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 toddler 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 36, my husband is 55. My mother is 58. I’m closer in age to my oldest stepson 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 often and spend vacations and holidays there.
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 parenting, surrogacy, raising your family member or non-family member. One out of every 11 children in America lives with a non-biological parent.*
One in 11.
And that statistic is low. It under-represents the true number of stepchildren, due to the method of data collecting.** Not to mention, it doesn’t include the additional 5.7 million children being raised by their 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 the 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, 2.3 million children under the age of 18 live with a stepparent. 1.5 million children are adopted. 1.7 million are being raised by non-parent family members, and 1.2 million live with a foster parent or non-family member.
**The census undercounts the number of stepfamilies in instances where the designated householder is the biological parent of the children in the home. Biological and step-parentage is only ascertained for the householder, not the householder’s spouse. For example, my husband is our designated householder. Therefore, our children are classified as biological children, not stepchildren, as their connection to me is unaccounted for in the method of data collecting.