You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.
If you caught Lauren McKinley’s first episode on our podcast then you know she went through a long and painful battle with infidelity in her first marriage. By the end of that episode, you also learned that she is remarried with a new baby, her ex is remarried to the woman he cheated on her with, and that they’re all working together to co-parent the magical little girl they share.
We know that being tethered to your ex through your kids is one of the hardest parts of the divorce journey for so many of you. Lauren gets it, and we hope her ability to find the best ways to work together with people who hurt her for her daughter’s benefit will help you find ways to make your situations better too. We love Lauren, and we’re so glad to have her back on!
Audrey: 00:00 Welcome to Divorce & Other Things You Can Handle, a branded podcast from Worthy. I’m Audrey, and I’m your host.
You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life. If you caught Lauren McKinley’s first episode on our podcast, then you know she went through a long and painful battle with infidelity in her first marriage.
By the end of that episode, you also learned that she is remarried with a new baby. Her experience is remarried to the woman he cheated on her with, but that they’re all working together to co-parent the magical little girl they share.
We know that being tethered to your ex through your kids is one of the hardest parts of the divorce journey for so many of you. Lauren gets it. We hope her ability to find the best ways to work together with people who hurt her, for her daughter’s benefit will help you find ways to make your own situations better too. We love Lauren, and we’re so glad to have her back on.
Divorce & Other Things You Can Handle is a weekly podcast, so make sure you subscribe to keep up with new episodes we’re curating to help empower and uplift you as you embrace your fresh start. This podcast is for you, so join our Facebook group, Worthy Women & Divorce to let us know what you think and what you want to hear. You can also get more at worthy.com/podcast. We’re going to take a quick break and then we’ll be right back with Lauren.
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You guys loved Lauren as much as we did the last time she was on, and so we are so excited to be welcoming her back to the podcast. Welcome Lauren.
Lauren McKinley: 01:55 Thank you Audrey, I’m so excited to be back with you.
Audrey: 01:59 It’s such a blast, and you know before we started recording we were talking about how people have been coming to you saying, “Oh I heard you on the Worthy podcast.” We’ve been so lucky to have you in our Facebook group chatting with people and sending people our way.
It’s just, it’s so great when we can build our community and widen it with amazing people like you. So we’re so, so excited to be doing this second episode.
So Lauren, people who maybe didn’t catch you on the first episode you did with us, or who might now be familiar with your story, can you give a little bit of an introduction to who you are?
Lauren McKinley: 02:36 Sure. I am Lauren McKinley. I run an online community called Her Soul Repair, for women healing from divorce. I am an author, and my book tells the story of my first marriage, and what helped me thrive after infidelity. I’m also a wife, and a mom of two.
Audrey: 03:01 And Lauren, the last time you were on we talked a lot about your book. So if anyone is curious, I mean first of all, everyone can read it, and we’ll link to it again at worthy.com/podcast. But you can go back and hear a little bit of not just her book, but her story.
And basically what we learned about you is that you were married, and there was infidelity, you had a daughter with your first husband. You ended up divorcing, and now I feel like I want to make you tell the story of how you met your current husband again, ’cause it’s so, it’s just the best.
Lauren McKinley: 03:38 It is my favorite story as well. My ex-in-laws introduced me to my now husband at a country western dive bar.
Audrey: 03:48 It’s the best story. Now you’re in a wonderful marriage with a wonderful man, and you have a little boy together.
Lauren McKinley: 03:55 Yes, we have an eight month old son.
Audrey: 03:58 And so maybe you can catch us up on what is going on with your ex right now, who he is with.
Lauren McKinley: 04:04 So my ex-husband ended up getting married to the other woman in our story. We don’t refer to her like that anymore because she’s now my daughter’s bonus mom. That’s her present-day label, my daughter’s bonus mom.
So we all interact all the time. We are united in terms of how we parent our daughter. So they are very much in my life still and will be in my life for a long, long time to come, because we have our daughter. Our daughter’s only six, and yes, that is our present-day status.
Audrey: 04:49 So I think Lauren is so loved by our audience, and her audience because she has really, really been through it. I’m telling you, if you didn’t hear the first episode and you’re not familiar with her story, you’re going to think like, “Oh it couldn’t have been that bad if they’re all able to work together, and here we are talking about co-parenting.” And you’re going to see that it’s really coming from such a positive place. But it took a lot to get here.
I mean one of the things that we really focused on the last time you were on was forgiveness and how that helped you move on, and how that’s a priority for you.
So like I was saying, what you went through was not like, “Well we were friends and we just decided we weren’t in love anymore, and everything’s okay and we’re really close.” It was not a happy ending. It was really hard for you, and you hid a lot of pain. But you found ways to package it in ways that helped you embrace your fresh start.
