I had never planned on becoming a mother, so when I changed my mind and became a mother at 27 years old, I was somewhat afraid that becoming a mother in my 20s meant that my life would "be over." Sadly, I had bought into the idea that once you become a mom, you lose the ability to become or be anything else. Thankfully, it took me less than six months to realize that, as a new mother, my life didn't end and I was still able to do things I loved to do, away and separate from my kid.
Being a mother didn't stop me from continuing to pursue my dream job or eventually secure my dream job or move across the country or be a great friend or be a fantastic love or spend my time reading or doing, you know, anything. Sometimes it is harder for me to do the things I want or need to do, because I have my son, but harder doesn't mean impossible. Every time something is difficult or made to be more difficult because I'm a mother, it's almost immediately countered by something wonderful and amazing that I couldn't experience if I wasn't a mother. Life has changed, to be sure, but it hasn't ended. Not even a little bit.
I think it's pretty (read: totally) normal to fear that your life will change so drastically after having a kid, that you won't be able to do other things that make you happy. Hell, I had that fear and sometimes, on my worst days when parenthood totally kicks my ass and I feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted, I still have those fears. However, it's important to bring yourself back to neutral and remember that there are plenty of reasons by being a mom in your 20s, or at any age, doesn't mean your life is over, including:
Kids Aren't Prison Sentences
I don't know why we, as a society, have decided to arbitrarily assume that when a woman becomes a mother she loses her ability to be or become anything else. Is parenthood challenging, and do those challenges make some things way more difficult than they were when you didn't have kids? You bet. However, "difficult" doesn't automatically mean you're going to be stuck next to Piper Chapman as the latest inmate at Litchfield, digging up dead bodies in the prison garden while you wait for your 18 year prison sentence to end. You still have freedom and options and capabilities, you just also have a kid.
You Still Have Friends Who Don't Have Kids...
Becoming a mother in your 20s is pretty awesome, because while some of your friends already have or are starting to have children, you also have plenty of friends who either haven't started having children, or are choosing not to have children. You get to experience the best of both worlds, and it's pretty awesome. You can be a mom, but still connect to your pre-mom self via your child-free friends, who can ground you by reminding you that potty training really, and truly, isn't that fascinating a topic.
...So Going Out With Girlfriends Sans Kids Is Still An Option...
Because you have some friends who don't have children (maybe), it might be easier to schedule nights out or weekend trips or happy hours. Sometimes (read: most times) your kid-free friends are your lifeline to the outside world, which means that, yes, you still have a life in the outside world, separate from your children.
...And Honestly, It Would Be If All Your Friends Had Kids, Too, Because Hello Babysitters And Partners And Family Members
However, if you don't have kid-free friends or just spend the majority of your time with other mothers (or you just want to connect with your mom-friends) you completely can because being a mother doesn't mean that you can't also go out into the world without your child. Seriously, becoming a mother doesn't mean that you are now obligated to be attached to your child 24/7. You're not a "bad mother" or a "neglectful mother" if you want to hand your kid over to a babysitter or (shock!) your parenting partner, and going out without them. Being a mother, whether you're in your 20s or you're in your 40s, doesn't mean that you can't exist outside and away from your child.
You Can Still Work After You Have A Kid...
Just because you've had a child doesn't mean that you have to give up your career. Your career goals or your job or any other plans you have, that don't involve your child, won't keep you from being a great mother, and being a great mother won't keep you from being a successful business woman or worker or whatever other goals you have, as a human being. You can still work and be a mother. In fact, 40% of mothers are the primary income providers for their family, in the United States.
...And Airlines Let You Bring Kids Onboard, So You Can Travel, Too
It's not like airlines have a child-embargo. You can take your children on planes and travel across the country or around the world. Like, you can do that. I traveled with my son a month after he was born, and I totally survived and I've honestly have had far more difficult times traveling without him (looking at you, drunk guy on that one flight to Chicago).
Motherhood Doesn't Mean You Lose Every Other Part Of Yourself...
Arguably, one of the worst things society does to new mothers is convince them that motherhood needs to be their only identifier. That they have to completely sacrifice every other part of themselves or their lives or their future plans, in order to be a good mother. No. That is absolutely not true, and when you're a mother in your 20s the only thing you will probably end up sacrificing is sleep (which, honestly, we've all sacrificed for various reasons before) and a few happy hours (which, really, your bank account probably appreciates).
...Because You Can Be A Mom, And Be Other Things, Too
The moment you become a mother, you're still you. You haven't lost all other parts of yourself, you've just gained another part. You're still complicated and you're still multifaceted and you're still a human being. You're just, you know, also a mother. In other words, motherhood is one thing of the many things that makes you, you. It is not the only thing.
The Responsibilities Of Parenthood Aren't Just Yours To Shoulder
The idea that motherhood "ends a woman's life" is rooted in the patriarchal idea that parenthood is a "woman's responsibility." It's the idea that certain gender stereotypes are undeniable facts instead of preconceived social notions meant to stifle and marginalize women. Just, like, no. Even if you're a single mother, you (hopefully) have people who can help you shoulder the responsibilities of motherhood. And if you do have a parenting partner, whether they be a man or a woman, they are your partner for a reason.
Your 20s Aren't The Only Time In Your Life When You Can Accomplish Something
It's not like we only have a 10 year window, from the time we hit 20 to the time we hit 30, when we can accomplish something or make something of ourselves or do one of the many things we want to do. Women don't depreciate in value once they hit their 30s (or any age) so don't think that becoming a mother in your 20s has somehow ruined your chances of doing anything else. Even if you decide to put your career goals on hold and stay at home with your children, you can still pick up where you left off once your kids go to college or the military or just move out of the house. Your life doesn't end when your 20s does.