Mom and stepmom become best friends and co-parents – Upworthy

Mom and stepmom become best friends and co-parents – Upworthy

The “Moms of Tampa” are officially besties and loving it.
Meet the Moms of Tampa, winning hearts online while advocating for healthy co-parenting.
Tiffany Paskas and Megan Stortz, aka the Moms of Tampa, weren’t always the best friends that they are now. The unique story of how they became that way is catching a lot of positive attention and shining a light on how we might rethink co-parenting dynamics after divorce.
See on Instagram
Stortz and her ex-husband Mike (married now to Paskas) share custody of their 11-year old son, Michael. At first, like many moms and stepmoms, Stortz and Paskas never spoke to one another.

The blended-yet-divided family lifestyle started to take its toll on young Michael. Stortz told Good Morning America that “he didn’t want to express that he was having a good time at each household because he was just worried about upsetting the other house.”

Finally, Stortz decided to reach out to Paskas in the friendliest way possible—by sending gifts. It is one of the five love languages, after all.

“I sent her a bottle of champagne and a card. On the inside of the card it said, ‘thank you for being such a positive influence on my son’s life. He loves you,’ you know, just ‘thank you,’” she told WFLS.

Stortz and Paskas began “testing the waters” by sending gifts back and forth. It wasn’t until the pandemic, however, that their relationship would fully blossom. When both of their husbands got COVID-19 at the same time, the women ended up quarantining together. It was then that they discovered their shared love of makeup. Paskas, who had created her own beauty channel on TikTok, invited Megan to create videos together. Because, as we know, nothing says “friendship” quite like a TikTok duet.

Paskas’ followers took notice. And when she revealed that her TikTok buddy was her husband’s ex-wife, people were eager to learn more. Inspired, Paskas and Stortz put the Moms of Tampa on social media and it quickly went viral. They even created a podcast, “From Blended to Besties,” available on Spotify, where they discuss their life together as co-parents.

If I had to guess, I’d say it was the genuine love and respect these women have for one another that helped make their channel so contagious. Just take a look at this beautiful “open letter to my son’s other mom” that Stortz posted to Instagram on Mother’s Day. It’s the sweetest.

Stortz often gives Paskas the nickname “bonus mom” rather than stepmom.

The Moms of Tampa give audiences much more than co-parenting advice and wholesome content. Above all, they offer a refreshing take on what life can look like as a healthy blended family.

@momsoftampa Lessons we learned through healthy coparenting #coparenting #blendedfamily #exwife #bonusmom @momsoftampa2 @momsoftampa @momsoftampa ♬ Dougie x Breakfast x Chosen – Kuya Magik

While their relationship isn’t necessarily realistic for everyone, it’s certainly possible if you want it to be. And the benefits might far outweigh the initial discomfort, particularly for children.

But how does someone even begin to make this happen? Fostering healthy relationships isn’t exactly part of the typical curriculum, least of all nontraditional ones. The Australian parenting website Raising Children advises that a functional blended family dynamic, much like any relationship, boils down to two elements: communication and respect. Both of these qualities are evident in Stortz and Paskas’ relationship.

It’s amazing how much stronger we can become simply by coming together. Co-parenting isn’t always easy, but, as the Moms of Tampa would argue, it can be oh so rewarding.

The blended-yet-divided family lifestyle started to take its toll on young Michael. Stortz told Good Morning America that “he didn’t want to express that he was having a good time at each household because he was just worried about upsetting the other house.”
Finally, Stortz decided to reach out to Paskas in the friendliest way possible—by sending gifts. It is one of the five love languages, after all.
Stortz and Paskas began “testing the waters” by sending gifts back and forth. It wasn’t until the pandemic, however, that their relationship would fully blossom. When both of their husbands got COVID-19 at the same time, the women ended up quarantining together. It was then that they discovered their shared love of makeup. Paskas, who had created her own beauty channel on TikTok, invited Megan to create videos together. Because, as we know, nothing says “friendship” quite like a TikTok duet.
See on Instagram
Paskas’ followers took notice. And when she revealed that her TikTok buddy was her husband’s ex-wife, people were eager to learn more. Inspired, Paskas and Stortz put the Moms of Tampa on social media and it quickly went viral. They even created a podcast, “From Blended to Besties,” available on Spotify, where they discuss their life together as co-parents.
If I had to guess, I’d say it was the genuine love and respect these women have for one another that helped make their channel so contagious. Just take a look at this beautiful “open letter to my son’s other mom” that Stortz posted to Instagram on Mother’s Day. It’s the sweetest.
See on Instagram
Stortz often gives Paskas the nickname “bonus mom” rather than stepmom.
The Moms of Tampa give audiences much more than co-parenting advice and wholesome content. Above all, they offer a refreshing take on what life can look like as a healthy blended family.
While their relationship isn’t necessarily realistic for everyone, it’s certainly possible if you want it to be. And the benefits might far outweigh the initial discomfort, particularly for children.
But how does someone even begin to make this happen? Fostering healthy relationships isn’t exactly part of the typical curriculum, least of all nontraditional ones. The Australian parenting website Raising Children advises that a functional blended family dynamic, much like any relationship, boils down to two elements: communication and respect. Both of these qualities are evident in Stortz and Paskas’ relationship.
See on Instagram
It’s amazing how much stronger we can become simply by coming together. Co-parenting isn’t always easy, but, as the Moms of Tampa would argue, it can be oh so rewarding.
If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.
There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.
But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.
A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

