Megan Stortz's loving connection with her ex-husband's new wife, Tiffany Paskas, defies stereotypes, and then some.
Together, the unlikely duo make popular TikTok videos to inspire other moms and stepmoms to find common ground and co-parent together.
"We're showing other people that it doesn't have to be toxic. It doesn't have to be fighting," says Tiffany, 27, of Riverview, Florida. "Realistically, we don't expect every mom and stepmom to be best friends like we are... It takes time. It took us four years. We weren't instant besties."
It's a tricky dynamic the women witnessed firsthand growing up, as both Megan and Tiffany say their own moms and stepmoms did not get along. That pattern could have continued for Megan and Tiffany, who mostly ignored each other for the first four years that Tiffany was with Megan's ex.
"We didn't speak," explains Megan, 31, of Ruskin, Florida.
Megan says she got divorced about 10 years ago after four years of marriage to her ex-husband, Mike Paskas, 37, with whom she shares equal custody of their 11-year-old son, Michael.
Courtesy Moms of Tampa Tiffany Paskas and Megan Stortz
At first she avoided any contact with Tiffany and made all the childcare arrangements and parenting decisions with her ex.
"I was under the impression that for the rest of my life," Tiffany says, "we were going to be avoiding each other."
Courtesy Moms of Tampa The blended family (L-R): Travis Stortz, Megan Stortz, Michael Paskas, Tiffany Paskas and Mike Paskas
Like many divorced parents, Megan and her ex didn't get along. Megan says it made her sad that her son didn't want to tell her about the fun things he did at his dad's house.
"He felt like he was going to upset me if he was having a good time over there, because he knew that I didn't like this dad," says Megan. "That broke my heart."
Megan knew her son loved Tiffany, and her own stepmother suggested Megan reach out to her. So on Mother's Day 2017, Megan gave Tiffany a bottle of champagne and a card thanking her for being amazing with her son. The gesture became a turning point for Tiffany, who was initially hesitant about becoming a stepmom.
Courtesy Moms of Tampa Tiffany Paskas and Megan Stortz
Before Tiffany met Mike at a Halloween party in 2014, she had heard horror stories about baby-mama drama and witnessed how her own mother and stepmom couldn't be in the same room together.
"That's how I thought my life was going to be. I didn't want that to be my life," Tiffany says. "So when she did reach out to me, it was like a sigh of relief, because I was like, 'Okay, maybe we could do something different from our childhood.'"
The two women started casually texting, sending updates about Michael. Then they exchanged birthday gifts and occasionally talked on the phone.
While Megan found love again with Travis Stortz, 33, whom she married in December 2017, Tiffany married Mike in November 2018. A couple years into their respective new marriages, the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, and soon the ladies found themselves becoming best friends while homeschooling Michael together.
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"We started hanging out a lot to keep each other from going insane being in the house," Megan says. "Our friendship really took off during COVID."
They spent almost every day together so Michael could play with his little brother, 5-year-old Bryce Stortz, Megan's son from her second marriage. When their husbands each got COVID about a week apart, the two women quarantined together away from their husbands at Tiffany's house while Tiffany's husband was in Orlando.
"We genuinely are best friends now," Megan says. "She's just a lot of fun to hang out with."
Tiffany doesn't have biological children yet, so she's grateful that Megan happily shares both her children.
Courtesy Moms of Tampa Megan Stortz and Tiffany Paskas
"I am on so many stepmom groups and see the horrors of stepmoms having to deal with high-conflict bio moms. I always say I'm so grateful, I got the best possible ex-wife," Tiffany says. "She definitely is willing to share her mother journey with me, and I appreciate that."
Sometimes Tiffany takes both kids for the weekend or picks up Megan's younger son from school and babysits while Megan gets a haircut.
"She's a fantastic mother to both kids," Megan says.
During the pandemic, they celebrated all the holidays together, even joint Mother's Day and Father's Day festivities. Their husbands have also become best friends, going camping and kayaking together.
"We have really blended the family," Megan says.
While Megan and her ex still aren't close, their relationship has drastically improved.
"We're not best friends," Megan says of Mike. "But our relationship is a thousand times better today than it has ever been in our entire co-parenting thing. We've learned to communicate a lot better."
In the meantime, Tiffany and Megan have gained a following on social media. It all started in September 2020, when Tiffany invited Megan to join in a video for her makeup channel.
"People were like, 'Who is this new person?' I was like, 'Oh, it's my husband's ex-wife,'" Tiffany remembers. "People were like, 'Stop. I have so many questions.'"
They officially launched @MomsofTampa about a year ago to answer all their followers' questions about how moms and stepmoms can get along and co-parent together.
"[Our social media] has blown up so fast," says Tiffany, who quit her job as a business analyst to become a full-time influencer.
The "Moms of Tampa" now have 380,000 followers on Facebook; a combined 500,000 followers on TikTok (Tiffany's account is @momsoftampa, and Megan's is @momsoftampa2); and 77,000 followers on Instagram.
The pair has inspired other women, including Tiffany's own mother and stepmother, to give friendship a try.
"It makes my heart so happy the impact we've had on hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of families," Megan says.
Megan and Tiffany say they love seeing pictures from blended families who have come together too.
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"We're not just doing something crazy," Tiffany says. "It is normal and possible for people to be kind to one another."
Megan's advice to other moms and stepmoms interested in forging a better relationship is to work slowly and always do what's in the best interest of the family.
"Don't force it, start small," she says. "Put the kids first. There's enough room in kids' hearts for more than one parent, or more than two parents. Just because they love their stepparents doesn't mean they love you any less. They're not trying to replace you. They will always love you, but they can also love their stepparents too."
She adds: "Let your children be loved by as many people as possible."