Lauren McKinley: 05:45 Right.
Audrey: 05:46 So I want to know for people who don’t know this part of you, how can you explain how you were able to go through that experience, which a lot of our listeners are going through and getting over right now too, and focus on forgiveness and find the courage to build a healthy relationship with your ex and the woman he cheated on you with?
Lauren McKinley: 06:08 Well like you said, the details that led to our divorce were by no means easy or fluffy. It was not one of those like, “Well we just thought it would be best to part ways.” It was a very hard and devastating time for myself and our family. But when things progressed toward divorce, and it looked as if my ex was going to have a future with this woman, I just thought, “Okay, I think forgiveness is my only option.
Audrey: 06:47 Yeah.
Lauren McKinley: 06:47 Even if it was totally not deserved. It was for my own personal peace.
Audrey: 06:53 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 06:53 I think of that cheesy, cliché quote, unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.
Audrey: 07:03 Yeah.
Lauren McKinley: 07:03 Have you heard that quote?
Audrey: 07:04 Yeah, it’s so true, and I think it’s one of the reasons that you really were able to build the happiness that you have in your life today, because you found a way to not carry around the toxicity with you. There’s no poison, you know?
Lauren McKinley: 07:19 Right. And it really was for my own peace. I didn’t want to live with that bitter grudge, and victim role of, “This happened to me, poor me.” I wanted to move from that place into a happier, healthy state, for my daughter, definitely so she could see that example, but just for myself and what I wanted for my own future, parenting aside. So I think the choice to forgive was the only option, otherwise I would have just really stayed in a toxic place of bitterness and anger.
Audrey: 08:03 You know, I think something that you said, and we might have even talked about this the last time you were on, I think you can’t underestimate the example that you’re setting for your daughter too.
You know, it is her dad, and it’s just such a gift that you’re able to not make it a stressful experience for her, and this is the lens that you have shown her what her family dynamic looks like. It’s such a gift to her, it’s really amazing.
Lauren McKinley: 08:31 Right, and you have to look at it in terms of anything you want to model for your child, regardless of the situation. It’s like you want to model forgiveness, and respect, and those things to your children and how you interact with other people.
Audrey: 08:31 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 08:49 And the situation doesn’t always matter, it’s that those are the core beliefs that you want to model to your children.
Audrey: 08:49 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 08:57 So that definitely helped in the motivation for how the process went down, of forgiving and moving on.
Audrey: 09:05 Right. So that being said, I mean you’re a hero in that way, because I know that it has to be really, really hard, especially before you had your son, and your life really fell into place. It had to hurt all the time.
And I’m sure that even now, when you’ve got this beautiful life, and this blossoming business, and everything is going really well for you, there still has to be times where it hurts, and you feel like they owe you something because of what had happened in the past.
So in those moments, that I think so many of our listeners can really relate to, what do you do, or how to you resist the urge to let the past influence the dynamic that you guys all have today?
Lauren McKinley: 09:49 Well, it is very hard at times, and I’m not going to lie or sugar-coat that.
Audrey: 09:55 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 09:55 As a parent, sharing your child is not really something that you went into parenthood ever expecting.
Audrey: 10:03 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 10:03 So that piece in and of itself is a hard, and sad part of divorce. And then when you add in, okay well this hasn’t always been my favorite person in the world to share her with.
Audrey: 10:18 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 10:18 It sometimes will just add that extra salt to the wound.
Audrey: 10:22 Right, like a twist of the knife.
Lauren McKinley: 10:24 Yes, oh my goodness. But present-day, and this is where I have to keep my focus really, in order to not go into the dark place of our past. Present-day, they are extremely loving to my daughter, and they’re a huge part of her life.
I always focus on that because I turn it around thinking how awful it would be if my ex had met a new wife, and she didn’t care for my daughter, or she wasn’t nice to my daughter. I mean that would be worse than what we have right here, which is four parents who all are super involved and all love and encourage our daughter as much as we can.
So that helps me. I try to flip it around and think about how fortunate we are that my daughter for one, loves her dad and step-mom, loves them, adores them, loves her time with them, and they just have a great relationship with her. So that really helps me to not think about the past, and stay focused on our present-day.
When things come up that are either a trigger for me, or just bring up that emotion from the past, I either communicate it with a therapist or a friend, or I just handle it in a way that is not in our co-parent union that affects our daughter. I just keep it outside of anything that would affect or phase my daughter.