Given today’s feeling of malaise, there are a lot of people who miss the 1990s or, as some call it, “the best decade ever.” Why? The 1990s was economically prosperous, crime was on its way down after the violent ’70s and ’80s, and pop culture was soaring with indie films, grunge rock and hip-hop all in their golden eras.
The rest of the world was feeling hopeful as globalization brought prosperity and Communism fell in Europe and Asia.
The mood in America would swiftly change at the turn of the century when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 and the 2001 9/11 attacks would lead to the never-ending “war on terror.”
A Reddit user by the name purplekat20 was clearly feeling some ’90s nostalgia on May 16 when they asked the online forum to share “What ’90s trend would you bring back?” A lot of people noted that it was a lot cheaper to get by in the ’90s, especially considering gas and rent prices. Others missed living in the real world instead of having one foot in reality and the other online.
Here are 17 things people would love to bring back from the 1990s.
“Inflatable furniture and transparent electronics.” — Dabbles-In-Irony
“Hope.” — DeadOnBalllsaccurate
To which HowardMoo responded: “I hate this despair thing that’s all the rage these days. I miss optimism.”
“The ’90s web was the best web. People actually made their own home pages. Now it’s all social media.” — IBeTrippin

“Affordable housing.” — Amiramaha
“Ninety nine cent per gallon gas.” — Maxwyfe
“The ‘mean people suck’ statement everywhere. People seemed generally a lot happier and kinder back then. It was a nice reminder to be kind.” — simplyintentional
via Reddit
“Being detached. Not being attached to an electronic gadget every minute of every day.” — SuperArppis
“Calling fake-ass people ‘poser.’ The state of social media and ‘reality’ tv demands that this word be taken out of retirement.” — rumpusbutnotwild
“Grunge music.” — ofsquire

“I want movies to be the same caliber as ’90s.” — waqasnaseem07
Cremmitquada nailed it on the head with their response, “Everything has been redone. It’s all recycled ideas now.”
“Pants that didn’t have to be super-tight to be in style.” — chad-beer-316
“People really expressing themselves. Very few people take any risks with style anymore, or they do something ‘different’ that’s just enough to still conform. In the ’80s and ’90s there were people doing crazy things with hair and piercing and just didn’t give a fuck. I don’t think I’ll ever see that come back.” — FewWill

“Great animated TV. Spongebob started in the 90s (99 but it counts), Hey Arnold, X-Men, Batman, Justice League, Dexter’s Lab, Powerpuff Girls, Boomerang cartoons… the list goes on.” — Phreedom Phighter
“Fast food restaurant interiors.” — Glum-Leg-1886
“Hypercolor shirts and neon puff paint designs on t-shirts. But here in a few months, that’ll be changed to abortion and voting rights, probably.” — TheDoctorisen
“News that was news instead of rage bait.” — nmj95123
“We had a stable country with a vigorous economy. In fact, we drew a budget surplus some of those years.” — jeremyxt

