In my husband’s joint-custody situation, we have his kids half of the time, rotating on a 2-2-3 schedule. What that means is that we have them half of the time, rotate twice a week, and never go more than three nights without having them back home with us.

Three times a year, we are able to take a “vacation week.” That is defined in his custody agreement as ten consecutive overnights.

I love our vacation weeks with the kids. Whether we spend it at the beach, or at home watching our favorite movies, those uninterrupted weeks bring us closer together every time. Not rushing to squeeze in all of our cuddles in two or three nights is amazing, and we can really relax and count our blessings.

Lessons Learned from a Vacation Week without my Stepkids

Grieving When They’re Away

The rug gets pulled out from under me when they have a vacation week with their Mom. I typically go through all of the stages of grief during the week…

Denial that the week has begun. Denial that they won’t be back in our arms in just a few days.

Anger in remembering that this is the reality of co-parenting. These kids will likely never be in our home full-time.

Bargaining, which comes in many forms… typically wishing that this wasn’t our life or our circumstances.

Depression, facing the realization that this is the life I chose. I will feel this sadness forever. My poor husband will never get to spend every day with his kids. Ugh, this is the worst stage.

Acceptance, as I decide to make the most of the situation, and as I realize that ten nights really isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things.

This year, the kids had a vacation week with their Mom the week of Thanksgiving. What a downer.

To add insult to injury, this is their second year in a row with her for Thanksgiving, due to past scheduling dilemmas which would take a whole new post to discuss… (We typically alternate holidays annually).

So this year, as Thanksgiving Week was approaching, I was devastated. During the two days the kids were home with us before they left for the week, I had to fight back constant tears. The thought of not being able to tuck them into bed and get them ready for school each morning made me feel sick.

As they cried that they were going to miss us, I had to fake excitement for them, trying to reassure them that they were going to have an amazing week with their Mom (which truthfully, I knew they would). That’s what good co-parents are supposed to do, right?!

Finding Clarity

After I dropped them off at school that Friday morning, I surprised myself when I didn’t cry my way to work. Then over the weekend, I had a completely unexpected moment of clarity…

I wasn’t stressed out. I wasn’t sad. I had no feelings whatsoever towards the fact that my stepchildren wouldn’t be home for a whole week. That fact was just that- a fact. Totally unchangeable. And it did not need to dictate how I spent my week.

I enjoyed intentional one-on-one time with my husband. Typically he works every day that we don’t have the kids, so it was nice to have him all to myself for a few days.

My house was cleaner than ever. I did a deep-clean the first Saturday they were gone, and never touched their bedrooms or bathroom again for the whole week. #BLESSED

My laundry was cut down by about 30%. This is pretty self-explanatory, right?!

I only had to take care of myself. I got one person up, showered, dressed, and fed… not three. On work days, I simply drove to work. Not to two different schools on the opposite end of town… just straight to work.

I got to indulge in all of the things I typically don’t. On non-work days, I woke up at my leisure, made my coffee, and sat down to a Hallmark Christmas movie.

My dog got so much attention. Since I wasn’t preoccupied with 40 pounds of 4-year-old all day, I got to snuggle up with 80 pounds of 6-month-old German Shepherd dog.

My husband and I got to go Black Friday shopping without the kids. And every time I saw a family with kids, I secretly [step]mom-shamed them, thinking, “Who would bring their kids out in this?!” (I know, I know… I’m still a work in-progress, just like you!)

I was able to focus on the things I wanted to focus on, uninterrupted.

I genuinely didn’t think about my stepkids very much. Whenever I started to, I intentionally thought of something else. There was no need in thinking about them, getting worked up in my feelings, and ruining several hours of any given day.

I knew they were having a good time, and I was having a good time, too. For the first time ever, my life didn’t stop when they left home for a vacation week. And you know what?! I had a blast.

The lessons I had to learn when my stepkids were away at their mom's for vacation week - how I overcame the immense sadness and loneliness I felt at their departure and turned it around to be a positive #stepmomming #stepparenting #coparenting

This is yet another reminder that so much of our happiness is dictated by our perspectives.

I could have chosen to be miserable all week, but I didn’t.

I could have chosen to bawl my eyes out in front of them, or to make them feel bad for leaving us (which they have no control over anyway), but I didn’t.

The perspective you choose to hold over any given situation dramatically impacts your feelings towards it. Choose positivity. Choose happiness. Choose joy.

So, the next time you’re down in the dumps about your kids being away from the house for an extended period of time, just turn that frown upside down. You truly have the power to make your alone time meaningful, worthwhile, and joyous.

P.S. Does the upcoming Christmas schedule still have your tinsel in a tangle?! Read why one stepmama refuses to let the blended family calendar crush her spirit of Christmas.

P.P.S. Still stressin’?! Read how a trip on The Polar Express changed this stepmama’s perspective on everything.

About The Author

Content Manager

Ashley is a police wife, a stepmom to two beautiful stepdaughters, and a Dog Mom to her German Shepherd, Dirk. By day, she works in academic affairs at a large university in Virginia. By night, she delivers honest and humorous advice for blended families as the Content Manager for Stepmomming.com.

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