Tarek El Moussa Reveals How He Went From Being an Absent Father to the "Best Dad Possible"

Tarek El Moussa is a renovation expert, but his relationship with his kids needed a different kind of TLC. The Flipping 101 star told E! News how they rebuilt their bond stronger than ever.

By Natalie Finn Feb 10, 2024 1:00 PMTags
Watch: Tarek El Moussa on Gun Incident & Why Christina Hall Left Him

Tarek El Moussa calls his children his best friends. But the Flipping 101 star is first to admit that there was a point in his life when he was flopping at parenthood.

"I wasn't a great dad. I wasn't even a good dad," he told E! News' Francesca Amiker in an exclusive interview, referring to the fraught years leading up to his shocking split from Christina Hall in 2016. "I was stressed all the time. I was going through cancers and surgeries and hormones and steroids."

Bouts with thyroid and testicular cancer, using opioids after injuring his back and taking testosterone in an attempt to mitigate the effects of his various ailments ravaged his body and mental health. And in the middle of it all, he didn't realize he was tearing down what really mattered. 

Until his wife left him.

"Every single thing that upset me, every single thing that stressed me out, meant nothing," Tarek said. "The pain of losing my family was so much greater."

After Christina decided enough was enough, he realized he'd never really been on his own before with their daughter Taylor, who was only 5 at the time. "Next thing you know," he said, "I'm doing bath time and I'm combing her hair, and I'll never forget just crying. Because it was a defining moment of realizing what I had been missing and what's important in life."

Tarek El Moussa and Heather Rae Young: Romance Rewind
Tarek El Moussa/Instagram

Since then, Tarek added, "I'm proud to say I've been the absolute best dad possible."

He got emotional just thinking about how close he is with Taylor, now 13, and her brother Brayden, 8, compared to the years when "we didn't even know each other."

And the author of Flip Your Life: How to Find Opportunity in Distress—in Real Estate, Business and Life wants other struggling parents to know that it's never too late to start a gut renovation.

To the moms and dads who have "these negative feelings and bad relationships with their kids," Tarek said, "I want to tell them you can fix it, you've just got to invest the time."

Because, suffice it to say, the returns are priceless.

Heather Rae and Tarek El Moussa's Cutest Moments With Son Tristan

Taylor is "such a beautiful, stunning young lady," the 42-year-old gushed, noting that the teen had always been his twin but nowadays looks "so much" like her mom. "She's thriving at school. She's a rock-star athlete, plays soccer, volleyball—and she's just such a happy, happy kid."

Brayden, meanwhile, is still Tarek's "mini-me" in a number of ways. "He's ADHD, a little anxious, a little jumpy," the HGTV fixture continued. "And we've been having so much fun focusing on sports with him—jujitsu, soccer and he's obsessed with basketball."

Instagram/Tarek El Moussa

As for Tarek's mini-est me, his 12-month-old son Tristan with wife of two years Heather Rae El Moussa, the toddler isn't tracking his steps yet like his big brother, but he will point to the family dog if you ask him where Bugsy is.

"That was a very cute moment," Tarek said of the positive canine identification. And this time around, Dad's busy (as in getting up at 3 a.m. so he can be done working by 6:30 p.m.) soaking up all the moments.

"I wasn't around very much with Taylor and Brayden," he admitted. "With Tristan, since the day he got home from the hospital we did skin-to-skin every night, he'd lay on my chest for an hour. I put in the work. And now my 1-year-old son, when he sees me, his eyes light up, he smiles, he throws his arms out."

Having missed so much with his older kids, Tarek said, "I will never make the same mistake twice."

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Balancing work and parenting is still a challenge, but the "bit of suffering" he endures—starting with that pre-dawn wakeup call—is beyond worth it.

And, naturally, he wouldn't be able to do any of it without Heather and his ex-wife, who married Josh Hall in April 2022.

Tarek said that he and Christina are "doing amazing," not just as co-parents but as friends—which was not always the case, including when they were still partnered on Flip or Flop as their marriage imploded off-camera.

Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

"We were upset at each other," he explained. "I was upset that she left me. She was upset that I acted the way I acted. We still had to work together. It took a big toll on our family."

But, he observed, "Time heals. And enough time has passed to where all the anger and rage and the negative thoughts, I feel like they're finally gone."

"You can't co-parent if you're angry, if you're holding things against your former spouse," Tarek added. "If you don't forgive, you're going to be stuck and you're never going to move forward. You've got to do it for your kids."

Instagram/Tarek El Moussa

So while Heather is also his best friend and "biggest cheerleader," he's got to hand it to Christina.

If she hadn't walked out, "I wouldn't be sitting here today," Tarek said. "The best thing that happened to me in my life, and the worst thing, was her leaving. Because it forced me to completely rebuild my life, and I started from the inside out."

And Tarek isn't the only one who's done some domestic restructuring. Before you flip the page, here's your guide to his and Christina's sprawling family tree:

Taylor Reese El Moussa, Christina and Tarek's Daughter

Christina and Tarek welcome their first child together on Sept. 22, 2010.

Following their divorce, the pair have continued to co-parent their daughter, who Christina has described as an "old soul who one minute can talk super deep about life and then quickly go back to being a kid."

"Her greatest ability is being able to start a conversation with anyone, anywhere," she said of Taylor. "Fun, smart, athletic, HAPPY, and always keeping us on our toes."

Brayden James El Moussa, Christina and Tarek's Son

Christina and Tarek welcomed their second child together on Aug. 20, 2015.

In addition to their oldest child Taylor, the two have continued to co-parent Brayden after their divorce. In the past, Tarek has described their son as "a ball of energy" and the "sweetest boy with the biggest heart."