Audrey: 12:15 Yeah, I think you know it’s interesting because you were talking about not letting the past make it into the present. But you also talked about that moment when you realized this woman is really going to be around, “She’s here, she’s not just a supporting character in my story, she’s a big part of his story, and now my child’s story.” You were talking about how you thought about the future. So it’s like we’re talking about past, present, and future, and that’s really, I think the challenge that people face.
Lauren McKinley: 12:45 Yes.
Audrey: 12:45 Is that those are all with you all the time, but it’s just where you put your energy. And I think that you’re such a amazing example of how you can control so much of that, and that’s really wonderful.
Lauren McKinley: 12:59 Well thank you.
Audrey: 13:00 Yeah. When you were on before, we talked a lot about your first marriage and how it ended, and ended again, and all of the therapy and everything. And we did of course get the amazing set up by your ex-in-laws at a country music bar, which is my favorite story. That and the laundry story, we’ll talk about that later. But we didn’t talk about the moment between the end of your marriage and meeting your current husband.
One of the things that we hear a lot about from people who follow us on Instagram, and people who are in our Facebook group, and people who are interacting with us is this reluctance to embrace love again, or feeling like they don’t want to, or they’re scared they never will. Did you have those moments? When you found yourself as a young, single mom, what were you thinking about?
Lauren McKinley: 13:57 Well I definitely took some time. As I call it, I was obnoxiously single. I just, I didn’t want the phone numbers. I didn’t want the set-ups. I didn’t go online and dabble in that. Mind you, the divorce was still processing, it wasn’t final at this point.
But I just spent that entire season just single to the max, only focused on myself and my daughter, and my healing and self- improvement, and making sure that I was whole again, so that when I was ready to meet someone of quality, that I would be in a good place.
I definitely wanted to find love again, but I wasn’t really in a hurry, and I felt content with my life on my own, with my daughter and my friendships. Dating wasn’t a huge priority after my divorce was final.
Audrey: 14:59 And now you’ve got this, you have a great husband, and you have a perfect little boy, and you’ve got this great life together. I mean is that something you had thought about, wanting more kids, or thinking about what your family would look like for the rest of your life? Or were you truly content with the two of you and it came when it came?
Lauren McKinley: 15:21 Well I loved the idea, of course, of sharing my life with someone, and being in love, and getting remarried. I definitely wanted more kids after my divorce. But there is that guarded part of me that had to accept it may not be in the cards.
Audrey: 15:40 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 15:41 Just depending on when I met someone, what their family looked like, if they had their own kids. There were just a lot of factors, and sometimes I look at my current family, and I just cry tears of gratitude, because I’m so blessed with just an amazing husband, and now our little baby. It’s crazy to think about those times when you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I never really knew that this was going to be my future.”
Audrey: 16:13 Yeah.
Lauren McKinley: 16:13 It was uncertain. And it is, after divorce, your whole life is just it’s uncertain in the best ways because you can start fresh, but it’s also scary.
Audrey: 16:26 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 16:26 And you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.
Audrey: 16:30 Right, well I think you know, being able to put in the time to take care of yourself, and take care of your child, and understand that what’s going to happen relies so heavily on what you decide you’re worthy of, and what is worthy of you, and I think focusing on yourself.
And we talked a lot about all the different therapy, and the way that religion played into things for you, and all the different ways that you find self-care in your life, I think allows you to be ready for that kind of happiness. And I think it’s pretty amazing how things worked out for you, and it’s just, it really is a happy, I don’t want to say ending, ’cause we’re right in the middle of your story, but it’s a happy life, and you show that it’s not a passive thing.
I mean you have to, every day you have to choose to forgive, you have to choose to think about your child, and what’s going to make you the happiest, and you’re really able to manifest that for yourself, and I think it’s really amazing.
Lauren McKinley: 17:31 And it definitely took the work before to find the love that I have now.
Audrey: 17:31 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 17:39 And I think that’s important, because you attract the type of people that you, yourself put out there.
Audrey: 17:47 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 17:47 So if you are really driven, or value yourself, or think that being this best version of yourself is your top priority, you will attract those type of men as well.
Audrey: 18:02 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 18:03 And that they want the same thing for their life, and I think that’s important because I feel like my standards, when I came out of my divorce were just like as high as can be. I just was like, “I don’t think I’ll meet someone that I can really check all those boxes off.”
And the night I met my husband, he calls it the interrogation, ’cause I just was like, “Okay, I’m not going to waste any time, so unless you are you know, this, that, and the other. And I have a daughter.” And I just gave him the whole spiel, because I didn’t want to waste time with someone that was not a quality man.
Audrey: 18:42 Yeah, I think it’s great. I mean you put your expectations out there, and they were met, which is the best.
Lauren McKinley: 18:48 Yes.
