A Family I Never Knew I Wanted

Erin Britt essays

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Five years ago, I came fumbling into the world of parenting. It wasn't intentional and I thought about the possibility of not becoming one. In the end, my child altered my life for the better. If it hadn't happened by accident, I never would've made the conscious choice to have kids.

Having children is restricting in so many ways. Early mornings take a lot of adjustment and I think the lack of sleep is still one of the most mind-numbingly hard things about it all.

But it’s more than that. It’s that feeling that you are no longer steering the ship of your own life because someone else is. And half the time you don’t know where you’re going or even if you’re going. You’re just along for the ride.

That’s the kicker.

Having a child means you don’t get to decide when you go to sleep or if you sleep at all. You don’t decide when you wake up or where to go to dinner or how long it will take you to get out of the house. Sure, some of these things get easier as kids get older and a lot of it depends on temperament, but there is no avoiding the fact that choice, as you know it, gets mutilated when you have children.

I was someone who loved and valued her freedom. In an instant, I threw away everything I held dear—my freedom, my youth, my time—and gained a family in their place. A messy, loud, exhausting, beautiful family that is all mine.

There are times, many times, when I just want to have a moment to think, relax, write. Times when I’m feeling inspired or thoughtful or sad. But my freedom to even fully experience those feelings is put on the back-burner. Over and over again what I want, what I sometimes need, is completely and utterly irrelevant.

There is someone who needs me, always. Midnight or 4 am, no time is off-limits and there is no such thing as off-duty. A bottom needs wiping, a scraped knee needs kissing, a glass of water that needs pouring. Hundreds of times throughout the day I am needed. I am so needed and so my needs vanish.

I don’t spend time dwelling on this (anymore). But when I remember that girl, the one who never said no to a shot and a beer, or a party or a dinner or a boozy-brunch, the one who threw caution to the wind every chance she got, who reveled in that sweet freedom like it was the air she breathed—I am amazed at how different my life looks.

I want always to remember that girl. She has a place in my heart. She is still a part of me somehow, but I don’t miss her. If I kept on missing her, kept wishing for the old days, I’d be living in my own personal hell. I’d be like a caged beast just waiting to break free and growing weaker with sadness all the time. This took me years and patience to learn, but I don’t crave freedom like I used to anymore.

Motherhood is absolutely what you make it. And that’s not to downplay its challenges—it is a beast of its own. But what I learned from letting go of my freedom, letting it slide through my fingers when I said yes to that pink plus sign, yes to the unknown, yes to believing I could, was that there was freedom in that, too.

I sit here on the precipice of doing it all at 30 weeks pregnant and counting and there’s no time anymore to look back. There’s only time to move forward and to embrace.

Years ago, this wasn’t the life I would’ve chosen, but it chose me anyway. My daughter chose me and now my son chose me. And so I will choose them over and over, and hope a little piece of that girl who loved freedom lives on somehow.

And that one day, she’ll throw caution to the wind, again.

About the Author

Erin Britt

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