"No words can describe how much brighter this boy makes my day," Tarek shared. "I feel blessed every single day to be his and Tay's dad and raising him and seeing him grow up makes me the happiest dad alive."

Ant Anstead, Christina's Second Husband

Almost a year after announcing her split from Tarek, Christina started dating Ant, a TV presenter from England, in October 2017. The two went public with their relationship in January 2018—the same month Christina's divorce from Tarek was finalized—and tied the knot in a winter-themed wedding at their home in Newport Beach, Calif., on Dec. 22, 2018.

Christina and Ant—who is dad to daughter Amelie and son Archie with his first wife Louise Storey—welcomed their first child together, son Hudson, in 2019.

The couple were married for less than two years before announcing their separation in September 2020. Their divorce was finalized nine months later.

Since the split, Ant has moved on with actress Renée Zellweger.

Hudson London Anstead, Christina and Ant's Son

Christina and Ant welcomed their son on Sept. 6, 2019. At the time, the baby boy arrived weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces and measured at 19.5 inches long.

Though they agreed on shared legal and physical custody of Hudson when their divorce was finalized in June 2021, Ant filed for full custody in April 2022, claiming in court documents that his ex spends roughly "9 full days" with their child each month.

In response to the filing, Christina told E! News, "What Ant is doing deeply saddens me. If this was really about Hudson, as he says, this should have been handled privately with a private judge or mediation, as myself and my attorney have suggested. I have had my share of ups and downs but I am a good mom and I love my children with all my heart and I will always protect them."  

Heather Rae Young, Tarek's Second Wife

Tarek met the Selling Sunset star on the Fourth of July in 2019, when they were partying on boats that had docked next to each other at a marina in Newport Beach, Calif. Later that month, the pair were spotted kissing on a yacht and Tarek confirmed to E! News they were dating that August, saying, "I never thought I'd say this word again, but this beautiful young lady, Heather Rae, is my girlfriend, officially."

The couple got engaged in July 2020 and became husband and wife on Oct. 23, 2021, exchanging vows during a romantic outdoor ceremony near Santa Barbara, Calif.

Heather has often referred to herself as the "bonus mom" of Tarek's two older children, Taylor and Brayden. "I already feel like I have two kids," she previously explained to E! News. "I'm raising Tarek's babies, and we have them 50 percent of the time. I am such a good bonus mommy. I adore those kids. I raise them like they're mine."

Josh Hall, Christina's Third Husband

After calling it quits with her second husband Ant, Christina began dating Josh in 2021. The pair went public with their relationship that July, with Christina revealing that they had been together for "a few solid months."

According to the Flip or Flop star, she met Josh, a licensed realtor, that spring at a time in her life when she "wasn't in a state of fear or fight-or-flight" and had "taken time off social, hired a spiritual coach and smoked a Bufo toad" to "reset" her brain. 


Christina and Josh got engaged that September and by April 2022, a source confirmed to E! News that the duo married in a private ceremony.

Tristan Jay El Moussa, Tarek and Heather's Son

Tarek and Heather welcomed their son on Jan. 31, 2023. At the time, the baby boy arrived weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces.

He was named Tristan because "Tarek was supposed to be named Tristan," according to Heather, "and his parents ended up naming him Tarek."

His middle name is a nod to Heather's dad.

Stacie Adams and Jessica Hall, Christina's Sister-in-Laws

Though Josh's relationship with Christina pushed him into the spotlight, his sisters found fame way back in the aughts.

Stacie—or "Stacie the Bartender" as some fans remember her—was famously the target of Spencer Pratt's flirtations on The Hills. She has also appeared on Vanderpump Rules, most notably on season three as one of the bridesmaids in Scheana Shay's bridesmaids.

As for Jessica, the former Playboy model also made appearances on The Hills, as well as The Girls Next Door, Kendra, Kendra on Top and Kendra Sells Hollywood in support her best friend Kendra Wilkinson.


Angelique El Moussa, Tarek's Sister

The older sister of Tarek, Angelique is the owner of Latitude 33 Hair Artistry in Anaheim, Calif. She purchased one of Tarek and Christina's flipped homes on an episode of Flip or Flop in 2014 and later filmed a digital series with her HGTV host bro in 2019.

Dominique El Moussa and Robert Carroll, Tarek's Mom and Stepdad

Tarek's mother Dominique is no longer with the Flipping 101 star's father, whose name he has never publicly shared. She is currently married to Robert, who describes the El Moussa matriarch as "the love of my life" on Instagram.

Tarek's Dad

Tarek has never shared his father's name, though in a November 2017 Facebook post he announced that his "old man" had turned 70 years old.

"The relationship between a father and his children is so important. I was lucky enough to have a supportive and motivating father that made me believe I could accomplish anything in the world," he captioned a picture of the family's birthday celebrations for the patriarch. "I can say that I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of my dad. I will take all the lessons I've learned from him and pass it on to my children."

In an interview with Country Living, Tarek said his father was "raised Catholic in the Middle East in Lebanon and then Egypt" and met his mother, who is from Belgium, in Europe as a teen.

Christina's Parents

While Christina has not publicly revealed her parents' identities, she has given glimpses into how her children interact with their grandparents. In 2019, she shared in an Instagram post that "we all sit together—my family and Tarek's family" when they watch Taylor perform at her school's annual Christmas concert.

"A couple people acknowledged how nice this is- I know there are a lot of divorced couples (including Tarek's mom and dad) who do this too and it's honestly easier for everyone," she wrote at the time. "Plus Taylor's face lights up when she sees us all in the same row supporting her."