Audrey: 18:48 So I want to know, for someone who … I think it’s great that your first instinct was to think about, “What do I need? What does my daughter need?” And just look inward and not focus on the things that were not a part of your life at the time and-
Audrey: 19:00 … focus on the things that were not a part of your life at the time. It made your life desirable and full, and that attracts a partner also. And maybe that’s the advice that you would give to someone, but I think a lot of people, after this kind of traumatic end to a relationship, especially with infidelity, like you had experienced, it’s not easy to get into that head space. And so what would you say to someone who’s listening that she’s been swiping and dealing with a bunch of idiots on the apps, and everyone who she meets is a loser, and guys are not being respectful, and all of the stuff that we know is abundant in the dating world? What would you tell someone who hasn’t gotten to her happy second chapter yet?
Lauren McKinley: 19:49 Well, I think it’s sometimes super hard to even believe that you’ll find love again when you’re in the thick of a divorce or when you try to move on because people don’t get married by accident. So at one time they were two people deeply in love, and it’s hard to think that you will find that again, and when I think about being in that place, which was soon after we filed for divorce, it’s almost comical because of how much I can’t imagine my life with anyone other than my husband right now.
So it’s just, I think your mind shifts when you actually see it play out and when you meet someone that’s worth sharing your life with, but until you meet someone that really falls into that role, I just don’t think that it is even worth your time. Like you know, I think knowing your core values and then just trying to match them with someone that you are dating or want to date is huge and just not settling. Especially after going through the trauma that a divorce can bring, I was like, I don’t need any more of that pain. You know? Like you just have to really keep your eyes open and like take the rose-colored glasses off. Keep a lookout for those red flags.
Audrey: 21:23 Yeah. I think like even the strongest of women, we have such good intentions and we are so accommodating, and I think that’s kind of what you mean about these rose-colored glasses, that it’s like if you not just go in with your values and look for someone who matches, like really, really know your values and decide you’re not going to compromise because it can be really easy to say like, “Oh, well this is going to get better. Oh, that’s going to change.” But I think that you’re saying like, especially after the pain of a divorce, it’s like know what you deserve and don’t settle for less.
Lauren McKinley: 21:59 Yes, 100%. Preach it all day long.
Audrey: 22:04 So, okay. On that note, I think we will take a quick break, and then we’re going to come back. We’re going to talk about how, best case scenario, you find an amazing guy, and your ex is not bothering you too much because he’s also in love with somebody and he’s got his life, and now you have a child together and you’re going to have to figure out how to work together. I think, what did you say before? They’re going to be around forever, or a really, really-
Lauren McKinley: 22:31 Yes.
Audrey: 22:31 … long time? So best case scenario, you still have a pretty major challenge ahead of you, and when we come back, Lauren is going to tell us how she makes it work. So we’ll be right back with Lauren.
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We are back with Lauren, and Lauren, I’m ready to really dive into the co-parenting. So I want to start, you had told me that communication is number one. So what is communication in your co-parenting setup?
Lauren McKinley: 23:35 Well, we talk about pretty much everything that has to do with our daughter. So we have a group text where we discuss behavior issues, things that happened at school, good and bad, discipline tactics, exciting parts of her day, pictures, videos. Pretty much anything that all of us would care to know about her day-to-day is in that group text.
Audrey: 24:06 That’s so cool. So it’s the four of you in the group text, and the group text is like the modern day kitchen table, isn’t it?
Lauren McKinley: 24:16 Yes, for sure. And it just keeps all of us on the same page with routines and across both households. Obviously we have different parenting styles, as like any mom and dad would in a family where the parents aren’t divorced. You know?
Audrey: 24:37 Yeah.
Lauren McKinley: 24:38 It’s personality and parenting styles are different, but we just try and keep her expectations the same across the board. So she knows that she can’t get away with that at this house, can’t get away with it at the other house.
Audrey: 24:55 Yeah. It’s like mom, dad, and bonus mom and bonus dad are all on a team, and so she can’t play you against each other.
Lauren McKinley: 25:03 Exactly. We actually had matching shirts made for her soccer season last year.
Audrey: 25:08 Oh, I saw this on Instagram and it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
Lauren McKinley: 25:12 And it just says Team Sweetie, because that’s what we call her, our sweetie. And so we had the matching shirts and we had her number on the back, and we were just one big happy family.
Audrey: 25:24 You know, I’m just thinking from a child’s perspective. You hear all these stories about what kids say at school and stuff, and I’m just imagining a kid with two happily married parents being jealous of your daughter who had four adults in matching sweetie T-shirts at her soccer game.
Lauren McKinley: 25:41 And the extended family.
