Over the past few months I've had the absolute pleasure of connecting with Kate Chapman of This Life In Progress. She hosts an online community for divorced parents and blended families. I'm willing to bet her blog posts have graced your newsfeed over the past few months, as her pieces have been widely featured on The Huffington Post, Red Tricycle and other popular blogging websites.
I interviewed Kate about a month ago, and have been waiting for the perfect time to share this with you. Kate's real and honest, yet positive perspective on blended family life is beyond refreshing, and is exactly that this community needs!
That being said... here's what Kate had to say!
Tell me about your family (kids, age... anything interesting)
We have six kids in our blended family. Simon and Sara are our bigs, at 15 and 14. Caden and Amy are the middles, at 12 and 11, and Lottie and Jack, the Littles, are 8. We live on the East Coast in the US, with our naughty French Bulldog Miller and six squawky hens.
How long have you been with your husband?
Gabe and I have known each other for nearly 20 years. We connected as single parents after our divorce, and the rest is history.
What is your access schedule?
We each share 50/50 joint custody of our children. Each of the sets of children is here on a week on/week off schedule. That hasn’t always been the case – in the years since we each divorced, we’ve been on what feels like every 50/50 schedule available, shifting as the kids have grown.
During the week, we always have one set of children, two weekends a month we have everyone, and two weekends a month we are empty nesters. It’s made more complicated by the fact that I keep my children before and after school because I work from home. The simplest answer? We have lots of kids here all the time!
What's the most difficult thing about being a Stepmom?
I think the most difficult thing about being a stepmom is loving the children fiercely and wholly and also differently enough from how their parents love them so that there is room for everyone in their large coparenting tribe. I know that’s a touchy subject for many – the post I wrote about it was picked up by a national outlet and I got lots and lots of hate mail. Still, it is our truth. I love my stepchildren with every ounce of my being, but differently that I do my own children because that difference eases their loyalty bind and makes it easier to accept my love.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a Stepmom?
Honestly, every day that I get to watch these little people grow is a huge privilege. This stepmom gig is not always easy, and blended families are complicated, but the rewards are huge. How cool is it that I have an inside track to watching three amazing people grow? They cook and sing and dance and play and I have a front row seat to it all.
What’s one of the biggest mistakes you have made as a Stepmom?
Thinking our family would someday be “normal” or “settled.” In hindsight, I don’t think anything is ever settled until the fun is over, and I don’t want the fun to be over. It’s been hard for me to accept that change is the only constant in this life, change in our schedule, in the kids’ moods and heights, in how we approach each other. Once I did though, I was better able to enjoy this roller coaster ride. The best part of change? On a particularly bad day, you can be sure that it won’t last long. J
If your best friend told you she was about to start dating a man with kids, what would you tell her?
I’d tell her to look at her new love’s family dynamics carefully. What is his relationship with the children? What is their relationship to each other? How is their mother integrated into their lives? She won’t change those things, she will join them. It’s important that she understand what existed before she arrived so that she is not threatened or distracted by it in the future.
What do you wish you would have known before you became a Stepmom?
I wish I would’ve known how fun it can be. Honestly. Some of the books and websites about stepparenting are so negative. I entered this arrangement nervous (and in fact, turned down my husband’s first proposal because of it). Having six children is a wild ride. Some days are hard and we end up exhausted and depleted. But many more days are really fun for all of us.
How do you think Stepmoms are viewed in Society?
I think stepparenting and blended families carry stigma. It’s tough on everyone, especially the children. Even my daughter, years into a healthy blended family relationship, is shy about revealing that dynamic. My teenage stepdaughter doesn’t correct people who mistake me as her mom because she “doesn’t want to get into it.” My son doesn’t have people over often because “there are too many people here to explain.” That’s part of why I share our adventures, because I want to reduce the stigma for all blended family members.
What’s one thing you couldn’t survive without?
Time alone (even if it’s only in the bathroom). My phone. Lunchtime walks with my best friends. French cut canned green beans (the only cooked vegetable our six agree on). That’s too many things – I guess I have a dependency problem.
Tell us about your most awkward Stepmom moment
I am a pretty awkward person, so there are A LOT of these. I can tell you one that I get teased about constantly by my teenage stepdaughter, Sara. We have a banner here that goes up the day before someone’s birthday. Family traditions are important to us, and the kids are nearly fanatical about observing them – they create memories for us and help tell our family story. That banner goes up 7 times a year (Gabe and I have the same birthday, so we share it). Jack’s birthday is at the end of November, and as Sara and I were taking down the banner, I said “I think this is the longest it will be away. It won’t come up again until Simon’s birthday in April.” She looked me in the eye and deadpanned, “So no banner for me?” Her birthday is in January. I shot back “Remember, I am terrible at this stepmom gig. No matter how I try, I am just not wicked enough. I’m trying harder, starting with not putting the banner up for your birthday.” We both burst out laughing. I quickly apologized, and told her how I really felt: terrible. I reminded her that my mom of six brain is real, and that I just hadn’t been thinking. And I put the banner up for the full week of her birthday.
Tell me about your blog, "This Life In Progress"
My vocation is professional executive coaching. My calling is advocating for families after divorce, whether they be blended or single parent households. I write about divorce and coparenting and blended families on my blog, This Life in Progress, and all over the web. I am a contributor to The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, DivorceMoms.com, Stepparent Magazine and more. I write a regular “Ask Kate” column that merges my professional work and this calling, and am so delighted to be able to connect with thousands of readers on the blog or through my social media accounts. I have a curated collection of nearly 2000 resources for parents (with all prefixes – divorced, co, step) on Pinterest.
What's your favourite quote?
I am a huge poetry fan, and gobble it up as though it were ice cream I’ve hidden from the kids. That said, my favorite quote is probably from The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. “Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”