Threats to quit aren't exactly uncommon in the Teen Mom universe.
There isn't one mother in the bunch who hasn't felt at one time or another that the intrusive cameras, airing of painful, personal details and hordes of opinionated fans are too high a price for reality TV notoriety and a steady paycheck.
But when Chelsea Houska decided that this most recent 10th season of Teen Mom 2 would be the last for her, husband Cole DeBoer and their growing family, it wasn't because she'd become tired of the crew's constant presence or frustrated with the liberties taking place in the editing room. She was simply ready to graduate from MTV High.
"After much thought and discussion with my family and friends, Cole and I have decided that this season will be our last," she posted on Instagram Nov. 10, confirming E! News' recent report. "We are forever thankful to MTV and our crew, who are like family to us. We're parting on the best of terms and will stay in touch long after this. We're proud to have been able to share our story and are so grateful to the fans who have followed our journey from the beginning."
And to borrow a bit of parlance from another reality TV sensation, it's been quite dramatic.
Because looking at the 29-year-old now, there are few traces of the insecure South Dakota high schooler who had millions of 16 & Pregnant viewers screaming at their television sets that she could do so much better than perpetually disintertested baby daddy Adam Lind.
The girl content to play second fiddle to a deconstructed muscle car? She now knows there's much more to a solid relationship than just shared genetics. Because not only did Chelsea find a new guy after a few rounds of back-and-forth with Adam, she found in Cole a prince of a man so endlessly supportive and reliably there for her and their children that the most common question she gets asked is if he's really that great. (Psssst: He is.)
"Oh my gosh! He is always just above and beyond," Chelsea gushed to E! News in September of the 32-year-old. "He's so sweet and supportive and even if I'm not feeling the greatest or look the greatest, he's always telling me, 'Oh you're so beautiful' and making sure to lift me up. He's so great."
As for the teen who had to be pushed by dad Randy Houska to go on and finish up her GED already, she's now a full-on boss mogul, having dipped her stylish toe in the fields of fashion, baby gear and now interior design with her new home goods line, Aubree Says.
Arguably one of the franchise's most popular members—as evidenced by her 6 million Instagram followers and her constantly sold-old collections with Lily & Lottie and Itzy Ritzy—she's attempting the same pivot into the lifestyle space once made by a young twentysomething reality phenom by the name of Lauren Conrad.
"Our next chapter in life will focus on developing our brand and taking things to the next level with new endeavors and expanding family businesses," she explained in her farewell note, just two months before she would give birth to their fourth, and likely final, child, daughter Walker June Jan. 25. "We are so excited for this next phase of our lives."
At this point, who's betting against her?
Because it'd be fair to say Chelsea has already received her fill of rejections, starting with those early months after she and high school boyfriend Adam welcomed daughter Aubree into the world on Sept. 7, 2009.
As in, no, Lind did not feel like coming with her to visit their still-hospitalized premature daughter. And, no, he'd rather not tag along to the doctor to find out if Aubree was suffering from respiratory syncytial virus. Really, he'd prefer not to do much of anything except work on his beloved hot rods and talk down to his long-suffering girlfriend.
"I think I had pretty low self-esteem, you know, high school times," she recalled to Dr. Drew Pinsky on a 2018 Teen Mom 2 reunion episode. "I feel like a lot of girls go through that. And they always want to get the guy that they think they can change. Or you get stuck with someone who makes you feel s--ty about yourself and you just want to be enough. And I think it was finally getting confidence to, like, step out of that and be like, 'No, I don't deserve that.'"
But first it had to get so much worse. Bad dad behavior was just as commonplace on 16 and Pregnant—the precursor to MTV's Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2—as missed proms and flimsy marriage proposals. And yet more than a decade later, Adam's vicious remarks still stun.
Irked that Chelsea would dare attend the homecoming football game (after responsibly arranging for her dad to stay with a months-old Aubree), he lashed out, labeling her a bad mom before sending what may go down in history as the meanest text ever crafted by a Teen Mom Dad. (Poor spelling, lack of punctuation and cruelty, all his.)
"i want u to feel like the most worthless stupid [expletive] in the world u better beleive its so over for the rest of our lives ya fat stretch mark bitch," he wrote, "tell me where and wen to sign the papers over for that mistake."
The hateful words seemed to jar the teen from her Adam-induced stupor, albeit temporarily. As the episode wrapped, she worked up the nerve to consult a lawyer about changing her newborn's last name and vowed to do better for them both. "With Adam out of the picture, it's time to focus on moving forward," she insisted. "The reality is, he's just, he's just not ready for this and he's not ready to grow up and take responsibility. He's not ready to get a job and be a little family, which is sad, because that's what I wanted."
Of course as anyone who's ever been a teenager and in love at the same time knows, bad habits are hard to break. And no sooner had the ink dried on her Teen Mom 2 contract than Chelsea was back with Adam, letting him crash at her rental, much to her father's displeasure.
Besides, as she explained to moderator Pinsky on a 2011 reunion special, "We have mutual friends, and we miss each other." As she would later reason to Us Weekly, thanks to Aubree, "I mean, he's going to be in my life forever. He hurt me but I knew I needed to forget it and move on from there. As long as he's following through and being a good dad, that's what's important to me. Our relationship comes second behind his with Aubree."
But that stomach flip sensation only goes so far. And after umpteen breakups, cheating confessions and more than a few encounters with the police (his rap sheet includes arrests for everything from missed child support payments to domestic abuse and DUIs), Chelsea reached the painful conclusion that Adam wasn't really interested in prioritizing his relationship with her or their daughter.
