When I moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, from Brooklyn, New York, romance was the last thing on my mind.
At least two different friends predicted I would find love in Mexico. And I just laughed.
The idea of wanting one more person who would need something from me sounded ridiculous. I told my friends, “Time will tell! Maybe someday, when the kids are older. I doubt it, but maybe.”
I moved to San Miguel without much of a plan for myself, besides knowing I needed a radical change from the constant rush and stress of NYC life. I had already enrolled the children in a Spanish-only Waldorf school but didn’t know what I would do for myself.
Once the children started school, I got an online job as a health advisor, since nurse practitioner jobs don’t exist in Mexico. I started to build a social circle for myself. After a time, I got myself a therapist -- a requirement for any good (former) New Yorker.
And my therapist suggested that I start dating. Just casually. Just to explore my options.
I agreed that it might be fun to find an occasional dinner companion -- nothing more! -- and enrolled in Tinder, the most popular dating app in our small city.
Simultaneously, my friend Antoinette and I started doing a workbook together called Calling In the One: Seven Weeks to Finding the Love of Your Life. She wanted to find a lifelong partner. I don’t know why I decided to do the workbook too. Just curiosity, I guess? I had read amazing reviews of the book, hundreds of success stories, and while I wasn't looking for love, I was fascinated by the results it promised.
Well, before either one of us had finished the workbook, we both went on very promising first dates. Which quickly developed into much more.
Sergio and I met for coffee on February 4, 2020. I scheduled a quick forty-five minute coffee break between Spanish class and therapy. He seemed nice, but I didn't think much beyond that. I suggested we meet again soon and hurried on my way.
He sent a photo of our cozy meeting spot to me moments after I left… and was shocked that I blocked his number.
A little later, I wrote to him and thanked him for coffee. And he realized he had sent the photo to a stranger, not me. It was someone else who had blocked him.
The next day, he walked to Centro and chose the perfect terrace restaurant for our next date. He even reserved the specific table he wanted. He met me the next evening in the central garden of San Miguel. I was only a little nervous but as soon as I saw his smile, my heartbeat sped up.
We spent hours talking over a romantic dinner with a view of the parroquia, the famous pink church in San Miguel. Shyly, I finally took his hand. And hours later, I initiated our first kiss -- on the sidewalk of a busy street -- and felt fireworks.
Just a couple weeks later, I changed my mind about having a potential suitor wait six months to meet my children. Despite my desire to protect them, I didn’t want to commit six months to this relationship, only to have their meeting be a disaster.
It was the opposite of a disaster.
On the advice of Antoionette, we planned for just a quick ice cream outing, nothing too ambitious. Short and sweet.
The day of our date, he knocked on the door as we were doing chores. Calliope had been told to wash dishes but was dragging her feet. He went to the kitchen and quietly offered to help. Wordlessly, she handed him a sponge. They washed the dishes together. And by the end of the day, my shy girl was hanging all over him.
Amelie was even easier. She was instantly smitten, and thrilled to command his attention. Walking home afterwards, she climbed into his arms and laid her tired head on his shoulder.
He told me much later he had been nervous to meet them… and shocked to find that he was instantly smitten.
My heart swelled to see their ease together. I had truly never imagined a partner loving my children. My imagination blossomed and I started to imagine much more than a dinner companion, but a life partner. We quickly began spending nearly all our time together.
Seven weeks later, I decided to keep the kids home from school for a couple weeks, maybe. There was this strange virus circulating the globe.
Sergio’s mom came from Mexico City to stay in Sergio’s house -- much safer than an apartment in Mexico City -- and he was soon spending all his time with us, instead.
Then in May we had terrifying break-in when a vandal came into the house through Calliope’s second story window while we were sleeping. Thankfully, we were none the wiser until we realized a purse and iPad were missing the next day. Still, I couldn't wait to get out of that house. We found a new house together and moved in together, officially. And now we've moved again, into a house we adore, and Sergio’s furniture and kitchen items have gradually migrated to the new house.
We are talking, now, about moving his remaining possessions into storage and him letting go of his rental house.
And we are buying a used car together! He has generously shared his car with us throughout COVID but “Frida” has reached elderly ages and is ready for retirement.
It’s hard to express what it feels like to go from being a devoted Single Mother by Choice to being a committed family of four.
I feel a sense of surprise every day of my life, although it is gradually lessening.
It was really, really hard for me to ask for help and even to expect it. But when the kids stayed home from school last spring -- because, of course it turned from 2 weeks to 6 months, thanks to COVID -- I had to depend on him so that I could work. To my amazement, they quickly grew to adore mornings out with Sergio. He took the children and his mother to their school campus (no one else was around) to play. After a week, my reserved Calliope asked if he could call his mother “Grandma Carmen.” Both children asked if Sergio could stay home with them so I could go out alone on date nights!
When Amelie fell ill with an ear infection in the middle of the night after swimming in a pool, Sergio sat with me at her bedside in the middle of the night. Do long term couples do things like this? It had never occurred to me that I might not always have to worry alone. It was mind blowing.
Sergio insists on driving the children to and from school every day so I can take advantage of the time to work. He washes the dinner dishes every single night. He pushes the children -- and their friends -- in the hammock until they scream with delight. He watched them all afternoon yesterday so I could go to a vineyard with friends.
It is hard to describe is the gradually growing sense of safety and security that I feel. Especially because I didn't experience this as a child. I love the sense of comfort and confidence I see in my children.
Conflict -- inevitable in any relationship, and a guarantee in any relationship during COVID lockdowns -- was hard and scary for me. My parents had terrible fights, ones that were terrifying to me as a child. So anger is hard for me, whether the anger is from me or from him.
But we have gradually been practicing how to handle conflict in a healthy way. I have slowly been learning that he needs time to cool off when he is upset, that it’s not a rejection of me. This has been a hard but invaluable lesson for me! I am also learning that it’s not fair for me to apply a “manual” to him. I can ask for what I want or need, but I can’t be mad at him for not automatically realizing my needs and acting accordingly. Likewise, he’s his own person and has his own needs and wants, ones that don’t always match up with mine. He can say “no” to me without it meaning anything about me or our relationship. He almost never does, but he’s allowed to.
Our future together looks rosy. A one or two-year experiment in life in Mexico seems to have become permanent. As much as I miss my friends and family “back home,” I can’t imagine ever returning to the States to live. I am living my personal fairy tale here in Mexico.
I’ll never regret my unique path to motherhood. Becoming a single-mother-by-choice to Calliope and Amelie with the help of donor sperm was the perfect path for my family. If I had chosen to have children with a partner, we wouldn’t have had this perfect space for Sergio to step into. I’m so glad I had such beautiful years alone with them… and now I’m thrilled to be creating our new family together with him.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.