The Henderson Gleaner

Mixing stepfamilies not always impossible

Local divorced man's ex, current wife, forge healthy friendship

By JUDY JENKINS Gleaner staff
June 9, 2002
The Henderson Gleaner

Carmen Hyde jokingly calls Sandy Caudill her "ex-wife-in-law."

And Caudill thanks Hyde "for being so gracious with her children. I love them like my own. It's like giving birth without having to get stretch marks!"

The two women are linked through Don Caudill - Sandy's husband and Carmen's former husband - and have become friends who often talk on the phone for hours at a time and smoothly work out child care arrangements.

"Sandy took my kids shopping for my birthday and Christmas," Hyde said. And, because Hyde works third shift at Gibbs and puts in overtime, her "ex-wife-in-law" fills in for her if Don Caudill IV, 14, or Amber, 10, have places they need to go.

By the same token, Hyde is willing to help Caudill with her three children: Gary Dunn, 13; Alex Dunn, 11, and Rebecca Weimer, 10. In fact, Alex has spent the night in the Hyde household that Carmen Hyde shares with her second husband Willie, who has two daughters from a previous marriage.

Add to this greatly extended family Sandy Caudill's ex-spouse Eric Dunn and his wife Lori and their two children. They all get along together and Caudill has occasionally baby-sat their children. She smiles and relates that the Dunn's younger child "will be three on mine and Don's sixth anniversary Aug. 10."

It may sound like mayhem, especially when you throw in household pets like the Caudills' Bebo the Chihuahua and Elmer the baloney-loving orange cat, but it works for all the parties involved.

"It's not like we get together every week and have a barbecue," Hyde said. "We just respect each other and we work our lives out for the sake of the kids. We've kept that main goal in mind: The kids. We didn't divorce the kids."

She said she also realizes that "if anything happens to me, Sandy will be my kids' mother."

Hyde is originally from the Pacific Northwest and following her 1996 divorce she could have returned there with the children, "but I stayed here because I wanted the kids to be close to their dad." She has primary custody, but she and her ex-husband don't worry about rigid visitation schedules.

The adults know all too well how painful divorce can be for children. Sandy Caudill said her parents divorced when she was in kindergarten; Caudill's parents divorced when he was 12, and Hyde's parents divorced when she was a baby.

Hyde said she had issues that she never discussed with her mother until a few years ago. Her mom "was shocked - she didn't realize" how Hyde had felt.

"Divorce can be an issue for the rest of your life," said the 33-year-old.

Knowing that, they all entered marriage expecting it to be forever but both Hyde and Sandy Caudill say they and their spouses probably were too young when they first married.

As for the current arrangement, both women acknowledge that they didn't immediately get along. It took about 18 months, they say, for them to work through the rough patches and get adjusted. Caudill said she learned among other things that it's better for the second wife "to stay on neutral ground" if there's a disagreement between the ex-spouses.

The Caudills also agreed early on that they wouldn't add to the combined families.

"We didn't feel it would be right for us to have other kids. We thought it would be confusing to the ones we have."

And trying to avoid unnecessary confusion for all the involved offspring is one of their goals.