Easier to say than to do, setting up limits when it comes to the daily life of a bonusmamma can be a bit tricky. There are a lot of things to consider when doing it, and there is a big chance that in the end you won’t really be happy with where the limits were set. As the sassy-bonusmamma I strive every day to be, I am sharing 3 insights on the subject of privacy, completely based on my own experience:
1. It’s ok to have privacy. Not sure about you, but with my prudish traditional Mexican background (although life has certainly made me adapt a lot of my views on it), I am really not comfortable with parading around naked in the house, let alone in the ladies changing rooms. After having moved to Sweden, I discovered that I am actually not as “open-minded” as I thought I was when it comes to nudity. Even though I have tried (I really did) in the past, I still cannot get myself to take a shower at the gym – where no private shower cabins exist, just an army-like wall with 4 shower heads sticking out, and a queue of naked ladies and kids (who often are older than you would imagine they would be) waiting for their turn. Not my thing. I prefer to get out of there after my workout and head off to my own bathroom at home. The same applies at home. When I moved in with my hubby and the kids, I quickly discovered that showers were taken with doors open, and that they remained open when the little monsters went for “ones” and “twos” (for more on this subject, go to point 3). I was completely horrified. However, in my desire to fit in and make things as “normal” as possible for everyone, I pretended I was ok with this behaviour (not the “ones” and the “twos” – that had to go!), made a big effort and even shared the shower with the girls at one or two – very awful – occasions. They were very young at 3 and 5, but however strange this might sound (and it does sound strange for some), for some reason, I was still not completely ok with it. It wasn’t cute or normal. It was embarrassing, probably because these were not my kids. So that was the first line: I take my showers alone, and with the door closed – and locked if necessary. And if you really, really have to go, then do it upstairs, lucky for me we have two bathrooms. With time they have grown to appreciate their own privacy too, and more often then not, they prefer to take a shower on their own as opposed to sharing it with their sister.
2. You have your bed, they have theirs. I am not talking about completely banning the kids from your bedroom, or making it a no-go area, that would be mean and hurtful. You can still watch a movie together, allow them to sit and talk to you, etc. What I mean on this point is that as tough at is sounds to any bio-parent, sharing the bed with a kid when sleeping is kind of a truly horrific experience: you get kicked all night, they never seem to find a comfortable position because they keep moving all night, you have some sort of magnet attached because wherever you go to try to get away from the kicking and the extreme warmth, they always seem to follow (until you are at the tiniest little border of the bed), and they get sticky with sweat. Not cute, not nice, not cozy – and not a good sleep at all. At least not for me. Bio-parents might argue on this but the way I see it is: a) kids learn very quickly, b) there is no child-cruelty when sending a kid back to his/her cozy little bed, no one gets traumatised for life because their are being sent to their own beds, in fact, you are actually doing them a favor, and c) (this one is for the bio-parents) how do you expect your new partner to “keep the flame burning” when they know that at any moment a tiny night-visitor might just show up? Bonus-parents and bio parents: draw the line. You have your bed, and they have theirs. It will most likely be you, the bonus-parent, the one to put the foot down. Do it. It is worth it. As for the bio-parents, you will also think it is worth it, and you will find that the few times they visit you at night after they have gotten used to sleeping on their own beds, will be because of something that does require your attention (ie. belly ache, fever, nightmare…). Look into it, help them out, and then put them back into their own beds.
3. “Ones” and “twos” require a closed door. I have tried to get my head around this, and the only conclusion I find with regards to neglecting closing the door when the little angels do their thing, is that somehow this was forgotten when potty-training. The bio-parents must have felt the kind of pride one feels when the kiddos start gaining some room in this difficult process, and just forgot to close the door. Systematically. Every parent I have spoken to says that their kids’ “ones” and “twos” are *gasp* not disgusting, and that is probably why they just forget to close the door. And then one day, the babies are 7 and 5, and making it to the toilet for the “ones” and “twos” stopped being the great and cheered achievement it once was, and they have reached the point where they can actually clean up themselves on their own, however one thing remained: the opened door. After asking, begging, reminding, nagging, shouting, and gagging for months, I took out the big guns (a.k.a. my iPhone), and said “next time you don’t close the door when you are in the loo, I will take a picture and upload it on to Facebook real-time, so that everyone can see how good you are at going on your own”. And that did it: no more doors remain open when people are in private business.
So, sassy-bonusparents in the world, remember three things: 1) you have a right to privacy, 2) if you don’t set your own limits someone else will do it for you and you might not like where the line ends up being drawn, 3) be firm, be consistent, and don’t be afraid of discussing with your partner what is bothering you. After all, you are all on it.