The evil stepmother stereotype is tired — at least, if one 24-year-old mom from Newport News, Virginia, has anything to say about it.
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Audrey Loving met Corey Henry at age 18. The two got engaged and had a daughter, Riley, now 4 — but after several years of long distance and personal differences, their relationship came to an end. Since the two live in different states, Loving has full custody, but Henry remains involved in Riley’s life and often takes her on weekends.
When Henry began dating another woman, Loving was determined to take the high road. “I come from a blended family — I have stepsisters, half-sisters,” she told TODAY. “Growing up, I heard the negative talk about the ‘other woman,’ and I didn’t want my kid to hear the same thing … It’s not fair. Kids are smart.”
She also felt empathy for Whitney McGraw, the woman taking on the responsibility of a child who wasn’t her own. “It’s awkward for her too — dating someone with a kid,” she said. “I’m not interested in the baby mama drama … I welcomed her into my family with open arms.”
Despite her good intentions, Loving says she was “a little crazy” when Riley first began spending time alone with the couple. “I would write a whole list for Whitney. Things like, ‘Don’t leave her in the bathroom,’” she said with a laugh.
“Whitney would send me pictures and keep me updated," she recalled. "One night I sent her a text saying, ‘You know, I’m extremely thankful for you.’”
Loving shared a similar sentiment on the Love What Matters Facebook page, encouraging others to set an example of love and kindness. At publishing time, the post had nearly 70,000 likes and 9,000 shares.
“Of course it’s hard,” Loving said of sharing her daughter. “You have a kid and your mama bear comes out. But the fact that someone’s there loving my daughter … I’m at peace knowing she’s being taken care of. The more people that love your kid, the better.”
Loving has since received about 5,000 messages from others working through similar situations. While she can't respond to everyone, she has some good advice for us all.
“Just be a grown-up and put the kid first,” she said. “Teach the kid love.”