Can you speak on your journey on becoming a foster mother? What inspired you to begin parenting while in graduate school, a time when most people want to lessen their responsibilities?
I met a couple of friends who were sisters when I was about 13 or 14-years-old. Their parents were foster parents and I used to love going to their house and spending the night. I always knew I would adopt children even from a very young age. When other little girls were playing pregnancy, I was playing wagon trail. Along the “trail,” I would find orphaned children and adopt them as my own. So, when I met The Marchu Family and saw what it was like to foster from a very personal perspective, I knew I would do this when I grew up.
I began fostering in graduate school because I felt called. It sounds a little crazy, but it's the truth. I was in school full-time which meant I was home and could essentially create my own schedule. This made having little ones in the house much easier than if I had been working full time out of the home.
We hear the term “Proud Single Mother” often but what does that mean to you?
I prefer the term single parent because I am both mom and dad to my kids. I am proud to be a single parent because I truly believe I am showing my children (through example) that if you want something bad enough, you have the ability to make it happen. I wanted to be a mom and I chose to make that happen rather than wait around for a partner.
Living in a judgmental world, what led to your decision to showcase your unique family on social media? Was there any fear or hesitation?
I was encouraged by a friend who kept telling me the world needed to see a diverse family like ours. I honestly didn’t think anyone would be interested in a family of misfits, as I lovingly refer to us because we represent so many various marginalized communities. I’m still shocked people follow us. I’m a strong personality so I don’t let fear rule my life much. I just went for it and it’s been an incredible and humbling experience.
Your fans absolutely adore your family! 116 million likes and 2.4 million followers on TikTok, over 100,000 followers on Instagram, as well as over 2.6 million views and over 50,000 subscribers on YouTube. How has your social media presence changed your family’s lives?
Other than ensuring I create content daily, being on social media hasn’t changed our lives much. It has provided me with the opportunity to work from home so I can be here for my children. I am beyond grateful for that. Our content is mostly organic, meaning I film our lives and us just having fun and then edit it together to create a story about something that we experienced. My kids don’t have to do anything but be themselves, and I love being able to look back as I create each piece of content and re-live the happiness of that moment.
We know is it important for your family to utilize their platform to advocate for acceptance for all. In what ways do you reach this goal?
By being open and honest about who we are, how we live, and what it’s like to be us. I have to maintain some boundaries so I don’t show everything, but I do my best to show a very real side of us because we are a very real family with unique challenges and struggles.
Eli has Cerebral Palsy while Evan and Ella are on the Autism Spectrum. How do you wake up each day prepared to face the challenges of being a single mother to children with unique abilities?
Honestly, I take each day as it comes and roll with the punches. Raising three disabled children as a single parent is probably the hardest thing I will ever do in my life. I cry a lot. I struggle with the fact that I can’t fix everything for my children. Watching them suffer or struggle breaks my heart and I often feel like I’m failing every single day. But each day I decide to fail up. I learn from every experience and try to do better for my kids. My goal is to raise them to grow and go. I want my kids to experience life to the fullest. I hope they will travel, meet new people, try new foods, fall in love…I want them to make each day count.
The self-described “family of misfits'', I love this! Tell us how your family has set themselves apart from other families.
Just by being ourselves! There’s nothing we do per se, we are who we are, and I have not seen any other families out there like ours. Especially single-parent families.
We see a theme here with your names! Can you describe your family using the letter ‘E’? (Ex. I am Ravishing Rasheena)
Such a great question! The answer is less impressive though. It started with Eli. I knew I wanted a biblical name and to narrow it down, I figured it would be easier to just go with an “E” name because my name begins with an “E.” Elijah totally fits him so that’s how he got his name. It kind of snowballed from there. I would overthink naming my kids and just stuck with “E” names to reduce the anxiety I was feeling. Evan’s biological surname was Evans, so I just took the “S” off the end, and voila! Ella was already a part of her original first name so I just took the beginning off and she was Ella. Super lazy, but much less stressful for me. But I truly love that we all share the same initials. I feel like it bonds us together even more.
How has your education, in particular your master’s Degrees in Professional Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy helped your family through tough situations?
I don’t think it has--I’m sure this is not the answer you expected! I don’t think any education can prepare someone to raise three disabled children as a single parent. I take each day as it comes, ask for help when I need it, and use humor as my coping mechanism. I try to find the small moments in each day that bring me joy and hold on to them for dear life.
What is your advice to families considering adoption?
Adoption is not the beautiful journey that’s portrayed on TV and social media. It begins with loss and will test your emotional and mental health more than you will ever expect. But from painful beginnings, truly wonderful things start to grow. I have never regretted my decision to adopt because it’s what I always felt called to do. I am 41 now and have also never felt my “biological clock” ticking. Adoption was not just an option for me…it was the only option. My children have been growing in my heart since I was a little girl.
How have these lovely children changed your life?
In every way imaginable. I don’t think I can really put this answer into words. It’s more like feelings. People ask me all the time why I don’t talk about adoption more and the truth is I forget my kids are adopted. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. My kids feel like an extension of my own body. I never knew I could feel so connected to another human in that way.
The first thing that comes to your mind when I say: Family, Love, Dance
MUSIC! We all love music, and it is always playing whether it’s in our home or the car. Evan just began learning how to sing and will sing his favorite songs over and over again. Then he asks me if he’s a good singer to which I always reply, “Better than the best!” He loves that.
Six-year-old Evan, we hear that you love long dresses and colorful hair! Tell us your favorite color combo? How do you feel when you are in a dress?
Evan loves red and black, but pink and purple run a close second. Evan feels “pretty” when he’s in a dress.
If you could have a custom-made dress by anyone, who would it be and why? Who is your celebrity fashion inspiration?
I’m not a fancy person by nature so Evan got that all on his own. I only know of Christian Siriano and think his creations are stunning. Evan has stated the people whose dresses he loves the most are Lady Gaga, JoJo Siwa, and Lil Nas X. He dreams of rainbow dresses.
To all the McLeod children:
What is your favorite thing to do with your mom?
Evan: “Going shopping.” Eeka: Which means spending my money!
What brings you joy?
Do you have any nicknames? What are they?
Is there a moment or achievement you are most proud of? Tell us about it.
“I go to school."
Are there any characters/people you admire you have not met that you would like to meet this year?
“Lil Nas X.” Eeka: He is obsessed with Lil Nas X, Taylor Swift (because he loves the song Bad Blood), and Lady Gaga.