I know as well as anyone how tough blended family life can be. It takes patience, commitment to the bigger picture, and a lot of just letting stuff go. Like everything else involved in raising small people, it’s easier if you have support and empathy. And that doesn’t necessarily have to come from — or be restricted to — real-life family and friends. Wherever you are on your blended family journey, you should check out these incredible moms on Instagram.
Blended Matters (Nichole & Tiffany)
Tiffany Burke and Nichole Burke’s story isn’t one you hear often — but it should be. Tiffany and her ex-husband Rory, who have two daughters, split nine years ago and he married Nichole in 2012. “That was the first taste of me coming to terms with a blended family,” said Tiffany. “I’m a single mom juggling two beautiful ladies, co-parenting, a business and a solo life when my daughters are away.”
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Since marrying, Rory and Nichole have had two more kids, a boy and a girl. And through every development, every occasion and every obstacle, Tiffany and Nichole have put the children first. The moms, who live in Saratoga Springs, UT, decided to join forces on an Instagram account, Blended Matters, after Tiffany shared a post on her own account about sharing Mother’s Day with Nichole. “I wanted to be real and vulnerable with my journey and our ability to share hope after divorce; that even though it’s very hard last times there can be a beautiful new family dynamic after the breakdown of a marriage,” said Tiffany. “But most important is my daughters. The ability to share our story has only given our family more avenues of growth and connection.”
“Instagram is full of stepmoms that are bitter, upset, frustrated, and simply ready to give up,” added Nichole. “I want these ladies to see that there are better paths, paths that get through the frustrations into a more positive family atmosphere.”
The hardest thing about blended family life: “Missing time. I never went into having my daughters ever considering that another woman would get the time that I expected would be mine as their mom. It took us several years of infertility and waiting to get them here, so to lose so much time is very difficult for me. Sharing so many special moments with a woman I did not really know for a while was heartbreaking at times.” (Tiffany) “The hardest part for me is the added voice in our lives. Whenever we want to do something or make some sort of move we need to communicate it with Tiffany because the reality is that our lives are intersected and every move affects both houses.” (Nichole)
Mimosas with Moms (Abbey)
Abbey Williams found out she was expecting her son when she was 20 and halfway through her Bachelor’s degree. When she separated from her son’s father, it was a decision they made together, with their child’s best interests in mind. And that’s been at the center of every decision they’ve made since then. “A mutual represent for one another as the other half of our child has always been our main priority,” Abbey said. “We wanted our son to see us in loving relationships, happy, thriving and getting along.”
When Abbey met her husband (with whom she now has two more children, with another on the way) a year into grad school, her son’s father welcomed him with open arms. In fact, the two dads are so close, they coach kids’ soccer together. “Our motto is, ‘what’s one more?’” Abbey said. “My son’s father will always be his father, but what’s an extra person loving our child? Our family is not traditional but it is ours. It’s full of love, support and kindness for each of the children in the mix, and each other.”
Abbey, who lives in Cincinnati, OH, created Mimosas with Moms to support, connect and empower other parents – and her experience gives her a truly authentic voice. “I’ve been the young mom, the single mom, the mom in school, the working mom, the co-parenting mom, the blended family mom, the stay-at-home mom, the mom of big age gaps, the mom of two under two (about to be three under three), and so much more,” she said. “If my story helps just one person, I’ve succeeded.”
Keeping it real: “Co-parenting isn’t always easy, but putting your child first should be.”
My Unplanned Parenthood (Maggie)
Before Maggie Gallant Isenberg became a stepmom, she was “a career-obsessed entertainment publicist, minding my own business.” When she met Jason, everything changed. “On our first coffee date, he confessed he was divorced,” Maggie said. “Before I could think about it I giggled and said, ‘at least you don’t have kids.’ He laughed and held up two fingers.” Fast forward five years and Maggie and Jason are married and living in Atlanta as a blended family of five, plus rescue dog Beauregard.
My Unplanned Parenthood came about when Maggie realized how hard it is to make stepmom friends – “without that person to say, ‘yeah, I get it, I’ve been there’ I felt much more overwhelmed by what I had taken on,” she said. Her page is a place to tell stories, laugh together and cry together – and it’s for everyone. “I’m honored that many of my readers are not stepparents but instead are those that seek to go beyond the two-dimensional cultural stereotypes and open their eyes to the complexity of what it means to share everything but your DNA with children,” she said.
The hardest thing about stepparenting? “Giving yourself permission to talk about the hardest things.”
Radical Stepmoms Podcast (Christina and Genet)
Seattle, WA stepmoms Christina Nelson and Genet Gebrehiwet, who met through work in 2018, started the Radical Stepmoms Podcast after talking, venting and laughing about their own lives as stepmoms on a regular basis. Genet met her husband in 2015 when his daughter was age two, and as their relationship grew she became a hands-on stepmom. Christina is also a very involved stepmom (as well as biological mom to a 2-year-old daughter); her 8-year-old stepson calls her “Mom” and he can’t remember a time before her.
Radical Stepmoms Podcast started as a hobby, but it’s quickly become much more than that. “We’re just getting started,” they said. “We’ve gained a following of incredible women (and some men!) who open up their lives to us, and we want to be a support and a beacon of light in what can sometimes feel like a dark, isolating role.”
Keeping it real: “When I met another stepmom, I literally felt my heart skip a beat. I had a feeling of relief, validation and acceptance. I want other stepmoms to feel heard and understood; it’s a powerful thing.” (Christina)
Blended Family Frappe (Maarit)
Maarit Miller was a single mom when she met her now-husband Dan, who had a daughter the same age as hers. “Everything seemed perfect for us on paper,” she said. “But we were both completely unprepared for how hard blending our family would be.” Their daughters didn’t get along, Maarit’s stepdaughter didn’t like her, and her biological daughter liked Dan so much his daughter got jealous. Add very different parenting styles and two difficult exes into the mix, and it couldn’t have been much tougher. Plus, it was a long, hard road ahead. “I’ve been a stepmom now for 14 years and it’s only been in the last four years or so that daily life has calmed down,” Maarit said.
Maarit, who splits her time between MN, Hawaii, and the Southwest, started her Instagram account, Blended Family Frappe, to try to provide an alternative view than the standard “I didn’t give you the gift of life, but life gave me the gift of you!” fare (#stepmom.) “When I was a new stepmom, I used to see stuff like that and think, “Well… my stepdaughter leaving the room when I walk in isn’t really a gift,” she said.
“The parenting world has moved always from “sanctimommies” and more toward embracing the full spectrum of parenthood – acknowledging that there are ups and downs, good days and bad; you love the kids and they also drive you up the wall. But we still act like stepparents are only allowed to feel positive toward their step kids and blended family life in general. I’m on a mission to ditch that stigma and help struggling stepparents feel less alone.”
The biggest blended family challenge: “Adjusting our preconceptions and accepting that blended family life is different (and that different is okay) and that everyone within the stepfamily needs to make concessions.”
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