Audrey: 25:43 Oh, so sweet.
Lauren McKinley: 25:45 It’s like our cheering section for her is unreal because it’s my husband’s family and then my family, my ex’s family, and then … It’s just like the whole famn damily. We’re all together.
Audrey: 25:56 Oh, it’s really nice. And you know, I love that you say bonus mom. It’s like bonus love, and the more people that love your kid, the better things are. So it’s great that you guys are really able to build that sort of environment for her. Now, I want to know, your husband has not been married before, is that right?
Lauren McKinley: 26:12 Correct.
Audrey: 26:13 Okay. And so what is this like for him being around your ex-husband all the time?
Lauren McKinley: 26:18 Well, he is like the most patient and saint-like man I know, my husband, so he doesn’t ever complain. I mean, if there are things that come up, we all kind of just discuss them as adults, but he does not complain, does not talk negatively about my ex, encourages and loves our daughter like she’s his own. I mean, he’s been in our daughter’s life for right around three years now, and their relationship has definitely developed naturally. It was not an overnight thing, and it’s still not easy. We always say he was kind of last to the party because my ex and his wife were together long before I met my husband. So in my daughter’s world, they always existed together, and then it was her and mommy.
Audrey: 27:17 That’s so interesting.
Lauren McKinley: 27:18 So it’s hard for her to understand. She was three when she met my husband just like, “Wait, why did we need one more person? Like why isn’t it just me and mommy forever?”
Audrey: 27:30 Yeah. Yeah. But he like totally jumped into the role. He’s like all in.
Lauren McKinley: 27:35 Oh, yeah. And I think that was such a huge factor of what I was looking for. I didn’t want someone who is just going to tolerate my daughter. I wanted someone who desired that relationship and who desired to be a parent to her, and he does an amazing job of not stepping on toes. Like he knows that he’s not there to replace her daddy, and he doesn’t try to. But my ex also encourages her to be respectful of him and he encourages their relationship as well.
Audrey: 28:16 That’s great.
Lauren McKinley: 28:16 So it’s pretty much everyone on the same page in terms of just the respect that she needs to show to her parents, but also not forcing something before it kind of organically happens, if that makes sense.
Audrey: 28:32 Right. So I mean, it sounds like he has really taken the same approach to all of this that you have, of like what’s going to be best for me, what’s going to be best for us and our daughter, and now your son also, and it’s an amazing thing that you guys are really all in that space together. We know like a lot of our listeners don’t necessarily have that same experience, and I’m sure that even in your almost, I would say, good as possible situation, there are tough moments. So I’m wondering what kind of advice you would give someone who finds that co-parenting with their ex, and whether it’s a group text or a soccer game or a holiday or whatever, whatever the split is, that they find that co-parenting is sometimes a strain on their relationship, or maybe it’s not about the parenting so much as just like the ex being around. Like what kinds of tips would you give to someone who is faced with that kind of situation?
Lauren McKinley: 29:33 I would say just keeping it about the child, like keeping that the focus and letting all conversation, all interactions, be based around that. Not bringing up anything that’s happened in the past or memories from the past. Just keeping it very business-like, in a sense, and just focused on the best interest of the child and the funny thing she said the other day or how much we love this part of her personality, or just the things that we can all bond over in a positive light in terms of our daughter and not like what has gone down in the past because that’s not going to bring any warm and fuzzies to any of the four of us.
So not talking and dwelling on the things that kind of got you here is the best advice I have and trying to keep your emotions out of it. Like I said, it’s if you think about and talk about things in a very practical sense in terms of what’s best for our child, how she responded to this situation, what are we going to do about this behavior, and keeping it very focused on the child because that’s your common interest and that’s the little human that you’re raising and that you want to be the best she can be.
Audrey: 31:07 No, I think that’s great advice, that even when the argument isn’t about the kid, it’s always about the kid, and what you do and how you respond and your actions should always be about the kid. That helps. I think that really helps to channel things in sort of a productive place. And you, so you were talking about kind of keeping things practical, and I want to know the practical ways that you guys co-parent. So let’s kind of unpack all of this. Do you guys have a calendar? When is she where? Who does pick up? How does it work?
Lauren McKinley: 31:42 Yes. So we do have a shared calendar that we’ll put like doctors appointments or play dates or summer camps, just any of the big things, or if we’re going out of town and it conflicts with the part of the week that we typically have her. We’re really flexible with each other, but at the same time, our schedule is super consistent. So we split our week up. She is with her dad and stepmom from Sunday afternoon till Wednesday morning, and she’s with my husband and I from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday morning. We didn’t like the every other weekend or every other week thing because none of us like going a long stretch without seeing her. We miss her. We miss her in our family and our house, so we just split the week, and we’re at a 60/40 agreement right now, I believe, legally on paper. I think that’s where we’ll stay because both sets of parents do feel like we get enough time with her, and we schedule our work schedules also around when she’ll be with us.
