I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason women love their bath tubs so much is because there is no better place to temporarily escape from the demands of the rest of the world. I remember my own mother saying to me and my 3 younger sisters: “I’m going to have a bath; don’t interrupt me unless one of you is dying.” It sounds like a joke, but she couldn’t have been more serious. So, we’d leave her well enough alone to wash away her stresses, and try really hard not to die while she was in there. When she’d emerge red-faced and sweaty, we knew that she probably loved us at least a smidge more than she did before she climbed in.
I’ve since adapted this little trick into my own life. Truthfully, my bath habit began as a way to escape the madness that step-weekends brought. Before my stepson entered the picture, I was a childless, career-driven twenty-something, and a little bit of a lush. After my stepson entered the picture — well, I was still all of those things. But I went from being childless to occasionally having a then-7-year-old nearly overnight and I was definitely not adapted to the lifestyle changes that brings. Typically, birth parents are granted a gradual submersion into the whirlpool that is having a child. They get their toes wet a bit throughout pregnancy, slowly accepting the fact that they will soon become responsible for the life of a little being. Then comes the birth; then oh-so-sweet little baby coos and smiles and giggles; first steps; first words. By the time their little Boo can scream NOOOO back in their faces, well, they already love that little creature a whole lot. But with step-parenting, as a general rule, those initial building blocks of love are absent. When you ascend the stairs and impale your foot on another flipping stray piece of Lego, you aren’t flashed back to the first moment you held the once-helpless Lego-Assassin in your arms. When you are scrubbing six million white splotches of toothpaste spray off your once pristine guest bathroom mirror, you don’t remember the first time a toothless grin erupted on that tiny baby’s precious face. When Boo screams NOOOO in your face, or in your husband’s face, or as he’s dive bombing off your bare couch into a fortress of cushions that lay in the middle of your now disrupted living room floor, you lack the shared genetic material coursing through both of your veins that allows for quick forgiveness and unconditional love.
So, to escape from the step-life I was not yet cut out for, I began to take baths.
A lot of them.
Nobody would question my motives when I’d announce my plans to go for a nice long soak. I’d retreat to my ensuite with an extra large glass of wine and slip into my corner tub, filled with an obnoxious amount of bubbles and water hot enough to at least buy me an hour (but hopefully to take me past my stepson’s bedtime). Usually, I’d spend my time furiously Googling ways to deal with my stepson, or how to talk to my husband about issues I had with my stepson, or how I should feel about my stepson’s mom. I’d check for Lego-bruises on the bottom of my feet. I’d pine over all the time I’d spent cleaning my house and how it would end up being all for naught. I’d intend to escape from all of these stressors, but would be so consumed by the chaos that being a new stepmother had brought upon my life, that I was in no way escaping. I was instead laying there, red-faced and sweaty with bubbles up to my collar bones, literally stewing in my thoughts.
But this stewing was not conducive to a healthy me, a healthy marriage, or a healthy relationship with my stepson.
Since making some changes that have allowed me a more positive outlook on my every-other-weekend-role, I have learned to actually use my time in the tub to turn it all off. Taking baths has become one of my most beloved Stepqueen Sanity Savers. I still use this time as an escape, but instead of allowing the stresses of stepfamily life to drain me, I treat my bath time as a meditative opportunity to recharge. I relax; I breathe. I burn incense or diffuse essential oils. I read books. I let the voice of Norah Jones soothe me. I focus on being present, on being mindful. It is so easy to allow our minds to wander to 5 days or 5 weeks or 5 minutes ago; or to allow it to wander to 5 days or 5 weeks or 5 years in the future. But learning to be present, to feel the temperature of the water on my skin, to smell the fresh air that breezes in my open window, to enjoy the moments when nobody is asking anything of me – now that is peace.
I have the rest of my life to be stepping on Lego and cursing about it. In the bath is one place I’m safe from it.
What do you do to take a time out and recharge your batteries? What has your experience been with stepmomming before and after learning to take time for yourself? As Stepqueens, we are committed to ending negative Stepmother associations. How have you recently risen above the Stepmonster label? Do you need a little extra help saving your sanity? Click here to find out how we can help