Nicole Curtis is not about to back down as she defends her family online — and in court.
The Rehab Addict star is in the midst of a years-long custody dispute over her 3-year-old son and an ongoing battle with critics on social media about breastfeeding and mothers’ rights. But through it all, she tells PEOPLE, she’s learned to “see the good in the bad” and find strength in other moms.
“As much as I would say that it has really not been fun having everything drawn out in public, I think it’s also changed the course of my life,” says Curtis, whose show returns for its eighth season on Wednesday, July 11. “Because God isn’t putting bad in your life without [a reason]. Sometimes, the storm is there to clear the path for the sunshine.”
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Though she’s faced off with mommy shamers online and in person, she maintains her trials have been worth it for the awareness they bring to issues like children’s and mothers’ rights.
“I absolutely did not set out to do any of this,” Curtis says of her role as an outspoken advocate — and often, lightening rod — online. “I’ve always been someone who wanted my private life private. But if it’s gonna be out there, let’s make it for a purpose. The more people talk about things, the more change we have.”
She’s also found a community of supporters in fellow moms who share custody of their children.
“You realize there are people out there going through your same struggles,” she says. “So many write me or stop me on the street and are like, ‘I’m going through the same thing. Thank you for speaking out.’”
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The HGTV and DIY Network personality has been vocal on Instagram and Twitter about the importance of spending time with her son Harper, of whom she has joint custody with her ex, Shane Maguire, and her decisions about how he’s raised, which include continuing to breastfeed him while she practices baby-led weaning.
Last week, Maguire filed for sole custody of Harper, according to legal documents obtained by The Blast, alleging Curtis is “not a fit” mother because, he says, she has intentionally inhibited his court-ordered time with their child.
He’d previously claimed that Curtis used breastfeeding as a means to keep Harper from his father, saying she continued to exclusively breastfeed longer than necessary so the mother and son could not be apart. He later accused her of moving to California from Michigan to make transfers between the parents more difficult.
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As the legal battle escalates, Curtis continues to share the details of her personal drama on social media. “Some people say you just need to shut your mouth and ignore [online trolls], and I always say this: ‘If I ignore them, what happens when they go to bully a mom that’s struggling and doesn’t have the support that I have?’”
“I always wanted to have a positive effect. And some of us out here are just the guinea pigs for that. That’s just the path we have and we have to roll with it,” she says, adding, “That’s really the take I’ve had to put to it. And it’s working. I have more peace now than I did.”
Season 8 of Rehab Addict premieres on DIY Network Wednesday, July 11, at 8 p.m.
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