Whether you are a younger parent or an older parent, being a parent is tough work. My hat is off to you. Like Chanelle says, as mothers we all want the same thing- time.
I recently read yet another article about marriage. And for once, it was refreshing! Why? It wasn’t full of all the drudgery of marriage—or even all the ‘sacrifices’ one endures in the name of love. It was all about the perks of young marriage! I’ve read the same blog posts in my newsfeed as you—the ones about how I (who married at 22) am ‘missing out’ on my ‘best years’ by getting married young. But I never felt that way. I could easily identify with the all the good that has come from saying ‘I do’ in my early 20s. Finally, someone was writing about being happy about marriage instead of full of fear or regret. It inspired me to make my OWN perk list.
I’m 26 years old, with a 2 and a half year old and a baby on the way. SOOO many of my peers will look at that sentence with sheer horror in their eyes! Clearly, my life is over before it began if I have a baby strapped to my back before I hit 30! I have to admit, when I first found out that I was pregnant, I definitely thought that I would be sacrificing any pre-baby goals or dreams in the name of motherhood, but having kids has helped me be the kind of person that can make those goals a reality.
Yes, having children is a HUGE decision that should not be taken lightly. It certainly changed everything about my life, but I would never say that it ended it. Of course, having kids at the beginning of life brings its own challenges.
Do you know the awesome perks that come from it?
Just a year before I had my daughter, I was still pulling all-nighters for graduate school and functioning at work the next day. In fact, when my friends threw us a joint baby shower, we ended up out all night! (My husband got kidnapped by his friends at one point. Another story for another time!) 3 am feedings? Sounds like a ‘last call’ before hitting up Waffle House!
One fear many people have about kids (especially women) is that it will negatively affect their careers. For me, that has not been the case at all! Motherhood only sharpened my focus and strengthened my drive. Having a daughter inspired me to live out the lessons I wanted to teach her—to go after her goals, to dream big, to have ambition. I feel so much more confident as a woman and a mom, and it has made me a better person. Also, my husband and I were both able to take leave from school without any disruption to our careers. We had the opportunity to spend three full months together as a new family without any real detriment. By having children early on, we avoided any disruption of leave at a more crucial point in our careers. Now, by the time my career really gets going, my kids will be at grade-school sleepovers instead of needing swaddling. My kids will be GROWN when I’m hitting my peak professional years! I found the following quote most interesting: “There is no evidence that doing well in school (in your 20s) will get you worthwhile benefits. There is no evidence that waiting longer than 25 makes a better marriage. And there is no evidence that women who do a great job early in their career can bank on that later in their career. There is evidence, though, that women who focus on marriage have better marriages. There is evidence that women who have kids earlier have healthier kids, and there is evidence, now, that women who have grown children by age 45 do better at getting to the top in the workforce than all other women with kids.” (source)
My body bounces back
Let’s face it. Pregnancy is TOUGH on women! Even though I am still young, I don’t feel as limber as my 17 year old ballerina self! Yet, I am still able to play horsie for hours or roll down the hills without hurting myself. And I was able to gain 53 pounds unabashedly, and work it off with the super human metabolism only youth (and a hungry nursling) can bring!
Biology is on our side
Like it or not, fertility peaks in our 20s. While the average woman can have a baby until 40, our ovaries have a lifespan that dramatically ages after our 30th birthday. And it’s not just us! Sperm quality also declines with age. By trying to have children early, we were able to give ourselves enough of a window to build our family without hitting the biological wall.
Experiencing life while I’m still fairly young
The cool thing about having kids young is that my kids will also be GROWN when I’m young. Not to say that I’m pushing my baby out of the nest! (Stay little! Ugh!) But she will be 18 when I am 42 years old—over 20 years before the ‘senior’ age of 65. I can’t help but dream about being able to take her backpacking through Europe or scuba diving in the Keys, and actually feeling up to it physically too. Similarly, my husband and I will be able to spend a good chunk of our healthiest years together. So instead of spending our childless years young and broke, we will spend our childless years with the freedom to do the things we always wanted to do. It is all in a matter of order—I really think you can ‘have it all’, just not at the same time.
Similar to the above point, our kids will be done with college long before we hit retirement. In theory, I could stay home full-time until my daughter leaves home and still have 25 years to save before retirement age. And the flip side: our kids have the opportunity to watch what it takes to build a life. The aren’t born into our family when my husband and I have it all figured out. They are part of the memories and the building blocks that shape where we are going as a unit. They will be there to see that love (and not square footage) makes a home. They will share in our sighs of relief when we pay our last loan check, and they will celebrate with us when we buy our first home. They will understand that building a future takes work and commitment.
Sharing in my kids’ lives
Although we never know how long our lives will last, I can rest easy knowing I will be there to see my baby start her life. I will be able to watch her graduate from high school. I will share in her aspirations and get to watch her achieve them. I will be able to hold her bouquet if she gets married, and hold her baby if she has children. I won’t have to wonder “what will she be when she grows up” because I’ll be around to see it.
I am not here to judge any mom who chose to spend her time differently than me. There are certainly pros to not waiting to have kids in my 30s and 40s! In an era where being a married mom in her 20s is a rarity and a fear for many, I hope to shed a light on how awesome it can be as well!
When it comes right down to it, all of us—moms in our 40s, 30s, 20s or teens—want the same thing. Time. Time can move so fast, and then it is gone. Life is a balancing act between love of children, love of spouse and love of self; three spinning plates balanced on sticks.
Fill those plates how you see fit.
Because you’re the only one that counts when those plates stop spinning in the end.