‘Oh! Is this your sister?’ We have learned to answer, ‘We are friends’ because it’s true! We are friends, family, and co-parents.’: Mom navigates co-parenting with bonus parents during holidays, ‘We work together for a common goal’

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“You never forget the first time your child pukes on you. I remember all too well; we were over at Zach’s house having dinner when Avery started acting like she did not feel well. She had ‘that’ look. All the mama’s reading this know the look. It was then she made the noise. As she coughed and burped, I swooped her into my arms just in time because she starting vomiting – all over my shirt, inside of it, on her, on the floor and the chair. It was a mess – she was crying, everyone was scrambling to catch another human’s vomit (gross), and Bailee quickly ran ahead of me to the bathtub and turned on the shower so Avery and I could get under the water, fully clothed, to rinse the vast amount of vomit off us as the boys scurried to clean the vomit that had overflown onto the furniture and floors. Teamwork. We worked together for a common goal – Avery. People ask what the secret to co-parenting is and it is simple – you have to focus on your child first, even when your feelings are hurt, even when you are having a bad day. My name is Kyla Burke and this is my co-parenting story.

Courtesy of Kyla Burke

As far as a timeline goes, I’ll keep it brief. In 2016, Zach and I married and we then found out we were pregnant with sweet Avery after 14 months of trying and two rounds of fertility medication. We were ecstatic. We were a unique circumstance, as we had a talk before we had Avery and decided how we would handle things if life happened and we ended up not staying together. In January 2018, we mutually decided to separate and later divorce. In March of 2018, our sweet, perfect girl was born. Most would say our co-parenting journey would have begun when Avery was born, but this is not the case. Zach and I still attended appointments together, glucose tests, and he was with me in the hospital when I delivered Avery via emergency C-section after a patient sent me into labor when they fell on me at work. I may have been carrying her in my belly, but he was still her father and deserved to be a part of everything involving her.

Courtesy of Kyla Burke
Courtesy of Kyla Burke

Once Avery was born, I stayed with Zach and his girlfriend (now wife) Bailee. Since I had to have an emergency C-section, it made the most sense to work together and have everyone help. In this time, we learned what the word ‘boundaries’ really meant and how important they are in co-parenting. We had lots of ‘firsts’ and some things we wanted to experience with just the three of us, like her first bath. Bailee was the best at knowing when to step back and we learned to be more communicative and include her in things. I still remember going to an appointment and Zach having to work, so Bailee came to the appointment with me. As we checked in the nurse said, ‘Oh! Is this your sister?’ We had never had that encounter before and decided to go into the long, drawn-out story, which always appalls everyone because co-parenting isn’t the standard. Three years later, we have learned to simply answer, ‘We are friends.’ And it’s true because we are! Friends, family, and co-parents.

Courtesy of Kyla Burke

It did not happen overnight, though. It was a process. Before I was married and was still dating, it was a subject I brought up quickly and sometimes drove people away because co-parenting isn’t for the weak. We had been co-parenting for a year when I met David, my now-husband. He jumped in just like Bailee and dove headfirst into this crazy life! For the record, I constantly applaud our ‘bonus’ parents. They are the ones who ALSO stay up at night, make dinner, kiss boo-boos, play monsters, and give love to a child that harbors no blood, but all the love for our sweet, sweet baby girl. Zach and I have been blessed beyond words because of this; we have such great spouses who fit in to this weirdly-shaped puzzle and I honestly do not think it would be effortless to co-parent without them.

Courtesy of Kyla Burke

In the beginning it was definitely more awkward; no one wanted to step on toes, make anyone mad, or word anything wrong. So, we eased into things. We would go to the zoo together, see the Easter Bunny and Santa together, grab dinner, just do life because we had always been friends, married or not, and being friends was the best option for Avery to be a happy little girl. Having spent the time learning how to communicate, we have been able to understand how to word things to make sure we are keeping everyone’s feelings in mind. We learned how important communication was and how if we have issues, it is important to speak with one another and fix it as quick as we can. I remember arguing with Zach one day and thinking, ‘Is this benefitting Avery?,’ so we talked to each other about it. We decided if it was not going to benefit Avery and we were just fighting to fight, then we needed to just stop, cool down, and reconvene at a later time when the tension is less high because let’s face it – sometimes you just want to argue with someone. We may get upset, we may get mad, we may not always see eye-to-eye, but Avery will never know. Our issues or arguments are just that – ours. Avery should never have to suffer due to our intermittent conflict.

Avery Scott Photography

We have had highs and lows, as with any relationship. For the most part, we are able to resolve this with a simple compromise. I give, you give. So, when I wanted to trim Avery’s hair, Zach did not. He wanted to let it grow out. I could have easily taken her on my day and just got a quick trim and said ‘sorry,’ but I knew this was not right and I would never want it done to me. So instead, we waited. Her hair finally got through the awkward phase and she ended up not even needing a trim until now and luckily, we now both agree! I always try to keep in mind how important trust is. I trust my co-parents are going to make choices if I am unavailable and can’t help out. I trust they would make sure to keep me involved, as I would keep them in mind. By taking their feelings into consideration, it just helps keep the teamwork mutual and helps us all out.

For us, the hardest part of co-parenting is sharing. Some days, we just want to keep her all to ourselves. It seems even harder after shots and when she’s sick or when we have something planned, but it’s not our day and the other parent also has plans. One thing that is easier, though, is we have more than enough babysitters! We have counteracted a lot of the bad by attending things together when possible. We attend the same church and do lunch together every Sunday, so one day a week we spend a lot of the day together. One thing that took a bit to get the hang of was holidays. When you have four parents, nine grandparents, a handful of great-grandparents, and 72 cousins (okay, maybe the cousins were a bit dramatic- but you get my point), it is hard to not wear yourself out when you’re stretching so thin.

Raising Grace + Co. Photography

We almost have it down to a science now, though. For our big holidays, we either celebrate together or split the day in half. This year, for Thanksgiving we celebrate with my side of the family, then go over to my husband’s side where my ex-husband and his new wife will meet us and we will celebrate together there, and then they will head to Zach’s families for another dinner! On Christmas, we have even more places to go, so we split it up! On Christmas Eve day, we go to my families, on Christmas Eve we celebrate at home with whoever would like to join, then the five of us (only the five of us) wake up early and open gifts from Santa. So much of our holidays are shared and we felt it was only right to give us five a little solitude and a chance to celebrate more intimately – then it is on! We then go to David’s family’s house to open gifts, then we join Zach and Bailee at her family’s function. After all of is said and done, we reconvene back to have dinner with the five of us! We love all our family and traditions and want to make sure we’re creating traditions as well! It’s a busy time during the holidays, but the last thing we want to do is allow Avery to miss out. All of our family systems have worked together to make sure we are doing our best for Avery to have the most time with all her family.

Courtesy of Kyla Burke

My biggest advice is to remember life isn’t always going to be the way you’ve planned it. So often we have this magical, perfect life planned out and when a wrench gets thrown into the plan, it’s hard to remember how great life is and can be. They say divorce leads to a broken home, but I hate this verbiage. Just because a home doesn’t include a biological mommy and daddy, doesn’t mean it is broken. There is just more love, more cuddles, more family, more playing, more happiness, and more homes. My hope is everyone who is in this situation can take some pieces of advice and apply it to their own journey! It is okay to respectfully disagree on some things, but it is not okay to disrespectfully disagree. We are all humans and we all deserve kindness, understanding, and love. Avery Grace constantly reminds us how important it is for us to work together so she can continue to be the sweet, fun, spunky two-year-old she is!”

Avery Scott Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kyla Burke of Claremore, Oklahoma. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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