All the Things I Learned by Being A Young Mother.
Being a young mother was and still is a challenge. In fact, being a mother at any age is challenging. I was 20 years-old when I had my first daughter and although I had a lot to learn, any parent at any age does.
I didn’t have experience with kids before I was a Mom so; I had to learn as I went. I didn’t have any younger siblings or didn’t do much babysitting. I was the baby of mi familia. In reality, while an older woman may have had it easier, if she didn’t have experience with infants like me, we would be in the same boat.
1. You Get Stares and Comments.
I’ll be honest and start off with the negative points, the stigma. In fact, my doctor completely ignored my birth plan and repeatedly told me, “You are trying to fly a plane without a license,” while I was in labor. While I stood my ground, he felt the need to belittle my choices. In the end, I did what I felt was right.
Once the baby was here, almost every time I was out pushing a stroller, I’d often get raised eyebrows and stares. At times, they would even shake their heads in shame. Sometimes older ladies would stop and compliment my little Peanut and quite obviously glance at my left hand to see if it bore a ring.
Or they would ask very inappropriate questions like if I was babysitting or if it was my baby sister. Also, doctors, bankers or anyone with authority often treat you as if you are a child yourself. Like you don’t know any better and they have to tell you how it is.
You get long-winded explanations, dumb downed instructions–you get the point. You have to deal with a lot of indirect but direct opinions, condescension and unwarranted judgment. You just develop a thick skin and you don’t let them bother you.
It cemented that old saying to me though. You know, the one that says to never judge a book by its cover. While I was young, I was married and in college. Not to mention, someone ready to take on the journey that was in front of me. I learned to never make other people feel the way I was forced to feel.
See What Other Young Moms Have Went Through:
“I was a mom at 17. People under estimate young moms. Age does not matter, really. I know shitty 40 year old moms and great teen moms. I had 3 kids by 24. My kids are all rock stars. Good, polite, kind and smart. -Kim, Tales of a Ranting Ginger.
“My first son was born when I was 19 and had just finished my first year at University. I dealt with people criticizing my choices, telling me I would never finish school, the nurses when I gave birth were so mean. As if age really makes you a good Mother. I actually cried in the hospital from their treatment. I’ve learned that age is just a number, you can accomplish anything with a child (I completed my undergraduate in regular time which included going back to two classes one month after giving birth) and raised an awesome son with my husband. Young moms don’t need criticism or unwanted advice. They need support, encouragement and love. If they feel supported with their dreams then they can accomplish anything, plus the best bonus is we get to share these moments with the most important people in our lives our kids. Never judge that young Mother, your words can cause damage.”-Carla Duzzo, Working Mommy Journal.
“I had my first child at 21, and by 28. I was a mom of four. Being a young mother has made me really strict with my children. I think people are hard on young moms, and are always watching them more closely, making sure they aren’t screwing it up. The only thing worse than having your kids behave badly in public is having people stare while they have a meltdown because you look ‘too young’ to know what you’re doing.” -Adrienne, Contributor at MamanLoupsDen.com.
“As a Mom at 22, I realize that I grew up way too quickly. Being so young, I made a lot of mistakes but I still think whether I was 22 or 32, I probably would have done it anyway. Kids take you to a new level of maturity at any age. Having 2 kids as adults at 43, I feel older than my years while being happy that I have many years to enjoy seeing their choices in life.” -Trina Stewart, Life’s A Blog.
2. You Get Judgment Indeed but, Empathy Too.
Aside from having dealt with a lot of ignorance from people I encountered, not all of them were like I described above. You often meet a lot of great women who understand that being a parent is hard for all parties at ANY age. It was and is refreshing to meet other parents who get the ups and downs of parenting and are on the same journey you are on. No judgment but, connecting through the same milestones, struggles and happiness that being a parent brings.
3. The Challenges Change Over Time.
Along with the opinions, you often get unsolicited advice or remarks like, “Oh, it will get better and easier for you.” It really doesn’t. I also love the fact that they automatically assumed that it was so hard because of my age. The challenges change for every parent, whether it is waking up every 1-2 hours to breastfeed or bottle-feed, changing diapers, perfecting swaddling to eventually making your own baby food, getting them on a sleep schedule, teaching them their A, B, C’s and so on. Soon enough, they will be refusing to do chores and testing your patience in all sorts of different ways! You will suffer through their broken hearts, disappointments and own life lessons.
4. You Take Things with A Grain of Salt.
I had an incredibly helpful and supportive family and an even more patient Mom. She taught me everything about taking care of a baby and while most of it was priceless, there was a lot of the advice that she gave that I didn’t agree with and that’s okay. You learn to take unsolicited advice with a grain of salt and decide whether you can use it or not. I am profoundly grateful to both of my parents and brother and sister for helping us raise our girls.
5. You Learn Humility.
You also learn to ask for help when you need it. Even now I will call my Mom to ask certain things or even to just get an opinion on something that I am unsure of. Sometimes it is more than that and you have to ask for help to get through tough situations. Whatever it may be, it humbles you in ways you never thought possible.
6. Post-Secondary Education May Not Happen.
You’d be surprised at how a baby can change your world. Especially when you are in the midst of preparing for your own future. When I was pregnant with my first, I was in college up until I was 8 months pregnant. Through a kidney infection, hospitalization, swollen feet and just normal pregnancy symptoms, I worked hard to graduate and gain my Journalism degree with straight 4.0 GPA’s. I went back a few years later and I got certification in the health care field with honors.