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.
Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they’re also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.
“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”
Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.
“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.
Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.
That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.
Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”
It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.
“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:
“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”
If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”
Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.
“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.
Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.
Cormac Thompson offers a catharsis for our collective grief.
Cormac Thompson sings “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”
If you’ve never seen “Les Miserables,” you may not know that the musical includes one of the saddest songs ever written. “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” which is sung by a young man (Marius) after his friends had been killed in a battle in the French Revolution, is a heart-wrencher both with and without the context of the story.
In the show, Marius sings the song as he sits alone in the cafe where he and his friends had gathered to sing and plan and gather support for their cause. He sings to the ghosts of his friends, lamenting that he lives while they are gone and questioning what their sacrifice was for. It’s a haunting moment of despair and grief that even the hardest of hearts can’t help but feel.
We’ve experienced no shortage of despair and grief in the past two years, as the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed a million lives in the U.S. alone and millions more around the globe. Add in the social and political upheaval of recent years, the continuing dire effects of climate change and scenes and stories of war, and there’s a clear, collective need for a catharsis of some kind.
That’s where Cormac Thompson comes in. The 13-year-old from England recorded “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” as a charity single to raise money for Acting for Others, and it’s giving people a release for some pent-up emotions.
Thompson gained internet fame when he was 11, after a video of him singing “Danny Boy” for his Irish grandparents during pandemic lockdowns went viral. People loved the angelic nature of his voice, and the video led to Thompson getting a record deal.
His rendition of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was shared by The Music Man Facebook page on May 13 and has been viewed more than 2.6 million times. The video alternates between Thompson singing in the studio and clips of empty streets and scenes with healthcare workers, drawing the connection between the loss spoken of in the song lyrics and the loss of humanity during the pandemic.
Watch and listen:
Thompson’s pitch-perfect performance has received thousands of comments from people thanking him for the song and describing how moving it was.
“Visions of hospitals, ventilators and so many gone,” wrote one commenter. “Visions of so many buildings destroyed, homes, schools, factories, bodies in the streets, so many gone. Covid. Ukraine. Hauntingly beautiful performance bringing chills and tears, so many tears.”
“I’m in tears!” wrote another. “Although written for Les Miserables, this song and the words is so relevant today with all that’s going on in the world. Wonderful performance!! Bless.”
“He is AMAZING!” wrote another. “Having worked on Les Miserables for 17 years I thought I was immune to it but this is extremely emotional!”
“Amazing talent Cormac! You brought tears to my eyes,” shared another. “The echoes of your beautiful voice will linger in people’s minds as they reminisce the loss of their loved ones. Wishing you the very best for the years ahead.”
Music can be a powerful way to process emotions, and we’ve been living through a time of heightened emotion. Perhaps we could all use this kind of release for our collective pain and grief and sadness. Thank you, Cormac Thompson, for the gift.
Not everyone breastfed before formula was invented.
Prior to baby formula, breastfeeding was the norm, but that doesn’t mean it always worked.
As if the past handful of years weren’t challenging enough, the U.S. is currently dealing with a baby formula crisis.
Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.
Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, “Why don’t you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?”
That might seem logical, unless you understand how breastfeeding works and know a bit about infant mortality throughout human history.
Rutgers University historian Carla Cevasco, Ph.D. shared some of the history of infant feeding in a viral Twitter thread to set the record straight. (Note: Cevasco provided sources for her facts, which can be viewed at the end of her thread on Twitter.)
“You may be hearing the argument that before the rise of modern commercial infant formula, babies all ate breastmilk and everything was great,” she wrote. “As a historian of infant feeding, let me tell you why that’s not true.”
Cevasco explained that, throughout history, people have had to feed infants food other than breastmilk for a variety of reasons.
“Sometimes the birthing parent was unable to breastfeed,” she wrote, “Because: death in childbirth, or physical/mental health concerns, or need to return to work outside the home right after childbirth, OR their partner or enslaver forced them not to breastfeed so that they could return to fertility ASAP after giving birth.
“Sometimes baby was unable to breastfeed. Because: poor latch, prematurity, cleft palate, other health or disability reasons, etc.
“Sometimes baby was being cared for by carers other than birthing parent, including adoptive parents.”

Cevasco went on to explain what babies ate instead of a parent’s breast milk in those situations.
“Sometimes someone else would breastfeed the child,” she wrote. “This might have been a relative or neighbor doing it for free. Or it might have been a paid or unpaid servant or enslaved person doing it at the expense of their own nursing infant, who might starve to death as a result.”
She also explained that some babies thrived on alternative diets, which are not recommended today due to concerns about safety and nutrition.
“Wabanaki women in the 18th century sometimes fed infants a mixture of boiled walnuts, cornmeal, and water; an English colonist, Elizabeth Hanson, reported that her baby thrived on this diet,” she wrote. “In early modern Europe, babies often ate pap or panada, mixtures of animal milk or water, bread crumbs or flour. Sometimes these were boiled, sometimes they weren’t.”
However, she explained, those milk substitutes weren’t always safe or nutritionally complete.
“So before the advent of modern commercial formula (in the 1950s), a lot of babies died of illness or starvation because they couldn’t breastfeed and the alternative foods were not safe or adequate,” she wrote. “Let me repeat that: in the absence of modern formula, A LOT OF BABIES DIED OF ILLNESS OR STARVATION DUE TO LACK OF SAFE OR ADEQUATE FOOD.”
As Cevasco illustrates, the idea that the pre-formula days were a bastion of infant health due to widespread breastfeeding is simply incorrect. Cevasco explained that better supports such as paid parental leave, free lactation consultation and education, better access to places to pump and so on, would go a long way toward increasing breastfeeding rates. She also pointed out that the greed of the corporate formula industry created the formula shortage crisis.
“But! Let’s not demonize formula because of an imagined past in which everyone breastfed,” she wrote. “In the ACTUAL past, babies fucking starved and died of disease. Babies who would have survived today, because they would have had access to safe, nutritionally complete formula. Access that is now, horrifyingly and unjustly, under threat for many babies and their caregivers.”
Cevasco pointed out that there are multiple safe and nutritionally complete ways to feed a baby, and making sure babies don’t go hungry should be our main goal.
So many misinformed comments could be avoided with a basic understanding of what infant feeding looked like in the past, as well as a basic understanding of how breastfeeding works both physically and logistically. Let’s spend more time informing ourselves and sharing facts from experts rather than continuing to perpetuate unhelpful and harmful myths about both breastfeeding and formula feeding.

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