Being a “non-traditional family” in 2019 should be easy.
I mean, in comparison to the 1950s. Or the 1900s. It has to be easier, right?
Our stories are told more often. We’re represented in the media more frequently. And as (some) governments push policies that favour equality, people seem to become more and more comfortable with the idea that not everyone is the exact same. Well, at least that’s the rumour.
(Almost) every country around the world has taken a step toward equality. And even though that may be true, there are still days where I find myself asking, “Wouldn’t it have just been easier to marry a woman, have two kids, get a golden retriever and buy myself a minivan?”
This new series, Modern Family Muses, is a direct response to that very question.
Families come in all shapes and size, but the world sometimes forgets that. I want to highlight some of the more modern, untraditional ones for you. And I’m not just talking about same-sex couples like my own. I’m talking about interracial couples, single parents, stay-at-home dads, older parents, parents of multiples, adoptive parents, foster parents, and adults who chose not to have children at all.
I want you to have the opportunity to feel as inspired by these people and their powerful perspectives as I have been by knowing them (or following them on Instagram).
Up first: Jeff Mindell.
Jeff Mindell is a freelance lifestyle-photographer and Instagram star. He grew up in New Jersey but lives in Los Angeles with his wife, creator of the wildly popular blog Studio DIY, and their son Arlo. He’s a dog-loving, Dunkin’-drinking, travel-obsessed singer who shares bright, emotive imagery that the internet devours.
I chose Jeff to kick off this series for a few different reasons: He loves coffee, he’s a brilliant photographer, he and his wife used adoption to make their family dreams become a reality, and he just so happens to be the most expressive, loving dad I’ve seen on the internet.
He inspires me daily. And because this entire series is about modern families paving the way for others, I couldn’t imagine kicking this off with anyone else.
We spoke back in May. Here’s our conversation:
Sean: Hello, Jeff! How are ya? You just recently went on a vacation, right?
Jeff: We did! We were in Turks & Caicos with friends for a whole week. It was glorious and a much-needed break.
Sean: Nice. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t follow along on Instagram Stories the entire trip. HA! Before diving in and getting all fancy interviewer on you, can you do me a favour and catch my readers up. Lay it on them: who are you and what you do for a living?
Jeff: I’m Jeff Mindell, a photographer and content creator based in LA. I work with everyone from global brands to small businesses to create content in the form of both traditional photography (where I’m behind the camera), as well as influencer marketing (where I might get hired for my likeness to be in front of the camera).
Sean: And you’re a father, right? What is the makeup of your beautiful family? (Names, genders and ages of kids, if you’re comfortable sharing!)
Jeff: Sure am! Greatest accomplishment of my life thus far. I have a 2-year-old son named Arlo.
Sean: Did you always want to be a father? Was it something you even thought about growing up or when you met your wife?
Jeff: Yep. It was, in fact, the very thing that Kelly and I first bonded over: the fact that we both wanted to be parents (and knew it at such a young age). I’ve always loved kids so having one of my own now is just so cool.
Sean: How/when did you and Kelly meet?
Jeff: High school if you can believe it! We knew of each other, but didn’t meet until we had mutual friends and had a big group bowling night one evening. I was tasked with driving a few of us. The rest is history!
Sean: I imagine every adoptive parent has a different path to getting there. Are you comfortable sharing why you and Kelly chose adoption?
Jeff: Totally. We were always open to it, should we ever be presented with issues of trying to conceive biologically and with my wife’s extensive medical history, we knew we were likely going to be facing an uphill battle. I don’t think that adoption was really ever off the table, but even as we were going back and forth about what to do, it definitely felt right for us in our hearts. You can read allllll about our story here as well. We did a big adoption Q&A series on the blog too where we answered a bunch of the most common questions we received from people!
Sean: How often are you reminded that this isn’t, well, normal? I hate that word, but we’re talking about “Modern Families” here. I’m interested in understanding how often (if at all) you’re reminded that Arlo is adopted.
Jeff: All the time. Every day. And we live in such a bubble here in LA where people don’t even think twice about the fact that our son doesn’t look like us because there is already so much diversity here. The minute that we leave this culturally-rich city we call home is really when people take notice. Two weeks ago, we were on a flight and one of the attendants must have commented no less than three times how tan Arlo was (in comparison to us). It just validates even more for me how important it is to share our story as it can open up that many more eyes to what family can be.
