Yesterday, I changed my sheets. That was my big accomplishment for the day. Yes, in this new world of social distancing and quarantines, where I now have all the time in the world to stepmom and to tackle projects, I changed my sheets.
And I am totally okay with that. Why?
Because I’ve discovered a secret: doing nothing actually helps us do more.
Stepmomming is challenging on a good day.
Research has shown being a stepmother is tougher than being a stepfather. And that stepmothers have greater anxiety and depression than biological mothers.
Blended families have dynamics that simply don’t exist in a traditional family structure. Stepmoms carry a huge load but we sometimes feel like outsiders in our own family. And we often bear the brunt of kids’ anger. Even when it’s misdirected, we’re easy targets.
We worry we are disciplining too much. Or too little. Or how to have consistency across households. Especially in a high-conflict situation.
And we often slide our own priorities to the back burner while we take care of family, work, and life.
Managing all of that in a pandemic?
That’s when things really get interesting.
A global health crisis, custody challenges during quarantines, and stepfamilies who are isolated together for weeks on end? We definitely didn’t anticipate that when we became stepmoms!
I’ve seen a million articles about making the most of this time setting up routines, learning new skills, and embracing newfound family time. I’ve even written one or two.
And I’ve lived it. As my husband will attest, I love lists. And since this all started, I’ve maintained several lists every day. Work, writing, home. Big projects, little projects, ideas for projects.
There are a lot of hours in the day. And as the weeks have carried on, I’ve felt a pressure to be busy all the time. To be accomplishing all the time. Checking things off a list. All. The. Time.
Like many, I’m working from home right now. But I’ve also been packing in things like cleaning out neglected areas of the house, baking bread, and binge-watching Downton Abbey (yes, it is just as good the second time around).
And of course, stepmomming. On top of everything else, I’ve been trying to occupy the kids with baking, puzzles, movies – anything to help them pass the time.
This time together can be a blessing that helps you bond with your kids. But it can also be a real struggle.
Perhaps you’re walking on eggshells around a child who’s still getting used to you. Or struggling to coordinate household routines with a high-conflict ex.
These are all added pressures for stepmoms during this time. And I’m guessing your own priorities and self-care routines have totally flown out the window.
Realizing Something has to Change
None of this had occurred to me until recently when I realized I was sleeping more and more. Like during the day.
I was getting between eight and ten hours of sleep a night but still falling asleep in the afternoon for another three to four hours. And when I was awake, I was lethargic.
I usually realize things are off in my life when my body shuts down. Usually, it happens when I’m anxious or I’m fighting something off.
Yet, I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t even sure I was that tired. Like many, I struggle with anxiety in my daily life. It had not occurred to me that this pandemic had amplified that anxiety.
Especially the stepparenting anxiety. This crisis has meant an intense amount of time with the kids. It has also brought the uncomfortable knowledge that we are taking all precautions at our house to social distance and isolate, but that we can’t control what happens when the kids aren’t with us.
I realized the sleeping was my body slowing me down so that I would pay attention to myself. So I would hit pause.
And I did.
I implemented my own “social distancing plan” to take some time to do nothing. And I immediately noticed a difference.
Doing nothing helped me deal with stress and focus more on the positive. And, ultimately, be more productive.
Here are five steps to actively do nothing:
1. Think about what doing nothing looks like for you.
What are you doing when you are most relaxed? Is it napping? Meditating? Reading?
Doing nothing looks different to everyone, so it’s important to figure out what it looks like for you.
It doesn’t have to look the same every day. In fact, mixing it up is healthy. Some days I take a walk with my dog. Sometimes I nap. And other days I hop in a warm bath with a facial mask.
2. Talk to your partner.
I don’t mean ask permission. But explain how you’re feeling. And that you need some time on your own each day. Get your partner’s buy-in.
Stress manifests differently in everyone, so you might also discuss how your partner is feeling. And ways that each of you can take the time you need.
Also discuss how to hold each other accountable. Even when you have the best of intentions, you can still get caught up in daily life and push it off for another day, especially now. Let your loved ones help you be accountable.
3. Find regular time for you.
You can do nothing however it fits best in your schedule. You can block out some time each day. An hour or so away from everything and everyone else.
Or you can set aside a day or so each week. A day when you, too, can celebrate that changing your sheets is your only accomplishment!
4. Turn off. Especially the news.
When you’re doing nothing, turn off the television and your social media. Both can add to your anxiety. If you can spend your do nothing time without them, your mind will rest and refresh.
Even beyond your do nothing time, turn the news off.
In the beginning of the pandemic, my husband and I watched nonstop news. We craved information. But the constant barrage of words like, “death toll,” “infected,” and “isolation” was too much.
It added to my worry. About us getting sick. Or our parents. And the effect of all of this on the kids.
Once we limited our consumption, I became more relaxed. We now watch the evening news every night as a family. Other than that, we keep the news turned off during the day.
5. Try to focus only on doing nothing.
Whatever doing nothing looks like for you, try to let go of all the other stuff going on and be present for your “nothingness.”
If you need to shut yourself in a room alone, do it. Want to read a good book? Find a quiet corner and just read. If you’re going for a walk, put on your favorite podcast or playlist. Then focus just on breathing and being.
Try not to let your thoughts wander to what is stressing you that day. Try to just be.
So, dear stepmom, I hope you can find your way toward doing nothing during this time of isolation. And when you do, I’d love to hear how it’s working!
P.S. Looking for more specific ideas for what to do during your do nothing time? Check out these ideas for that sacred me time!
4 thoughts on “Why Stepmoms Should Do Nothing. And Five Steps To Get There.”
This past week. I did nothing. I’ve been non-stop since the Pandemic first started, and exactly what has been described above I’ve done, too much. It felt good being able to not have the weight over me as to cleaning non-stop, cooking large meals, laundry everyday, on top of working from home and helping the kids with their schoolwork. I took a good break, but now I’m playing catch up and I had started a workout routine that has been placed on holt and I really did love seeing my results, I need to make another Plan or Action to be able to do all but not crash and fall.
So proud of you for doing nothing, Gee! I bet you feel reenergized 🙂
Can I get the research you speak to that shows being a stepmom is tougher than being a stepdad?
Hi Nancy! Here’s the article Cameron mentions: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stepmonster/201305/its-different-stepmothers