TWO Florida women spend their “girls’ nights” the way any other moms would: sipping cocktails, remembering fun vacations they’ve taken together, and sharing what their kids are up to.
The difference for these two is that they’re not just best friends – they’re co-parenting together in a blended family that breaks every stereotype about moms and stepmom.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, Megan Stortz, 31, said she had been co-parenting with her ex-husband for a few years when he started dating someone new.
Though Stortz was struggling to communicate with her ex, his new partner Tiffany Paskas, 27, quickly established herself as a positive role model for Stortz’s son Michael.
“My stepmom said, ‘Why don’t you just reach out to Tiffany?’” Stortz recalled. “I didn’t even know that was an option.”
Stortz sent the new “bonus mom” a bottle of champagne. Paskas laughed as she remembered the reaction the sweet gift sparked.
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“At work, they said ‘don’t you drink that!’” Paskas recalled. “It was very nerve-racking.”
“We both are products of divorce and we both grew up having stepparents,” Paskas added. “We realized we could do something different and how easy it was to talk to each other.”
SHARING THEIR STORY ONLINE
Over time, the blended family grew closer. Paskas married Stortz’s ex-husband, and when lockdowns came in 2020, the moms only saw the members of their two households.
Slowly, Paskas became not just a stepmom to eleven-year-old Michael, but also a “bonus mom” to five-year-old Bryce, Stortz’s son with her new husband.
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The moms began posting online about their unique blended family as their bond grew. Across Instagram and two individual TikTok accounts, the pair have hundreds of thousands of followers.
“Early on, people would see what we’re doing and criticize us,” Paskas said.
On many videos, people would criticize Paskas for being involved – whether that meant weighing in on decision-making or spending time at home with Stortz and the boys.
“A lot of people would say ‘stepparents shouldn’t be doing that,’” she recalled. But the duo persevered: “We’re trying to show everyone we’re all the parents, so we’re all a team.”
Stortz said that while the moms “grew thick skin” following social media blowback, they also learned important boundaries for sharing their stories on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
“People were comparing us constantly,” Stortz said. “In the beginning it really took a hit on our self-esteem – people were making fun of the way our kids looked, saying horrible things about us, even our husbands would get dragged.”
“Now we know if the video’s going viral, don’t read the comments,” she added.
Stortz said that the most uncomfortable reactions early on were from friends and extended family who were suspicious when Paskas entered the picture.
“Some were afraid [Paskas] would be using me,” she said. “My husband’s family was a little apprehensive, but he didn’t grow up in a household with divorce.
“I didn’t want to go in with that mentality, because then it wouldn’t be genuine.”
Now, the moms’ broader social circle is well aware of their blended family unit and very supportive – they even shared a recent trip to Disney World with Paskas’s mom.
REACHING A BREAKING POINT
More recently, the moms’ parenting prowess was put to the test when Michael broke his leg.
A high-stress situation that could have devolved into chaos was no match for the moms.
“We were all at the hospital,” Stortz said. She and Michael’s father were there when their son began to wake up, then Stortz and her ex switched spots so Michael could see his stepparents.
“Megan’s really good at putting the kids before her,” Paskas said. “She always remembers that there are two other parents, and she shares her experience as a mother with me.”
Stortz is similarly appreciative of the ways Paskas opens her home. The families have joint custody, but each set of parents rarely goes more than 48 hours without seeing both boys.
“I spent the night here Monday night,” Stortz said. “If we didn’t have a good co-parenting relationship, I would go a week without seeing my son, after he’d just broken his leg.”
The arrangement also allows Michael and his little brother Bryce to be closer.
“I have half-brothers and stepbrothers, and growing up, if I had seen them more, we’d have a better relationship today,” Stortz revealed. “They’re not going to be part-time brothers like my brothers and I were. They’re never apart for longer than a day or two.”
Critics have said in online comments that they wouldn’t want to “share” their time with the kids, but Paskas added that co-parenting actually gives her more time with the kids – not less.
“If we had been doing this a lot sooner, there were events and birthdays that we wouldn’t have to pick and choose which to attend.”
Outside of their parenting dynamic, Stortz and Paskas are grateful for their friendship, which they say has improved their lives independently of their shared family.
“This is a friendship that’s different from co-parenting,” Stortz said. “Sometimes I need to vent as a mother, but sometimes I just need to vent to a friend.
“When I’m venting about the kids, she knows exactly what I’m talking about,” Paskas said.
The moms said that they share a unique perspective because they share their children, but also because they’re the only moms in their extended circle. “None of my friends have kids, none of her friends have kids.”
THE 'EX' FACTOR
One area of conflict that many online critics question is the relationship dynamic between Stortz and her ex-husband.
The moms revealed that having a “bonus mom” in the picture doesn’t just help keep the kids in line – Paskas doesn’t play favorites between her husband and her best friend.
“My ex-husband and I still go at it sometimes, when he gets on my nerves, but Tiffany is very unbiased,” Stortz said. “If she feels my idea is in the kids’ best interest, she’ll tell him, and she’ll be in my corner.
“But if she says ‘you’re tripping right now,’ I know I need to listen,” Stortz added.
Paskas was happy to hear that her voice of reason is a valuable asset.
“I am definitely the one to help both of us stick to our guns,” she agreed. “The boys will try to sweet-talk their mama, and I say ‘Don’t you do it!’”
Paskas also carries Bryce whenever he asks – which is often, Stortz said. She teased Paskas about carrying the five-year-old during their recent Disney trip.
“In my defense,” Paskas argued, “he was slowing us down.”
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
Their loving bond is evident in their gentle teasing, and Paskas credits Stortz with making it possible.
“You used to say all the time, it’s a spectrum,” Paskas remembered. “You can be respectful and kind, but you don't have to be best friends, just stay on the spectrum of healthy communication.”
Stortz agreed, and advised any parents trying to replicate their success to have patience.
“Don’t get discouraged if she doesn’t want to do the three-day Disney trip right away,” Stortz said. “Ask how you can make the relationship better. Take some time and let it happen naturally.”
A better co-parenting relationship is possible for any set of parents and step-parents, Stortz said.
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And a close friendship like the one Stortz and Paskas share is possible, too – though the women jokingly warned that it’ll be pretty tough to find closer best friends than the two of them.
“I have the best ex-wife,” Paskas bragged.
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