‘I swiped right on the man of my DREAMS. I KNEW I was marrying him AND becoming a role model to his 2 beautiful kids.’: Mom of 5 shares journey to blended family

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“I used to think people with big families were insane. I mean, honestly. Growing up as an only child to immigrant parents, I could never imagine why anyone would choose to have that many mouths to feed, or that many clothes to buy, or that many human beings to keep track of while also working two full-time jobs to simply provide food and shelter. While I’m grateful for my upbringing, I was definitely raised in a scarcity mindset and many children seemed not only luxurious, but also just excessive. If we’re being entirely honest, I never even dreamed of being a mother at all. While my peers played with baby dolls and said they wanted to be mommies and daddies when they grew up, I rotated through any variety of aspirations that didn’t involve taking care of anyone but myself. I guess you could say I’m selfish at my core.

Do you remember those old sitcoms during which the music would literally screech to a halt and the camera would quickly zoom in to the character? Let’s do that. I bet you’re wondering how I got here.

Where is ‘here’ exactly? Here is a 1950’s brick home in the middle of Idaho. Here is in a blue nightie with dry-shampooed hair that hasn’t been washed in days. Most surprising to my young adult version, though, is that ‘here’ is in a home with five kids 10 and under, zooming around smelling of sweat, Cheetos, and possibly pee dribbles. Up until six years ago, I would have laughed if you had said I would one day be a mother of five willingly, but life has a funny way of giving you exactly what you never thought you’d want, only for you to realize it’s what you should’ve been dreaming of all along.

Hear me out, motherhood is HARD. It takes parts of you daily and crushes them while simultaneously using those broken pieces to rebuild you into a stronger woman and mother than you were a few meager minutes before. Every child tests your boundaries and mental stamina in previously unimagined ways until your patience is stretched as thin as the latex condom that shouldn’t have broken in the first place. Maybe I was wise beyond my years as a child and teenager when I KNEW motherhood wasn’t my desired path, or maybe I was simply just self-aware enough to know I didn’t have the skills necessary to sacrifice as much as I saw many mothers in my life sacrifice for their children. To this day, many of my struggles as a mother are rooted in my unwillingness to share my time, space, emotions, or belongings with my kids and, while I tell myself it’s ingrained in me as a personality trait to be selfish, I know I have a responsibility to control my behaviors to ensure my children learn boundaries while also never feeling that I am unloving or uncaring.

woman holding her son in the pool
Courtesy of GiGi Ropp

I often joke with friends that I wouldn’t have had kids if I hadn’t gotten knocked up, but while my oldest boy was an ‘oops’ baby, my other four were not only planned, but I literally signed up for some of them. Lincoln was born in 2012 to a young, terrified version of myself. I had NO idea what I was doing as a mother, a woman, or a brand-new wife to a man that got me pregnant on practically our first date. I was learning to live in a culture that was entirely different from that which I had grown up in on the East Coast while trying to assimilate into a community with strong religious ideologies that didn’t align with my personal belief system. Shortly after Lincoln’s birth, my husband and I made the decision to have one more because I dreamed of my son having a built-in best friend and never being alone the way I was as a child. Just a few weeks after removing my birth control, I got a big fat positive and knew my family was complete. Donovan came rushing into the world on my birthday in 2014. I should’ve known the universe was laughing as it sent me the most exciting birthday gift ever: a tiny version of myself. He brought joy into my life in a way I hadn’t experienced before with his quiet, inquisitive nature and his loving admiration for his family. Even though he was a beautiful, easy baby, there was no doubt in my mind that I was DONE! No more babies. Close the factory.

After my divorce from the boys’ dad a year later, I still had no doubt in my mind that I would never have more children. I don’t even like kids. I love mine, but never willingly babysat or spent time around other people’s kids. There is no part of me that is a natural nurturer or fun-loving enough to tolerate even a children’s birthday party. Since I barely even grew up around my cousins, I wasn’t even the cool ‘tia’ or anything. I was set that I would raise my two sweet boys and be a young, cool mom celebrating their eventual high school graduation in my early 40’s. While my dreams of career, travel, luxury, and time freedom had been placed on the shelf while I parented, I would soon have all of the above while also being able to boast to strangers about my sweet, handsome, well-behaved, and manageable two boys. Joke is on me.