Audrey: 32:59 It’s great. You probably have like, what? Like you know that you’ve got Wednesday, Thursday, Friday after school. It’s consistent. It’s not like this week it’s me, this week it’s you. It’s you know what’s coming every week.
Lauren McKinley: 33:13 Right. And I think that helps her a lot too in the adjustment. Wednesday is always a hard day for her because she’s going from house to house, and we have just accepted it and we know that if she acts a certain way … She can’t get away with whatever she wants, but if she acts a certain way, we’ll sometimes just give her that extra grace knowing that she’s adjusting and-
Audrey: 33:40 It’s compassionate Wednesdays.
Lauren McKinley: 33:41 Yes. Those are our Wednesdays. So, and it’s fun because she does love both houses and for different reasons. Like we each kind of have our own routines and just traditions that happen in each household that are separate, and they’re different, and she loves them both. So it provides her with a well-rounded just week in general.
Audrey: 34:11 Yeah. And then do you guys use any of those co-parenting apps, or like do you keep a family calendar on Google, or what do you guys do?
Lauren McKinley: 34:19 I think the one that we use is called Shared Cal.
Audrey: 34:23 Oh, okay. Shared Cal.
Lauren McKinley: 34:24 Shared Cal, and that’s more for big things like parent-teacher conference or her winter break or that type of thing, but in terms of our day-to-day, it’s just that schedule each week, unless there’s some blaring vacation or work conflict, and then-
Audrey: 34:45 Something out of the ordinary.
Lauren McKinley: 34:47 Right. And typically we are very flexible with just like, sure we’ll take her an extra day, or can you have her on this day instead? And we always joke because we each are just greedy with our time with her, like we’re like, “Oh, we’ll have her one more day, sure. Sounds great.”
Audrey: 35:06 That’s cute.
Lauren McKinley: 35:07 We’re always happy to just help each other.
Audrey: 35:09 Yeah, that’s great. And then there’s the bigger things. You’ve got like holidays and birthdays. How does that all work out with you guys?
Lauren McKinley: 35:19 So holidays we do split up as evenly as we can. That is obviously, just like I was saying before, sharing your child just gets sad sometimes, and that’s inevitable, but we just split the holidays up as evenly as we can. This coming Christmas will be the first Christmas morning that she will wake up at their house. She’s always celebrated Christmas and woke up at our house or my house, so that will be different, but she’s excited obviously. And then we still say, “Well, Santa came to our house too,” and so then when she comes back it’s still going to be all like ready for her as if it was Christmas morning.
So we find our ways to just celebrate with her, even if it’s not the exact day of the holiday, and we just do our best. We FaceTime, like especially big things like Christmas, like what did Santa bringing you or … We’re always just including each other-
Audrey: 35:19 That’s nice.
Lauren McKinley: 36:26 … in the big moments that we miss at times. In terms of her birthday, we are all at the birthday party, and we all host it together. So last year it was at my house and she … We had a like little jump house and pizza and the works, but we were all there, and it was just her little fan club and all of her friends.
Audrey: 36:53 Oh, that’s so cute. Her fan club. And then what about like stuff that’s heavier? I mentioned already that we had talked a little bit about how your religious community and your faith is a big part of your life. Are the four of you on the same page about that? Do you belong to the same church? How do you guys make that work?
Lauren McKinley: 37:14 For the most part we are on the same page in terms of religious beliefs. My husband and I always have her on Sunday mornings, and that’s part of our agreement because we go to church every Sunday, and that was something I wanted to be part of her life, and she’s involved with her Sunday school. Her dad definitely supports and encourages this and wants that for her. Anytime she kind of questions like, “Well, what does so-and-so believe, or what is this?” I always remind her that daddy and I, when we had you, we decided to baptize you and this was the way we were going to raise you, and that is our …
Lauren McKinley: 38:00 Raise you. That is our decision still today. So I just try and remind her of what we decided when we were married and what we decided for her. Because she’ll sometimes say, “Well why do we go to church every Sunday and they don’t go to church every Sunday?” Or things come up, and she’s just asking. I’ll more or less just bring it back to, this is the way that we all decided to raise you, and when you’re older, you can think or believe different things that you want to believe. I just try to give her the freedom, but just also remind her that this is what our family decided for her.
