Never enough time.

I don't think this is a step issue only, don't get me wrong, but the added pressure of perfection creates a higher stress parenting environment. Yes, I go without so my kids can have their needs (and often their wants) met. Yes, I give up my free time and my activities to take care of them. Yes, my fiancé and I put our children first together because we love them deeply and unconditionally. But... and this one is a doozy.... at the end of the day, they aren't truly my children. So here I am doing everything a (for lack of a better term) "real" parent would but in the end, to most of society I simply do not count.

We try to do the annoying tasks like take the dogs to the vet, grocery shop, play musical cars so they can get serviced, install new appliances or paint rooms... whatever is on the agenda we try to do the boring-for-kid stuff or hard-with-a-full-house stuff when they are a their "Big Sister"/Mother's house. This makes sense but then we end up so exhausted that our nights are spent relaxing and snuggling up watching TV or movies. We get takeout instead of going out to dinner. We constantly tell our couple friends that we should hang out soon but can't seem to set a date. We are tired. I joke that I've been tired since roughly 2010.

Last year was hard. We went from two years ago dealing with my finances divorce (which was like me going through a second soul-sucking divorce) and then his ex lashing out because we scrimped and saved to buy a house and take the kids on vacation and she was feeling inadequate. I dealt with repeated crap from her. I was in a perpetual state of stress the entire summer from either her or home buying. All the time I am supposed to be mentally unwinding from 10 months of teaching high school kids was filled with extreme stress.

We decided we needed something to look forward too. Our favorite band was having a mini music festival in Riviera Maya, Mexico. I had a long weekend for President's Day. The world was aligning. We were so excited. I stalked the resort and the band's social media daily for excited updates. As February crept in winter got nasty. Snow on the forecast. Big storm a-coming. Flights canceled. Airline impossible to reach. Booked a connection through El Salvador for a red eye that would get us ahead of the storm. $1000 on a credit card. We just need to get there.

My ear popped on the plane and I couldn't quite hear. No matter what I did it was foggy. By that evening I was coughing uncontrollably and could not sleep. I found out when we got back that I had what had started as a sinus infection that spread. A week of antiobiotics and I was fine. I made the best of the trip. I loved Mexico. We had adventures in Mayan Ruins and underground rivers called cenotes. We laid on the beach. We heard our fave band play three amazing concerts. But sickness stole the destressing of it all.

We got home to a house the kids and babysitter had left a mess. We came home to stress. Wait what? We were leaving stress. And then sickness. And then more stress. What happened to our perfect weekend? What happened to enjoying each other. When did being a grown up mean compromising everything?

I often feel if I am depressed or sad or overwhelmed that my need to be comforted wastes our time. I often feel like it's been the blink of an eye since the kids got picked up by their mother to when we pick them up from school. Our fleeting, precious time that everyone loves to points out ("Well, you wouldn't understand because you don't have the kids everyday." "It's hard being a full time parent." "I wish I got days off with just my husband.") is not a free for all. We are often satellite parenting. Helping with homework and giving advice. We are still parents 100% of the time we just have to leave them with someone else a few days a week. It doesn't make us less than.

My sadness over nights used fixing the washer or days pissed away to naps comes at a big price. It's a catch 22. At the end of the day, my family would be nothing without me and my fiancé. We are the foundation. We are the bottom line. Yet we don't put ourselves first, ever. We used to skip lunch to save money for the kids to go to yoga on the weekends. I gained so much weight from stress and not being willing to take a class or join a gym. I didn't even want to spend the copay it would cost me to see a therapist.

It took us a long time to see the trap we had fallen into. But when we did we knew that we could pick ourselves up. We deserve more. We deserve to treat ourselves with the same respect we show our family. And, on top of everything, we are each other's number one. We are there for each other for every damn thing big or small. So we need to celebrate! Celebrate us! Celebrate our love! Celebrate how lucky we are to have found each other in this twisted world! But most of all celebrate the kindness and courage we put out into the world by raising kids who are loving and loved beyond measure.

It took us a long time to realize it and it still eats at me sometimes when I really crave some alone time or when I am missing him at work and know we wont get to talk privately until after bedtime. But it's as simple as a few stolen moments. A lingering kiss or a poetic text. There is always time for a tiny celebration. Get up and dance already.