Let’s face it, even in the best of circumstances, kids are not easy to be around 100 percent of the time. Even biological parents need a break from their children once in a while, so it’s normal (although not quite acceptable by society) for stepmoms to need a break from kids who aren’t theirs.
Some kids are just … challenging.
So, it’s nice to have a space to retreat to when you start to feel like you’re about to lose your marbles. Is it mean or selfish to want a space that’s all yours? Absolutely not. In fact, you’re doing your family a favor by giving yourself a sacred space where you can recharge. What do you think is better for your marriage and relationship with your stepkids—you as an uptight person about to explode at the next family member who looks at you funny? Or you as a happy, recharged, peaceful person who wants to be around others?
There are many reasons for a kid-free zone. It’s not all about the kids. Maybe you had a difficult day at work and just can’t be emotionally present for the kids at that time. Maybe you need a few minutes alone to compose yourself or decompress from a stressful day. Maybe you had an argument with a close friend or family member and you need some time to process it without interruption from well-intentioned little ones. Your emotional health is important, and you deserve a place where you can tend to it.
I was lucky enough that my husband provided me with two rooms I could call my own. The first one we called the J-Cafe. It was a little alcove directly off the living room. It had a small sofa, bookshelf and coffee table, and everyone knew it was my space. The second room was the bathroom. My husband decided that since we had two full bathrooms, one should be a girls’ and one should be a boys’. It was his way of protecting me from having to share a bathroom with two teenage boys. And, yes, he used the boys’ bathroom as well. That was a gesture I will never stop appreciating!
How to Create a Personal Sanctuary
There are no rules here. If you have a very small living space, you might only be able to claim a corner of a room, but that corner will provide you with a sense of comfort if it’s all yours. If you are lucky enough to be able to use a whole room, great! Display items that are meaningful to you and bring you joy and comfort. The goal is to be able to enter the space to decompress and be yourself without any input from the outside world.
If you are unsure of how to create your personal space, the following questions can help get you started:
- When do you most often need time to yourself? What time of day? Under what circumstances?
- What room in the house protects you the most from noise and foot traffic?
- What activities help you recharge? (Painting, music, meditation, watching TV, etc.)
- What personal items of yours hold the most value?
- What do you most need in order to calm down and feel more like yourself?
Creating a kid-free zone is a great way to preserve your sanity and sense of self. It provides you with a place to retreat from the noise, drama, stress and responsibility while enabling you to recharge, regroup and find inner balance. And since it’s a kid-free space, you don’t have to worry about it being riddled with the kids’ messes. There’s really something different about cleaning up your own mess, isn’t there?
The idea of a kid-free zone may not be popular in the eyes of outsiders, but, hey, neither was the idea that the world is round.
Jenna Korf is a Certified Stepfamily Foundation coach, an RCI Certified Relationship coach and co-author of the book, “Skirts At War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict.” She is also a blogger for The Huffington Post and has been featured as a stepfamily expert on CNN.com, parenting.com and care.com. Jenna is also a Registered Nurse, a stepmom and a stepchild. To read more from Jenna or for one-on-one coaching visit her at StepmomHelp.com.