Today’s guest post is from Amanda, who is the founder and CEO at Kandyapplemama.com. She blogs all about her experience as a co-parent. Thank you, Amanda!!
Two years ago, if you had told me I would one day be best friends with my daughter’s stepmom – I wouldn’t have believed you.
If you had said we would be having dinner together, going on co-parenting dates, running a business, and living together – I would have called you crazy.
A little over a year ago, when Kandy Apple Mama first started, our family had just started co-parenting. After two years of not being able to be in the same room, never understanding each other’s side of the situation, fighting about everything, (and Stepmom hating my guts! *gasp*) and believing there was no way we would ever get along – the four of us (Mom, Dad, Stepmom, and Stepdad) began developing our co-parenting relationship. Ultimately, this “co-parenting thing” would develop into a life-changing friendship.
My ex-husband and I had just negotiated a new custody order when Kristen and I started getting to know each other. Before, she had barely made it on my radar as anything more than “my ex’s girlfriend” then later, “my ex’s fiancé.” After they were engaged was when I realized – wow, she’s in it for the long haul. And while I was happy he found the one for him, I wasn’t as happy when I realized what that would mean for my daughter.
As a mother whose entire world revolved around my little girl before the divorce, I had serious identity issues when it came to not being able to see her and mother her each and every day. It took me years to realize exactly why I was depressed beyond “missing my baby.” It was because every bit of who I had been when I was married revolved around being K’s mom. When my days with her were cut down to 2 a week, it felt like I was in mourning each and every moment I was without her.
Then on top of trying to figure out who I was now as a mother, this new woman walks into the mix.
For years I had actually been praying for Kristen – praying that the right woman for my ex would come into the picture and make him happy. I wanted that for him. But what I had never thought about was the fact that by marrying K’s dad, she would essentially be K’s “new mom.”
Since getting to know Kristen and the kind of stepmom she is, she’s helped ease my fears of being “replaced”. She’s made it clear that she’s not here to replace Mom but to supplement my role as the mother when K is with her Dad. She also refuses to let K call her “Mom” which while many readers have been appalled by it, has actually helped me feel irreplaceable.
In turn, I have made a point of helping carve out Kristen’s role as Stepmom as someone just as important as Mom and Dad. But that didn’t start until nearly two years ago…
One weekend before co-parenting ever entered our vocabulary, as we were transferring K from Mom’s house to Dad’s, Kristen was the one picking her up. K’s Dad was away at the Air National Guard, and Kristen was getting ready for some bonding time with our daughter. She planned to take her to Going Bonkers, a local play place. We met up in the Wal-Mart parking lot and got out of our cars…
Kristen later told me that she was fully expecting the worst from me in that moment. She was sure I would be uncomfortable handing over my daughter to soon-to-be-official Stepmom when her dad wasn’t even here. But I didn’t. I put on my happiest face and was super excited about hinting to K where she and Kristen were going. “You’re going to have so much fun! Kristen has an amazing surprise planned. It’s going to drive you bonkers!”
K was so excited that day, it brought tears to my eyes.
People think I’m weird for accepting my daughter’s stepmom as a fellow co-parent and mother figure. And to be honest, maybe they’re right. It is unusual, out of the norm, freaky, bizarre… It surprises every. single. person. who finds out.
In reality, it was very hard for me to overcome that primal, territorial feeling known to mothers. Your first thought when someone else comes in the picture as a mom is “No way! That’s my daughter!” And watching Kristen with K, or hearing how she essentially is “Mom” at K’s dad’s house was really hard for me to get past. It took time and some serious internal work.
But the real reason I accepted my daughter’s stepmom… was my daughter.
Do you know how happy it makes her to see both her moms getting along? How giddy she’s been that she doesn’t have to choose sides?
I took a step back after that day in the Wal-Mart parking lot and realized something. In the past, telling her I’ll miss her when she leaves left her running to the closet to hide at pick-up time. But getting excited about all the fun she would have with her dad or with Kristen actually made her happy. That was the only “real” reason I needed.
