Single and childless, but with a full heart: My advice to all who long to be a parent

I realized today that I have been an Instagram user for nearly six years. As I looked back over the hundreds of images I have shared in that space over the years, my heart squeezed because I realized how a longing of my heart has been fulfilled in the most unexpected way.

I have always longed to be a mama. I was the weird girl who played with baby dolls for far longer than was socially acceptable. I never imagined I would be nearing three decades of life without a growing brood of kiddos who share my last name. I always imagined I would be a foster mom by now. But here I am, and none of that has happened. And I would be lying if I said the ache for that is gone (it’s not). BUT. This role I have gotten to fill these last several years, that of “auntie,” has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

I have cradled, fed, played with, taught, rocked in the middle of the night, and chauffeured kids who share neither my last name nor (for most of them) my blood. I have been a pediatric nurse for the last six years, but most of what I know about kids and mothering has come from hands-on, blood-guts-and-tears experience alongside other parents in the trenches. It has come not from textbooks and physician mentors, but in living life alongside moms and dads doing the hardest job in the world.

Honestly, I could not have lived and loved these kiddos if I was where I thought and hoped I would be by now. I have lived with families (or my own makeshift family of girlfriend roomies and Safe Families kiddos) for the larger part of the last decade. I am “auntie” or “Aberdabber” to now dozens of kids (…turning into adults 😳).

My point, and best piece of advice? Don’t wait. 

If you long to be a parent and (for whatever reason) can’t right now, find some kiddos to nurture and some parents to link arms with. Become an “auntie” or “uncle,” and be the best one you can be. Babysit, teach Sunday school, mentor foster kids, or even get licensed as a foster or Safe Families parent. Volunteer at an after school program or local school. Coach a youth sports team. Inquire about rocking babies at the hospital. Don’t just try to survive with this desire gnawing at your heart and no balm to soothe that space.

Do I still long to be a mama? Of course. But I have loved and been loved in ways that have impacted my world and, hopefully, the lives of so many little (and now not-so-little) ones. And I believe your life will be transformed in all the best possible ways too, so don’t wait. Find ways to use that gift of nurture to change the world, one little life at a time.

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