Growing up, I considered it a foregone conclusion that my life would follow the traditional timeline of my rural small town: finish high school, fall in love, get married and be done having babies before age 30. No muss, no fuss.
As an actual adult, of course, there are not enough horrified gasps in the world to properly convey how insane that life plan seems, but in my late teens I pored over books of baby names, studied hours of TLC’s A Baby Story (seriously, call me if you are about to have an unexpected roadside birth, I’m basically a junior Obstetrician) and couldn’t wait to go from being a kid to raising a kid.
College Schmollege, amirite? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We won’t get into the psychology of why I probably wanted to immediately create my own happy family as a do-over for the unhappy one I grew up in, but I was either a casualty of patriarchal fairy tales (bad) or a casualty of my upbringing (worse).
Or possibly both, which would be an embarrassment of riches!
Luckily, better judgment ultimately prevailed and I skipped teen pregnancy, got the fuck out of my house and went to college where the new experience helped me appreciate that “traditional” was a fork in the road I’d never take.
So Plan B then?
I abandoned all picket fence fantasies and committed instead to doing exactly as I pleased and letting life unfold as it may.
Viva la Adulthood!
Doing as I pleased worked out really well for me as I established a satisfying career, enjoyed an interesting social life, and curated a personal aesthetic that allowed me to be comfortable in my skin.
I was generally quite happy, albeit very solitary as the other half of Plan B wasn’t going quite as well: life was unfolding as it may, but not the way I had hoped. I didn’t want kids, true, but I still wanted a partner.
Instead, by 2015 I was entering year 11 of dating without making a meaningful connection–which is isolating as fuck–and was becoming increasingly terrified that I might never make one and therefore might never be loved.
It’s as sad a fear as it sounds.
But then that October I met Keith! And he loved the shit out of me! (Spoiler alert: he probably didn’t, he’s a sociopath.) And he came with four kids!
Wait. That was not part of the plan.
Falling in love with someone is a great way to start seeing your future differently.
But falling in love with someone who has four kids is to fall in love five times and to start seeing absolutely everything differently.
In the beginning, I figured out my place, my role, my boundaries and my relationship with each kid. They accepted me immediately and before long Keith and I were fully co-parenting with the kids’ blessing.
Even though I didn’t want kids, I knew I’d be a good parent if I ever did it, I just thought I’d hate doing it. But I loved every fucking second of it. Every tween breakdown and toddler fit; every bath and barf and spill; every laugh and hug and game; every problem solved, secret told and lesson taught; every, every, everything.
It also turned on my Motherhood Switch.
Fuck fuck fuck.
When the relationship ended, I was grieving the loss of the kids and also had to wonder how I’d feel if that was my one shot at motherhood–a thing I didn’t want until they brought it into my life.
If I never got to experience it again would I feel robbed? Sad? Lucky for what I’d once had?
Life is certainly a lot simpler when what you want happily coincides with what you have.
But I wouldn’t change a thing.
It was the greatest honor of my life and the best love I’ve ever given or received.