The Accidental Mom

by Erin S. Lane

The short story on me? After a decade of being purposefully and prayerfully what I liked to call “childfree for the common good,” my youth pastor husband and I had—curiously? confidently? crazily?—waltzed into the world of foster parenting. Our line has always been, “Parenting’s not our jam, but community is.”

Everything that gave others pause about the in-betweenness of fostering gave us energy. Won’t it be hard to see them go? they’d ask. We’re good at goodbyes, we’d shrug. And a couple months of respite in between morning routines sounded sane. Won’t it be awkward interacting with their real parents? they’d wonder. We’re rooting for reunification, we’d cry. And parenting with a team puts a lot less pressure on individual performances. I couldn’t take time off of work to care for them! they’d admit. You don’t have to, we’d swear, especially if you’re open to the older lot. We had it figured out.

We did not imagine falling headlong for the first kiddos—a set of three sisters—who were placed with us. Though the adoption itself was finalized with a quick stroke of a pen, becoming a mom happened gradually for me, and in moments, as every soul shift does. There was the first time the youngest drew a family portrait, and it was us she was trying to capture—me with my Crayola-yellow hair and my husband with his high-spun bun.

There was the time that I picked the middle one up from school and the front desk fill-in scanned me with her eyes and asked, “And who are you?” “Her mother,” I answered with a low growl that startled even me.
Once, and only once, did I hear the oldest refer to me as mom when asked by fellow tweens who that too-young white woman was hovering nearby.
It’s been three years, and to this day, they call me “Erin” and I call them “my girls.” I think of it as our unspoken agreement to honor the people we were before we became each other’s.

Erin S. Lane is the author of Lessons in Belonging from a Church-
Going Commitment Phobe. Find more of her books and writing at