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy report, only 40% of teen moms that have children at age 17 finish high school and only 23% of teen moms of the same age go on to complete their GED and the gap gets even larger when it comes to post-secondary education. About 16% of teen moms go on and complete 2 years of post-secondary, 5% aged 18 or younger and 21% of moms aged 20-21.
Only 2% of teen moms ever finish college by the age of 30. Compared to the 9% that gave birth at the age of 20-21.
Now these are US statistics, how about us Canadians? According to Statistics Canada, believe me, we aren’t very far behind and almost the same as the US. We have more than the UK.
I knew I was young and I knew that if I was going to give my own child a future, I had to work even more to establish my own. It gives you a drive to become who you want to be.
7. Life Doesn’t End, It Just Changes.
You’ll often hear that age old saying that life ends when you have a baby. In essence, your worry-free and childhood does end but, an absolutely wonderful life takes its place. While I know that it is naive to think that it is like this for everyone, it certainly was for me.
With time you’ll find yourself surrounded by a different circle of friends altogether. Once your priorities change, there is a shift. To be honest, it’s your sense of freedom that changes and you’re no longer concerned about who’s dating who, which shoes are in style or where your friends are partying.
Going out is harder but, not impossible. You have to take time for yourself and as a couple. It just takes more planning. We travel often, have regular date nights with and without our girls and we go out all the time. I think your version of fun changes too but, you can still have your version of fun. Even as a parent!
8. Sleep and Privacy–POOF!
With that said above, well, your privacy definitely disappears. It is something you get accustomed to and I don’t think I’ve gone to the bathroom without company or without someone at the door for over 11 years. Sleep is something that is never the same again. Long gone are the days that you slept til noon. But, believe me, the little rugrats are worth it and you learn to manage your time better so that you get rest.
9. You Change For the Better.
For me personally, my life began when I had Gabby. She truly changed my life for the better, gave me focus, drive and a whole lotta love. A love like no other and she helped me slow down, mature and become even more responsible. It also helped me shape the person I wanted to be for her and now for Michaela.
10. You Become Empowered.
Like I mentioned before, being a young mom only made me work harder. It wasn’t easy going through college, not once but twice and getting 4.0’s or working odd jobs to pay for school and diapers. Struggling. That’s why I laugh when some new young parents have given me stank because they see what I share about our life. As if we woke up and overnight our lives were stable. It wasn’t that easy. We worked hard to be where we are.
Yes, all young parents go through a struggle but, when you finally establish yourself and begin to gain ownership and stabilization, there is nothing like it. Nothing like that accomplished feeling you get when you are able to provide and to save for their future too. You feel like you finally did it! The one thing people need to realize is that it is a choice you make. You can choose to remain stagnant or to push yourself to be more.
11. It’s a Whole Lot of Sacrifice.
You give up a lot when you are a parent. You have to build your life around someone else’s and that is okay. Being a young mom, I would remember seeing all the MySpace updates on what my friends were doing, things that I couldn’t do anymore. For example, having to decline invitations because I had a baby at home. To me, they were never a loss. I was happy to be at home with my little one but, you soon find that most of your “friends” fade into the sunset. But, no worries, new ones that ‘get you’ take their place and some old ones remain.
12. You Stop Caring What People Think.
Let’s be honest, life is too dang busy to worry about what so and so is saying about you. Or needless drama, you’ll find the sooner you get away from people who bring drama, the better your life is. Plus, you have little people counting on you, watching you and all that BS falls to the wayside. It doesn’t matter. The same goes with people who judge your parenting, you know what is best for your child and you learn to ignore it.
13. You Will Never Perfect Parenting.
Never. No matter what your age, it just won’t happen. You quickly learn that it is a never ending lesson and that you learn as you go and through experiences. You also learn that life changes and along with it, so do all of your life experiences. Every child is different and has different challenges and strengths.
14. You Will Make Mistakes.
Us humans make mistakes regardless if we are parents or not. It is just our nature. So naturally, as a parent, you will make A LOT of mistakes. Some days, you may feel like a complete failure. Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows but, all that matters is what you do to make things right.
15. Life Still Rocks Your Socks.
Being a parent did change my life. Being a young mother definitely changed it even more but, I cannot picture my life any other way. When I’ve been asked if I would do things differently if I had the chance–I answer that without a doubt, NO. Even though I have survived some incredibly painful times, I would not change a thing.
I know that it will continue to be trying at times but, I am truly happy that my parenting journey began. I’m happy that if I am blessed with more years of life, I will have them to enjoy my children’s journeys.
Take It In.
Life still has so many amazing moments, tears of happiness and sadness are shed and priceless memories are made every single day. The chance to be able to share it with little people you brought into the world is what makes it even more so enriching.
No matter what age we are when we become parents, in the end, we are all in it together.
How old were you when you had your first child?
Let me know til then–cheers m’deres!
Nancy Polanco is a freelance journalist, lifestyle content creator, and editor of Whispered Inspirations. She is a proud Mom to Gabby and Michaela, and wife to Darasak. Having worked as part of a health care team for almost a decade, Nancy is happy to be back to her passion. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY’s Parents, and an Oprah Magazine Brand Ambassador.