When a Columbus woman posted a family photo on Facebook, she never imagined it would receive more than 80,000 shares and draw interest from numerous media outlets around the country.
“It is shocking and also rewarding that our family is being seen as a positive influence,” Emilee Player said.
The photo is of four adults kneeling and watching soccer at the Woodruff Farm Soccer Complex in Columbus.
They are wearing blue jerseys. Written on the back are the words step mom, daddy, mommy and step dad.
Standing between the two couples is 4-year-old Maelyn, who plays for the Challengers.
Maelyn’s mother is Clara Cazeau, a hairdresser who is married to Alex Cazeau, a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg.
Her stepmother is Emilee Player, married to Maelyn’s father, Ricky, who works for Energy Savers.
Maelyn’s mother and father ended their relationship when Maelyn was 8 months old.
The couples not only come together to watch Maelyn play soccer, but they are also together for birthdays and other special occasions.
Clara Cazeau had a friend make the jerseys as a way to support Maelyn.
“You have to let go of any past feelings you might have and make it work for the sake of the child,” said Clara Cazeau.
She thinks it is “incredible” that the photo went viral and believes people are finding it inspirational because “we are not the typical family.”
“I had no idea it would blow up like it did,” she said.
“When I first met Ricky, he and Clara had already established this relationship,” Emilee Player said. “I saw that he respected the mother of his child. There was never a question that we would not get along and do what was best for Maelyn.”
She said of the co-parenting, “You have to be in it 100 percent for the child or it will not work.”
Emilee Player is mother to 7-month-old Everlee with whom Maelyn loves to play.
Both women say their success is a reason for the response on Facebook.
“We are showing it can be done,” Clara Cazeau said. “Most of the responses to the photo have been positive.”
“There have been some negative remarks,” Emilee Player said. “Those just make this family stronger.”