Pregnant at 21
I wasn't exactly parenting 16 and pregnant, but I was a young mother. On my twenty-first birthday, there were no drinks for me. I didn't spend that beacon of official adulthood with a crazy, wild night. Instead, there was a backyard party, cake, and a very pregnant belly. A few months later, I would be a mother and a college student with a full-time job.
As a young mother, I initially thought that every mother of a “respectable” age had to be a better one. “Respectable” was code for older than me. In my mind, mid-30's mothers had years to figure out their lives: partner, college, career, a house. Me? I was burning the candle at both ends with an infant and sleepless, paper-writing nights. I never slept, took a vacation or could afford a babysitter that wasn't one of my single friends or family.
But then my daughter hit elementary school and I figured something out: it's doesn't matter the age, all mothers have no idea what they're doing. It was a relief and I haven't looked back since.
My mother had my sister when she was eighteen and she struggled mightily trying to find a place where she fit in while my father worked long, grueling days. She cooked, she cleaned, she had a few mental breakdowns – so much so that my sister swore off having children by the time she was eight. As crazy as my mother tends to be, she has yet to be wrong when offering advice and I have often gone to her to figure out how, as a young mom, I could push through my own self-doubt and get what I wanted to accomplish done.
I always had this question – which I think a lot of young mothers have – is it better to have children early or when you're in your 30s? Life is more grey than black and white, but I desperately needed an answer at the time. I went to my mother and this is what she said:
“You're sitting at home raising your baby while your friends are out and starting their careers. When your child is older, your friends will be at home with their babies and you'll be able to come and go as you please. In the end, life equalizes young and older.”
By the time I turned 30, everyone I knew was pregnant. Last year, three friends gave birth within a week of each other. In a year, my daughter will be on the verge of middle school. Instead of me playing babysitter, I can send her.
For me, the things that once seemed impossible a decade ago as a young mom turned out to be very possible. I may not be exactly where I thought I would be, but the twenty-one year-old version of myself has to be pretty proud. Age truly is nothing but a number. Work hard, play harder, and life will right itself.
In the end.
Original image via Flickr: dizznbonn