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.
I’ve been to Basic Training twice (as both enlisted and officer). I ran special ops warriors through obstacle courses as a professional military training instructor. I’m in the 9G Club, having pulled 9 times the force of gravity in both the centrifuge and in the F-16. I’ve been in numerous military campaigns around the world in very hostile territory. But the hardest thing I’ve ever done is drop my son off at daycare the first time.
As I sat in my car crying, after about 45 minutes of stalking him stealthily through a two-way mirror, I looked up and saw a 125-pound mother of twin toddlers, calmly carrying one on each hip as she entered the Mother’s Day Out program. When she returned, she looked peaceful and ready to trot off to a yoga class or to have coffee with a friend. In that moment, she became my new image of toughness and I wanted to be like her.
My son is now 16 and drove himself to his first day of school for the first time. My husband I had to forgo our ritual of taking his first day of school off and going out to breakfast afterwards. Those early years it was for consolation but as time went on it was a chance to celebrate and measure how we were doing as parents. We’d vision a little bit about the upcoming year and set goals for our family. Now, I (somewhat) confidently watched him drive off knowing he would be ok and could handle anything that comes his way. Although the whole motherhood mission isn’t yet fully accomplished, I feel good about the job I’ve done so far.
My son Ryan recently proved he’s way smarter than I am by creating a free morning prayer app for my church, available for Android phone users. You can download it for free from the Google Play store by searching for Resurrection Plano Morning Prayer.
Before becoming a mom, I had a long career in the United States Air Force. I began my military career as an enlisted member in Air Force Special Operations. I was selected for a commissioning program and graduated with honors from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach in 1999 with a BS in Human Factors Engineering and was commissioned as an officer.
As an Aerospace Physiologist I completed Physiology Officer Flight Training. I trained fighter pilots and aircrew at the Euro-NATO Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, TX.
When my son, Ryan, was born, I transferred to an F-16 unit at the Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. While serving there, I became sure of my call to ministry. I left the Air Force after over 15 years of service to our country.
We moved to Plano because of the excellent schools for Ryan. I enrolled in SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. I graduated in 2014, with a Masters of Divinity and Certificates in Pastoral Care and Anglican Studies. I was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2014.
I’m still breaking barriers. I’m the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas’ first female church planter! I accepted a call to plant Resurrection Episcopal Church in West Plano in June 2016. I was also their first female priest to serve as Chaplain for the Diocese in the history of the Diocese. I served in that capacity when we elected our new Bishop.
I still take care of pilots too. I’m the official Chaplain to the pilots for the Plano Balloon Fest.
I also am a Col in the Commemorative Air Force that has their big airshow, Wings Over Dallas.
Resurrection Episcopal Church is now thriving and growing. We meet in the Betty Haun Elementary School at 4500 Quincy Ln. in Plano. Our service is at 10:30 a.m. Sundays and we have room for you!
Find out more about us at www.resurrectionplano.org
This post was written and submitted by Leslie Stewart. The images are credited to Leslie.