It was time to embrace life as a single mom, she reasoned, and after years of being treated poorly, any future suitor was going to have to work hard to impress her. "After what I went through with Adam," she told Us Weekly, "I'm really picky now."
And from the instant she spotted DeBoer, she was certain she'd found him, their meet-cute happening at, of all places, a gas station.
"He was across at the other pump," she recalled to Us Weekly of that first 2014 encounter. "And I looked, and he was staring at me. We didn't even talk. We just kept looking at each other because we're both shy."
Too timid to approach, Chelsea nonetheless unloaded to good pal Chelsey Grace when she got home. "I was like, 'I just saw the guy I'm going to marry at the gas station, but we didn't talk!'" she admitted.
Fortunately there are perks to being on a show that counts millions of millennials as viewers.
Clued into Chelsea's reality star status, traffic control specialist Cole slid into her DMs. "A few days later he contacted me on social media and was like, 'Hi. I got gas next to you the other day,'" she said. "And I was like, 'Thank you, Jesus.'"
Because by that point, even before they went out on their first, tentative group dates, Chelsea was already imagining pals recounting that tale in a wedding toast. "I knew right away," she insisted on costar Kailyn Lowry's podcast Coffee Convos. "There was, like, a feeling."
Plus, you know, mountains of evidence that Cole's makeup didn't contain a shred of Adam's malice.
"Honestly, there's just no one that I've met that's so respectful and just nice and I trust him, which is a big deal," Chelsea gushed to Us Weekly in 2015 of her "old-fashioned gentleman type of guy."
Best of all, he eagerly embraced his new father-figure role, pitching in on the day-to-day duties at home and even filling in at Aubree's daddy-daughter dance. "He's so good with her," Chelsea said. "And I seriously am not an emotional person, but I cry all the time because I'm so happy."
And he's got the heart of a romantic, leading Chelsea to a wooded cove near their South Dakota home in November 2015 to present her with the oval-cut diamond of her dreams before offering a second proposal to Aubree. "He was acting weird. He was acting so weird," Chelsea would later recount on Teen Mom 2. "He took me to this spot he likes out in the woods, and he had me come out there. There was a whole bunch of trees and there were pictures of us three nailed up on there. I seriously covered my eyes and I was like, 'Holy s--t, is this really happening?!'"
Before they could even finish planning their Nebraskan vows for the following October, they learned their family was set to grow. So they scrapped the big celebration, gathered a handful of their nearest and dearest and made things official in a small, private ceremony.
"I wanted the full experience of a wedding, but I didn't want to wait to get married, so we just had a little intimate thing," she explained to Us Weekly. "We just threw it together. There were probably 10 people. It turned out perfect."
That, of course, being the watchword in Chelsea's life these days.
Though she and Cole sometimes bicker (mostly when he's being "really pokey" as she's trying to get out the door, she revealed on Coffee Convos), that's kinda it. He's patient, attentive and, as she put it in a recent Insta post, a bit of a "baaaaabe."
Ticking off his attributes to E! News in 2018, shortly after she revealed she would be following up son Watson's January 2017 birth with another little girl, she insisted, "I could go on and and on about this. I know people always say their husbands are great or whatever, but I think mine is the best. He's patient. He works all day and still comes home and helps me with what I need. He makes sure to get time in with the kids before bed. He's just a good guy all around."
Which is why she could fathom at one point having the "DeBoer Dozen," as she put it on Coffee Convos.
They settled, instead, on four, Chelsea revealing this past August that she was expecting again by sharing the family tree she'd scrawled on the beams of their still-under-construction farmhouse.
"Sometimes you gotta stop, lay down and take it allllll in and have a moment to be truly grateful," Chelsea shared in May of the spot they now call home, a lot sizable enough for their dream house, a huge yard for Aubree, Watson, 4, Layne, 2, and, Walker, born three weeks early on her big brother's birthday, to roam and a barn-slash-shop.
That's where they'll continue to expand the empire that Chelsea has given peeks into on Teen Mom 2. With few dramatics in her life, aside from the occasional Adam-related issues and a December 2018 break-in at their home, her recent storylines have seen her put a bout with anxiety and panic attacks in the past ("I think it was a mixture of postpartum and the robbery," she told E! News) and begin carving out a career in the lifestyle space. After first partnering with parents and kids' line Itzy Ritzy to designer diaper bags and clothing, the beauty school grad has teamed with local Sioux Falls, S.D., boutique Lauriebelles to craft her own collections.
Having the chance to flex that muscle while also getting to be at home with her growing brood is a best of both worlds scenario that feels almost too good to be true. "I've come out of my shell," Chelsea reflected in March of the career ventures that see her pitching ideas for clothing and accessories lines and confidently circulating with fans at each launch. "I've made lifelong friends. I've found my 'me'...I am grateful."
It's an all's well that ends well message that she wishes she could give to a teenage Chelsea. "Watching previous seasons when I was going through a lot of hard times with Aubree's dad, it's difficult to watch because it's frustrating," she admitted to E! in 2018. "You want to shake me and go, 'What are you doing? It's going to get better.'"
So, so much better.
"I just enjoy having the family, living in the country and being able to go outside and have space," she told E! this September of counting her plentiful blessings even amid a global pandemic. "I'm definitely taking more moments to just really soak it in and be appreciative of family and everything we have."
(Originally published Nov. 11, 2020, at 11 a.m. PT)