Audrey: 38:47 Right. It’s also nice, I know faith is so important to you, and also to a lot of our listeners, and to some people not having faith be a part of their child’s life is important to them. It’s such a personal thing, and I think it can be really hard for people when homes are doing different things. It’s pretty clear from what you were saying that she notices that things are a little bit different at mommy’s house than they are at daddy’s house and daddy’s not at church. It’s good, I think, for your kids to be able to have people who they love in their lives who are doing things differently. It kind of reinforces the idea to them that people do things differently, and it’s their business, and it’s their choices. It’s like a nice … Maybe a nice silver lining.
I think kids tend to sort of … We talk about echo chambers that we all have created for ourselves online, kids are only exposed to what their families expose them to. So when your family expands in that way, and it’s difficult, it can help I think to look at it from that perspective of building understanding in your children.
Lauren McKinley: 39:54 Absolutely. We even look in terms of each one of us personally and what we can bring to the table in terms of teaching her. We all have different interests, and personalities, and career paths, and we think it as, “Wow, this is so neat that we are exposing her to four different sometimes parenting styles, or just personalities, or skills, or hobbies,” you know? It really is neat that maybe there is a conversation that I can have with her better than her dad, or vice versa. How we relate to her can all be different in a good way though.
Audrey: 40:44 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 40:44 I think that’s one of those things as a parent, and as a mom I’ve really had to just swallow my pride and let go of the notion that I am the only one who can parent my daughter well.
Audrey: 40:58 Yeah, that’s a lot.
Lauren McKinley: 41:00 That was a huge lesson for me, was just, “You know what? They can also teach and parent her in these ways.” Letting other adults have that strong, positive influence in your child’s life is a huge lesson. Divorced, or not divorced, just in general, teaching your kids that they can learn from other adults that aren’t their parents is a huge deal and I think it’s really important.
Audrey: 41:29 I totally agree with you and I think it’s an amazing thing to be able to find value in other people and in other ways. I’m sure it’s not easy thinking about your daughter and how you’re not in control of shaping her identity and everything, but the truth is, you’re not really in control anyway, she’s going to be who she wants to be and she’ll make her own decisions. It kind of goes back to what we were saying before about how if you can think about it as however much love a child has in their life, it’s better. And sort of look at it from that angle, I think it makes it a little bit easier.
Lauren McKinley: 42:05 Absolutely.
Audrey: 42:06 And then another question that I have about some of this really big stuff. One day your brilliant little angel is going to go to college and there’s all kind of other longterm planning, who do you guys work that stuff out?
Lauren McKinley: 42:23 We both have financial savings planned for her future, separate in each household. I am very fortunate in that my ex has never once missed a child support payment, or ever shortchanged our daughter in terms of his financial contribution. I know this is not the case for so many women, and that just breaks my heart.
Audrey: 42:51 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 42:51 I always like to share that because it is a really big piece, and it is something that I don’t take for granted, and just that I am thankful for because I know it sadly is not the norm. I know it’s a sacrifice on his end, but it’s for her best interest obviously. Like I said, it’s not like we necessarily share our financial plans with each other, but it’s just that we know that we both have something in place for her future.
Audrey: 43:31 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lauren McKinley: 43:34 That has been decided and discussed, and that’s where we leave it because money is one those things that we don’t like to talk about with friends and family. We do split all of her extracurricular activities as well, the cost of that. So we get things pretty even Steven in terms of, “Okay, this is how much school supplies cost,” or, “This is much gymnastics is,” and we’re pretty good about just keeping that dialogue open over what was spent. Even with birthday presents or just any financial piece that involves her, we are open about and we share. I will say, that’s something that’s something that’s between myself and my ex-husband.
So there are certain things that I would say 95% of the things we all four discuss. But there are some things, like the financial piece, or religion, those conversations typically take place between my ex-husband and I.
Audrey: 44:44 Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think it’s amazing that you guys are able to do that in such a productive way, and she’s so clearly cared for and planned for. I just imagine that you guys are working on these different savings for her tuition, and you’re paying for her extracurricular activities together, and you’re building her into someone who’s going to be successful because of what you’ve provided for her and because of how supportive you were of her together. It’s a really amazing thing.
I actually want to know how she feels about all of this. I mean, we talked a little bit about how when your husband came into the picture he was received differently because she was a little more cognitive, I guess, than when her stepmom came into her life. What does she think about this family that she’s in and how do you guys explain it to her?
Lauren McKinley: 45:42 In recent years, probably since she’s been school age, she’ll express that she wishes that her mommy and daddy never got divorced, or that she wants to just have one house and not two. That has been pretty heartbreaking for me because I thought that since everything happened when she was so young I would get to kind of skip over this part. But I always just affirm how she feels, saying that divorce can be really sad, and I understand why she feels the way she does. I don’t want to sugarcoat things that she’s attaching real emotion to that are actually sad, you know what I mean?
