I can’t blame them. Anyone who has spent five minutes with me can see that I’m not the motherly type. I routinely walk out of my apartment with toothpaste on my chin and sleeves, and I’m the only person over twelve who thinks yelling “Not it!” irreversibly absolves me from all duties I find distasteful. I spent my tax return turning my loft into a fort and am still saving up for a ball pit. Nurturer I am not.
But it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to see how I ended up taking care of other people’s kids. My father disappeared when I was an infant, leaving my mother and me in the hands of a vast Southern family who self-consciously scrambled to fill his void. Countless adults adoringly petted me while lamenting my fatherlessness. My earliest memories are backlit by both an absence and glut of love.
Then, when I was nine, my mother married a military man who made her happy, had another baby, and moved the entire family five hundred miles away. In this freshly nuclear-ized family, I starved for my old life. Suddenly, I was the shy standout among three extroverts, the sulky bookworm jealous of her photogenic sister. We all hoped the disconnection was an adolescent phase, but my college departure didn’t help. I spent most of my vacations with friends. When asked about the rift, I claimed I just wasn’t a family person, but of course I desperately was. I just preferred other people’s families.