After that, removing the conflict and getting to know Kristen was at the top of my to-do list. But the biggest turning point for our relationship was all thanks to K, herself.
Kristen attended a women’s retreat last October and when she returned, K overheard her story about how God was working in her life to help her accept her role as the stepmom and second wife. The next time she came to Mommy’s house, it was all she talked about. Not the entire story, but enough to intrigue me. K was singing Kristen’s favorite song, telling me how she went on a retreat and came back talking about a puzzle piece…
While my first instinct was to be jealous K was getting so close to her stepmom, I stopped myself. I remembered my promise to remove the conflict and make K happy – even if that meant talking all about Kristen. When Stepmom came to pick her up at transition time, K pushed her to tell me the whole story.
To my surprise, Kristen opened up to me. She shared how she had been having trouble with the idea of being someone’s “second wife” which she equated with “second choice.” She confessed she had been jealous of me, and felt as though she was living my life. I was shocked.
I remember being so surprised by her confession that I was brought to tears. After all this time of only focusing on how I felt as a mother, I never paused to wonder what it must feel like to be in her shoes. Suddenly, it felt as though a wall came tumbling down. After we talked she even asked to give me a hug.
It was in that moment both our eyes were opened.
From then on, Kristen and I began sharing pictures of K whenever she was with us. That little act of kindness really helped me feel at ease when K wasn’t with me. Although I couldn’t be with her while she was doing so many fun things with her dad and Kristen, it was calming to see how happy she was.
The more we shared about K, the more we started sharing about ourselves and our experiences. We both had been so stuck in our own minds, overwhelmed with our own issues as a part of a not-so-blended family, it was like we were walking around with blinders on. Once we started talking and opening up, those blinders fell away and we realized how wrong we had been about each other. Our bond grew gradually, in a natural way, and left us both feeling cautiously optimistic about forming a real friendship.
Then one day among our everyday conversation, I started opening up to Kristen about Kandy Apple Mama. I shared all of the potential I felt it had as a platform, the things I wanted to accomplish with it, the obstacles I was facing running a business… and she seemed intrigued. I remember telling my husband how excited she was talking about it and wondered whether she might start her own blog. When he suggested I ask her to join me at Kandy Apple Mama, I never thought she’d go for it.
Before I could even ask, Kristen offered to help! She asked if I had ever considered bringing on a business partner. I was shocked! (Was she reading my mind?) Of course, I was more than willing, and the rest is history! We met the very same day to talk blog and make a business plan.
Going from co-parents to business partners has brought Kristen and I much closer than expected – we’ve become best friends! We are both so passionate about what we do that the hard work almost doesn’t feel like work (almost). Not only that, but it’s seriously improved our co-parenting relationship and forced us to work out our differences on hot-button topics we would have never otherwise discussed.
Working on the blog together, doing the research, tackling the hard subjects no one else will, speaking with so many families in similar situations… It really drives home how important co-parenting is to us. Not just for parents wanting to escape conflict, but for the kids. Co-parenting with my daughter’s father, her stepmom, stepdad, and myself, has changed our daughter’s life in a way I never thought possible. She’s happy, loved, and excited to be in a blended family with so many people that care about her. The friendship that we, as her parents, have developed is icing on the cake!
While running a blog and business partnership with your daughter’s stepmom might not sound ideal to most people, it’s actually a large part of what keeps our blog running. If Kristen hadn’t partnered with me, Kandy Apple Mama wouldn’t be where it’s at today, and I probably would have quit by now.
It might sound cheesy, but I know this all happened for a reason. No relationship or friendship is perfect – including ours! But our relationship is more than co-parenting – we hold each other accountable, build each other up when we’re feeling down, and keep each other on track – in business, in life, and as mothers to the same little girl.
An Exponential Life
Kids are loud, crazy, messy, adorable little monsters. But something happens when you have more than one. Everything grows at an exponential rate. I have four little boys – oldest almost 7, a 5-year-old, a 22-month-old, and an 8-month-old – and nothing is just 4x [fill in the blank]. It’s more like 40x. Everything is bigger.