Audrey: 46:31 Right. I think that’s really helpful for her.
Lauren McKinley: 46:34 I want her to know that her feelings are valid. I just really affirm her and let her be sad. Then I also, like we’ve discussed, I just encourage her to look at how lucky she is to have four parents who love her and just how much fun she has doing this with those parents, and this with us. You know, I just try to show her the upsides of our family dynamic.
Audrey: 47:07 Do you think about what it’s going to be like when she’s older? I don’t know if she’ll read your book. I’m sure she’ll read more things about her very, very early life when your family kind of reorganized. Do you think about what it’ll be like talking about it with her when she’s older?
Lauren McKinley: 47:26 I do. My ex-husband has always said that he will communicate with her about how wrong everything was that transpired. I’m thankful for that because people make mistakes and all you can really hope for is that they own up to the fact that it was a mistake and it was wrong. I want her to know right from wrong, and I want her to see what happened wasn’t an ideal situation, but look at how we’ve all picked up the pieces and moved on. Because of how much she adores her dad, I’m a little nervous of when she finds out what happened, but I just have to take it a day at a time and hopefully she will be open with how she feels once … When and if she finds everything. I don’t know, we’re-
Audrey: 48:36 Yeah, you can’t know until you get there. Right.
Lauren McKinley: 48:39 Yeah, and sometimes those details aren’t important to kids and they remember their life like this was always their life. So I’m not sure how that will all go down, but I just pray she’s protected from whatever pain would come up because of the story.
Audrey: 48:59 Well I can certainly tell you that, again, we’re in the middle of your story, not the end, but we know that at least the book ends with a pretty uplifting message, and I think that you, and your ex, and both of your spouses are modeling such positive behavior and forgiveness is so obviously a central part of how you approach your relationship with her father. I think, of course like we said, even in the best case scenario, there’s still challenges, but she has a pretty amazing, strong woman who’s setting an example for her. So I am sure she’s going to be just fine.
Lauren McKinley: 49:40 That’s the plan.
Audrey: 49:41 That’s the plan. Before I let you go, this is one of my favorite things that you say, “Divorce doesn’t end family life, it reorganized it.” So before we let you go, tell us a little bit about what that means to you and if you have anything you want to add to our audience, it’s a great time to do so.
Lauren McKinley: 50:01 Okay. I just feel like children of divorce always have such this like, downer stigma of what their family life now looks like.
Audrey: 50:11 Right.
Lauren McKinley: 50:12 Everything being split apart. I’ve always wanted to counteract that stereotype because our family unit is, like I said, now made up of four parents who love our daughter and who are showing her all of these different skills, and passions, and parts of who we are, and teaching her in a way that two parents sometimes couldn’t. We just really keep our focus and love to communicate that the more love in a family, the better. It does not have to be this huge division, we can be one united family, even though our daughter’s parents are divorced. I think just keeping that the focus, keeping that united front for your children the main focus, even if the marriage ended in divorce, that united front as parents does not have to end. I just think that is the most important thing we should all keep at the forefront of our minds and in how we raise our kids.
Audrey: 51:36 That is such good advice. I think it really is the core of your message, and what you’re doing, and I know it’s such an inspiration to people. So for our listeners who aren’t already connected with you, why don’t you tell us where they can find you.
Lauren McKinley: 51:51 Sure. I am @lcmckinley on Instagram and our blog and Facebook group is Her Soul Repair. And then Stop Wrecking My Home: How to Come out of a Broken Marriage in One Piece is available for purchase on Amazon.
Audrey: 52:13 And if you find her on Instagram you’re going to see the cutest pictures of her with this book. You can see the soccer game, you can see the happy blended family, it’s a lot of wonderful stuff, and we’re so happy to have you on. We’ll make sure to link to your channels at worthy.com/podcast too.
Thank you for joining us. We can’t wait to have you back for a third time.
Lauren McKinley: 52:36 Thank you, Audrey. This was awesome.
Audrey: 52:39 Thanks again to Lauren for joining us and to all of you for listening. We wanted to remind you guys to join our Facebook group, Worthy Women in Divorce. We are so blown away by the conversations going on in this group, and we want to make sure that you’re a part of what’s shaping the topics that we’re featuring here. It’s a great way to interact with our blog and learn more about our platforms, so we hope to see you there soon. Make sure you subscribe so you can catch every new episode of Divorce and Other Things You Can Handle in your feed weekly. If you like what you hear, rate and review us to help other women like you find us.
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