Ten years ago, my 18-year-old self was fresh out of high school and looking at what I wanted to shape my life into over the next few years. I enrolled in a community college and did typical 18-year-old things, which mostly meant that I worked two jobs and stayed up super late working on papers. When I thought about my twenties, the possibilities seemed endless! I thought I would have money and be free to spend it as I chose: traveling, seeing the world, etc. I had zero interest in having kids or even getting married. I think most people would say that your twenties are a time for figuring out who you are, what you’re about, and building your identity while having loads of fun doing it. I certainly thought that’s what mine would look like. I envisioned a lifestyle where I was free to drive cross country on a whim, go out with girlfriends for a weekend away, build my brand in whatever career path I chose, and simply do things for myself. I look back and just smirk at that idea.
What instead happened was this: I met a guy.
And we got married.
I was 21, still in school, and had changed my major four times. I was so unsure of what I wanted that I couldn’t even pick a major.Did you know that birth control pills fail about 1% of the time? Well, they do, and that’s precisely why I had my first baby at 22. Six months later I was expecting my second. Wait, wait, wait, this is not at all what I had in mind. My “roaring twenties” were taken over by late nights of another sort. While my friends were out in cute dresses and heels, I was worried about leaking through one of the only shirts I had that still fit. My friends were finishing school with their master’s degrees while I mastered the art of the one-handed breast feed so I could do homework with the other. My friends were looking at opportunities for studying abroad, and I just wanted a night away so I could sleep a full five hours. I would go to class and pull out wipes, a diaper, nipple cream, and baby toys in the search for a pencil. I also began the era of Constantly In Need of a Sitter. Instead of texting my friends to ask if they wanted to go out, I would ask them to please stay in and watch my kids so I could go to class.
What was personal identity anyway? All I had was a constant workload and the title of Super Pregnant Girl in Our Class—much less glamorous or self-serving than anything I had envisioned at 18. But I also think my situation is much more common than what society tells us it is. Movies tell us that if you’re in your mid-twenties you’re free as a bird and certainly too young to be tied down. I spent my twenties learning what it was to set myself to the side and hold my expectations for myself (and anything else, really) loosely. The tighter I held on to what I wanted, the more suffocated I felt and the more I felt like I was missing out on life. Slowly lessening my grip on dreams I thought I had, allowed other dreams to take their place.
My age hardly means much to me now because I most closely relate to women 10 years older than I am. I don’t even like to mention my age for fear of rejection. In yet another area of life I have felt like I can’t fully identify with a group of people. My interests pull me into one sector, but my life situation places me in another.
Back when I first started having children, even simple things made it hard to relate. My husband and I were just starting out. Other moms in similar situations would suggest putting my oldest in preschool. Great suggestion, unless you can’t in any way, shape, or form afford even a one-day-a-week Mother’s Day Out program. Fresh student loans and a husband just starting a career, left no time for me to do anything aside from the SAHM life. When the preschool or Mother’s Day Out suggestions rolled in, I would just nod and say something like, “Great, I’ll look into that,” knowing that it would be several years before I could even think about it.
Knowing moms of all ages has helped to give me a well-balanced perspective when trying to navigate where I am. Their experiences and motherhood stories have enabled me to just happily be in the season I’m in and acknowledge that each motherhood journey is uniquely different.
I’m 28 now and expecting my fifth baby. In my head I am a seasoned mother, yet strangers frequently tell me, “You’re too young to have kids.” I just take it as a compliment and say, “Thank you.” (I’m so glad these kids haven’t aged me as much as it feels like they have!) But what it reminds me is that I have spent the last few years learning how to lay down my own life so that I’m exactly where I need to be. I grew up as a mother. I worked on my personal development while learning how to mother, and as my dreams got punched and pushed around I thought I might have to let them go forever. Instead, I stepped into them in new ways that I wouldn’t have thought possible in my early twenties.
I may be young, but in truth, I’m a mom just like any other. Whether motherhood happens later in life after years of building a career or early in life when your dreams aren’t even a full sentence, you’re where you need to be and able to handle where you are. I’m proud of where I am, and what it took to walk across the stage nine months pregnant with my third baby (on Mother’s Day!) because it was the start of the roaring, chaotic, adventurous twenties that I needed.