Jessica Butler is the creator of Raise Magazine, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s In Plain Sight and TNT’s The Last Ship. She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series Instant Mom, based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and five-year-old son, Levon.
A lifestyle site for modern mothers, featuring stories of stepparenting, adoption, foster care, surrogacy, and non-traditional families.
Your family is untraditional, to say the least.
Yes. I’m 37, my husband is 56. My mother is 59. I’m closer in age to my stepsons than I am to my husband. And my extended family includes my youngest son’s birth grandparents.
Before creating Raise, you sold a TV show based on your experiences as a stepmother.
My stepsons were nine and 13 when I married my husband, and six months later my 19-year-old sister moved in with us, so in the show we have three children. And we’re black.
The pilot was my first effort to create a public forum for stepmothers. There is no What To Expect When You’re Expecting Stepchildren. Celebrating stepmothers is seen by some as disrespectful to a child’s primary mother, but I disagree. My love for my stepsons is in addition to — not in place of or in competition with — their mother’s love.
In 2014, you adopted your son, Levon, and recently bought a second home in Arizona, near his birth grandparents.
We’ll buy a house next to anyone who promises free babysitting.
Los Angeles is our primary home, but we visit Tucson as often as possible, usually over holidays and long weekends. We love the desert.
You’re an advocate of open adoption, meaning you support adoptive families having contact with birth families.
Yes. However, some birth families don’t wish to have contact, and that should be honored. But I believe adoptive parents should provide children with as much connection to their birth families as possible.
Adoption should never be kept secret from a child. It should be a familiar word and concept, explained in age appropriate terms.
How is Raise different from other mommy blogs?
Motherhood is evolving, but the dialogue is not. Mainstream media is still created with traditional, biological mothers in mind. Raise is devoted to non-traditional motherhood; stories of stepparenting, adoption, foster care, surrogacy, raising relatives, and even non-family members. One out of every 10 children in America lives with a non-biological parent.*
One in 10.
And that statistic is low. The census does not account for children being raised by foster parents, non-family members, or relatives other than grandparents.
The name Raise obviously refers to raising children, but it’s also a call to raise the conversation. My goal is to create the resource and community I wish I had when I was new to stepparenting and adoption.
*According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, 4.6 million children under the age of 18 live with a stepparent. 1.5 million children are adopted, and 3.6 million are being raised by a grandparent.