Sean: Have you ever been confronted by someone who disagrees with your choice to adopt? I mean, you share your life on the internet. I imagine *some* people don’t understand or agree with adoption, especially from another country.
Jeff: It has happened a few times, yeah. At the end of the day, we aren’t here to please everyone. I’m just living my life and people can choose to follow along or not. Our family’s happiness is fortunately not dependent on the validation from others.
Sean: Is being a father to Arlo harder under The Trump Administration? Do you have thoughts or concerns now that you might not have had if Hillary had won the presidency?
Jeff: If nothing else, it’s taught me so much more about my white privilege. Regardless of who’s sitting in the White House, it’s my job as a father in an interracial family (and frankly, should be all of our jobs, regardless of that fact) to be an ally and an advocate and use my privilege to fight for his rights.
Sean: You and Kelly seem so dedicated to bringing Arlo’s culture into your home. Was this always an important part of going down the adoption path for you, or did it just happen naturally?
Jeff: We put a lot of thought into it, making sure we felt we had the support system in place from friends, neighbors and our community to help us ensure Mexican culture was a part of Arlo’s life. Ensuring he feels connected to that culture is at the forefront of every decision we make as a family, and we just feel lucky we get to learn about such a rich history and language as a result.
Sean: Are you considering (pretends he doesn’t know the answer) expanding your family? Will you do adoption this time around, too?
Jeff: Oh yeah we want a couple more kids for sure!!
Sean: This is the point of the “interview” where I admit something silly to you: you are one of my parenting role models. The expressive, emotive, energetic approach you take to parenting just feels so modern and fresh. Where does this energy and approach come from?
Jeff: First off, wow thank you. That’s seriously very nice to hear! And I am honestly just a giant kid. I don’t know who gave me permission to be an adult, but I’m just having the time of my life being a dad! We definitely have rules and consequences in our house, but what is life if you don’t make room to dance through the grocery store or make your kid laugh until he can’t breathe?
Sean: Do you think the definition of masculinity, especially when it comes to being a father, is changing for the better?
Jeff: Let’s put it this way: it’s not anything I would ever pay attention to. I want Arlo to grow up being himself and no one else. I would never want to impose an idea of what myself, Kelly, society, or anyone else thinks he should act like, dress like, or carry himself as a human being. As long as he is kind and respectful of others, he can pretty much do no wrong in my eyes.
Sean: What advice would you give to my readers who are thinking of adopting?
Jeff: Expect the unexpected and be prepared to feel a love that you didn’t know was comprehensible.
Sean: Now let’s get to the fun stuff. What’s been your one favourite moment/memory since bringing Arlo home?
Jeff: Ooh this is a tough one! Probably the first time we took him to Disneyland and he “got” it. We’d been taking him since he was 3 months old, but the first time we got out of the car in the parking lot, he realized where we were and FREAKED OUT. I might have cried a few times that day haha!
Sean: What’s your least favourite experience to-date?
Jeff: When he started teething. That was rough. Luckily it only lasts a couple of days!
Sean: Do you have rules for what you’re willing to share or not share of Arlo on social media?
Jeff: Yep, we set some ground rules for ourselves up front so Kelly and I are on the same page and those rules are ever changing as he gets older and becomes less of a baby and more of a person.
Sean: Now time for some rapid fire. Just answer in one word: What will you do if Arlo (and your future kids) don’t like Dunkin’ coffee?
Sean: Third favourite colour.
Sean: Second favourite food.
Sean: Favourite Instagram account.
Sean: Least favourite television show.
Jeff: FOX News
Sean: Good answer! Go-to karaoke jam…
Jeff: All My Life – K-Ci & JoJo
Sean: Who is your Modern Family Muse?
Jeff: John Legend
Sean: Okay, that’s it. You survived. You’re freaking amazing, Jeff. Thank you for doing this. Thank you for sharing (part of) your life on Instagram. Thank you for being a role model to Dads like me.
Jeff: Thank you for having me!
Sean: Where can my readers find you? Anything special you want to plug?
Jeff: @JeffMindell or just search my name on Google to check out my work or past interviews!
That’s Jeff! He’s a pretty impressive (and inspiring) dude, am I right?
Tune in next month for the second edition of Modern Family Muses, where we’ll get to know another family paving the way and shining a light on beautiful, diverse families from around the globe.
Until next time, stay crafty.