed because the ‘ex’ won’t allow them anywhere near on that day. Others who cannot fathom having the little step-horrors around for this occasion, are tearing out their hair in an attempt to convince their partners (the little horrors’ bioparents) that Christmas would be sooooo much more comfortable, relaxing, peaceful without …….Right?
So, what to do?
Step 1 – Don’t stress!
Easer said than done, I know! My suggestion is that you do whatever you can to achieve the Christmas you’re hoping for, but at the same time remember that there is only so much you can do. No matter how hard you try, you cannot FORCE the situation of your choice.
Step 2 – Accept it!
Accept whatever happens. There is no point in falling into a pre-Christmas depression if you cannot have the step-kids around. Neither is it useful to go into rant and rave mode if your partner’s ex has decided to park’ the kids with you over Christmas because she's got other plans.
Step 3 – Be flexible!
“Why should I be flexible?” I hear you cry. I know it’s a real pain if you are counting on one thing and then, at the last minute, everything is turned on its head because ‘darling ex’ has changed her mind. Well, if you manage to be flexible, it won’t hurt anywhere near as much. The benefits are: You save some of your hair (because you’re not tearing it out by the bushels); your voice won’t be all croaky (because you haven’t been screaming with frustration); your eyes won’t be puffy and red (because you haven’t been crying all day); your partner will be pleasantly surprised (because you’ve done none of the above); the offending ‘ex’ will be furious (because she couldn’t get to you the way she might have anticipated); and best of all you can be proud of yourself - because you’ve conquered a giant!!! You haven’t let circumstances outside your control CONTROL YOU!! Congratulations!
Step 4 - Compromise!
Okay, I hear your groan – compromise? I’ve already done enough! Well, if you want to have a nice, enjoyable and peaceful Christmas, you may need to do even more. Compromise is actually a close cousin of flexibility. What does it mean? It can mean all sorts of things depending on your situation. For example, if your step-kids can’t be with you at your traditional gift-giving time - perhaps on Christmas morning - a compromise would be to change your gift giving to Christmas Eve (or any other time) when they can be with you. It might mean that you allow them (graciously) to spend this Christmas with the bio-parent whilst agreeing that they will celebrate Christmas 2010 with you. It could mean that they are with you for part of the Christmas period and spend the other part with their bioparent ………. get the idea?
Step 5 – Enjoy Christmas anyway!
Whether your step-kids will be with you (as you had dreaded), or whether your step-kids won’t be able to celebrate with you (as you had hoped) make a commitment to enjoy Christmas anyway. No-one - least of all you! - is served by you feeling annoyed, distressed or depressed. However it works out for you, make the best of it. Christmas comes but once a year, it would be a terrible waste not to enjoy it!!