In 2016, I swiped right on the man of my dreams. He was funny, charming, and kind. A veteran with a real career and house and Harley Davidson! At 25 years old, he was cemented in his adulthood in a way I barely even dreamed of achieving by the time I was in my 30’s. Due to the lack of stability in my childhood, he seemed like a solid place to land after years of floundering as a divorced mom. Of course, his good looks and charm were a bonus. We fell in love quickly with our first date on June 27th, his proposal on August 15th, moving into our first home together on October 27th followed by a quick courthouse wedding on December 6th. So many of our friends and family speculated that I must be pregnant because of the quick timeline and we just laughed and laughed and laughed. NO WAY were we having any more kids! When I signed that marriage license, I knew I was signing to marry him AND to be a positive role model to his two beautiful kids, Colter and Remington. When I say I literally signed up for this, I mean it.

husband and wife standing in a museum
Courtesy of GiGi Ropp

The adjustment from two kids to four kids was a breeze. All of our kids felt as though our marriage had gifted them with new best friends. To this day, the kids immediately ask if their siblings are with us whenever we pick them up for our designated custody time. I share my boys 50/50 with their dad and my husband has a 70/30 arrangement with his kids’ mom. For us, this means our calendar is the sun around which our crazy lives orbit. There is very little structure in our schedule. My husband works four on and four off rotating days and nights at his civilian job while also committing many more than his obligatory 70 days a year to the Idaho Army National Guard. I work from home running my passion project, East Idaho Moms, and generally commit 20-40 hours sporadically throughout the week to cultivating community and working hard to bring the village back to motherhood while also keeping the business barely afloat financially. Between soccer, playdates, school plays, and co-parenting, there was never a spare moment to just stop and breathe, so a late night, ‘How would you feel about having a baby?’ was not only unexpected, but comical.

4 kids on scooters
Courtesy of GiGi Ropp

Emmett was born on his own time during a 19 hour labor in 2018. We saddled him with Quentin as a middle name to represent that he was the fifth born and also the ‘ender’ to our family. He is the craziest toddler I have ever experienced, but also the cutest kid imaginable. His older siblings absolutely adore him, and can usually be found doting on him. Our daughter, 7, even fights to change his diapers and get him dressed. To this day, I am not sure what exactly the universe saw in me when I was deemed worthy of raising these five incredible little souls, but I am incredibly grateful.

dad taking selfie with his 5 kids
Courtesy of GiGi Ropp

As a family, we love camping, traveling, and playing Pokemon GO! We dream of visiting Disney World one day and owning an RV so we can travel the country more easily! I spend hours each week ensuring their reading goals are met and driving them to their various extracurriculars including soccer, parkour, dance, wrestling, basketball, and golf. We encourage them to do their best in school and our number one rule is to ‘Be Kind!’ All of the kids have learned age-appropriate chores from the age of 3 and they all do their own laundry. Some have taken on additional regular chores including yard work and pet care. We remind them daily that we love them and that they are members of this household and we would like for them to participate in keeping our home tidy and clean. They are aware that their help keeps their dad and I sane and gives us more time for fun activities. Without their valuable help, my husband and I would not be able to keep up on laundry and cleaning with our busy work schedules, and I am grateful we had the foresight to invest in teaching them to do simple tasks from a young age.

husband and wife posing
Courtesy of GiGi Ropp

When out in public, we are often complimented on how well-behaved and well-mannered our kids are. To us, it seems unusual because we don’t accept anything less. While the kids are given physical and emotional space to just be kids, they also know we have high expectations for them when outside of our safe spaces. It simply isn’t safe to have that many kids running wild in a grocery store, farmer’s market, or even Disneyland. We have simple rules and phrases we utilize to quickly – ‘rally the troops’ as my husband would say:

mom in mouse ears on ride with her kids
Courtesy of GiGi Ropp

-‘Buddy up!’ is used when we want the kids to pair up with each other or a parent in order to cross a street or walk in a crowded area

-‘Get on the stroller’ signals them to form a small cluster with one hand each on the stroller without letting go. This ensures we can travel all together within each others’ eyesight. This was especially helpful when visiting Disneyland.

-‘Say cheese!’ is a bit of a luxury for me as the kids know we will take them to fun places, but in return, they must pose and smile for me when requested. I know it seems silly, but those pictures are incredibly meaningful to me and small kids quickly posing and yelling ‘Cheeeeese!’ is generally a joyous occasion for anyone able to witness it.

5 kids in the forest on a tree stump
Courtesy of GiGi Ropp

I would never in a million years suggest that I am an expert at mothering this large family. I learn new lessons daily and often feel like a complete failure. I wonder if they’ll one day participate in therapy to unlearn unhealthy behaviors I have accidentally taught them. I blame myself when they misbehave or misunderstand their feelings. I overcompensate for my self-centeredness by overextending myself and am often told I appear to ‘have it all together’ or that I am such a ‘supermom.’ In reality, I am simply trying not to fail them. My husband has an upcoming deployment and the thought of parenting our children without him is almost debilitating. I manage my anxiety and depression with a strong combination of medication and therapy. While our family seems to run gracefully, my motto is that it all gets done eventually even if it’s not always pretty. I think, at the end of the day, we are all doing our best to raise decent human beings and the cards we’ve been dealt are often unexpected, but in my case, the river flipped and my hand magically turned into a full house. The pot is all mine and I plan to relish it!”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by GiGi Ropp from Idah Falls, Idaho. You can follow their journey on Instagram here and here and her website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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