And that includes…
Take a journey with me to a time not so long ago. Last week.
It actually started the previous week I came down with what I thought was just a severe sore throat. I didn’t go to the doctor because, well, #momlife and who has the time or money for that anyway?
So, I’m kicking butt, as we moms do, and was diligent in not kissing the boys – which was really hard because I’m that mom that smothers her kids in hugs and kisses.
Anyway! I’m doing great, on the mend, things are looking up. Until Friday night, when… I accidentally kissed my oldest on the lips.
I then sealed my fate with, “Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine!”
I KNOW!! What was I thinking?! Murphy and his law immediately knocked on my door.
And so the tale of Exponential Sickness begins.
Oldest wakes up congested, but I figure it’s just allergies. We go to the first soccer game of the season and he’s a little sluggish, but he’s moved up an age level – we figured it was just the larger fields. Buuuut then we get home and he’s on fire. 104 degree temp. Commence cold shower, meds, and rest. Fever comes down. Ok, cool. We got this.
Still sick with fever, though not nearly as high. No church.
Doctor’s appointment reveals oldest has strep. YAY! Start antibiotics. Doc says he can return to school on Wednesday.
Second oldest comes home from school and sleeps for 3 hours. Has a low grade fever. Go to doctor for strep swab. It comes back negative. “It’s just allergies with a severe cold on top,” says Doc, “but we’ll send off the culture to be sure. I’m sure he’s fine!”
Meanwhile I’m over here like:
At this point I see the writing on the wall. There’s no sense in denying it anymore. We’ve been infested and it’s only a matter of time before more of my tiny comrades fall.
Everyone to school on meds.
Mommy goes off to a meeting and two youngest stay with sitter. I text her and she hits me back with “Sorry, I was changing #3’s blowout.” Another one down.
Naptime. Sweet silence. Until the phone rings. “Hi Rachael. Calling because #2 has a 103 temperature.”[Heavy sigh] “Okay. I’ll be there in a bit. I have to wake up the babies.”
Change disgusting diaper and off to get Bubba. And then I hear it.
My poor little toddler has thrown up all over himself and the kitchen floor. Mom Mode activated! I turn to get the paper towels and Lysol wipes and I hear it again.
And then, my sweet little angel, starts walking through it toward me. Panic Mom Mode activated! “STOP! Do. Not. MOVE!” I lift him up and over, run to the backyard, strip him down, wipe him down, cover him in hand sanitizer, and start cleaning up. I call the school to let them know I’ll be longer than expected when I look into the living room.
Y’all. The world slowed down. My heart stopped.
With his chubby little hands, the toddler grabbed the baby’s cheeks and gave him a big, sloppy, toddler-style kiss. Directly. On. The. Lips.
I scream “NNNOOOOOOOO!!!” as I hang up the phone and leap, yes LEAP, toward them. Now, I’m neither small nor spry so for my big booty to move so quickly, well it was something.
I finally get to the school where they won’t even let me enter the building. They essentially open the door just wide enough for my son to pass, quickly close it, and wave at me safely behind the glass.
He throws up on the living room floor that evening.
Three youngest stay home. Toddler throws up all over the couch. I call the doctor for the toddler to be swabbed. “I was just about to call you. The culture came back positive.” Me:
We all load up, go to the doctor for the toddler’s swab. It comes back negative. Obviously, I was skeptical.
Saturday and Sunday we took it easy and everyone seemed to be on the mend.
So now we’re halfway through this week and doing great. Number 1 is almost done with his antibiotics, #2 is back to his normal self with the help of good ol’ amoxicillin, #3 just had a 48-hour bug, and miraculously, the baby never caught anything.
Like I said. Life with more than one kid is exponentially bigger. But no matter how hard last week was I would NEVER trade it if that meant I couldn’t experience the exponential love and joy and craziness of my little crew.
But dear sweet, baby Jesus PLEASE don’t let the hellscape of multiple illnesses befall this house again!
This post was written by Plano Mom, Rachael Armstrong. This insight into her thoughts and journey of life as a Mom is written in her own words.