Being a young mom can be difficult enough. People are either far too inquisitive about your age or, once they find out your age, are quick to make assumptions and snap judgments. Being a new mom with a baby face? Yeah, that only exacerbates the issue. People no longer feel the need to ask how old you are. Instead, they simply give you a look and automatically assume you are young (whether you are or not) and then proceed to say all the things every new mom with a baby face is tired of hearing. I mean, as if motherhood wasn't exhausting enough, new moms with baby faces have to worry about these sweeping judgments, too? Give us a break, society. You're relentless.
I, personally, have received some unnecessary (not to mention, uncomfortable) stares at restaurants and grocery stores and even at the park, from both random strangers and people I thought were my friends. It is the most frustrating and hurtful thing in the world, especially as a new mother who is just trying to find her way and adjust to her new life and take care of her baby to the best of her ability. To have someone automatically assume that I couldn't handle motherhood because of how I looked was not only detrimental and hurtful, it was an added pressure that I didn't need. In fact, if I may be so bold, it's an added pressure that no mother (regardless of age) needs.
As a young mom and a mom with a baby face, I can assure you there are many things I get tired of hearing almost every time I go out somewhere. Yes, the looks are bad, what with the raised eyebrows and smug noses, but the passing comments or judgmental questions are by far, without question, even worse. If we're going to create an environment that supports all mothers, regardless of their age or how they look, I would say it's probably best to rid the following phrases from our collective vocabulary. After all, you can't judge a book by its cover, right?
"How Old Are You?"
Yes, I look young. Yes, I am young. Is that a problem? Need I remind you that, historically, many women started having children in their teens? According to history, these women were nothing short of great mothers. Think about Jesus' mother, Mary. She was, biblically, a "young teen" when she had Jesus and would anyone debate that she was a great mother? Think about Shirley Temple, "America's Sweetheart." She was only 17-years-old when she got married and was only 19 when she had her first child. Maya Angelou was 17-years-old when she had her first and only child. Are any of these women less than amazing individuals and role models not only for their children but also for the public?
Am I advocating for women getting married young and having babies young, usually a direct result of a patriarchal and sexist society that valued women only for their procreating abilities? Absolutely not. I mean, women are waiting to have children for a reason, and I think that's wonderful. However, being young and/or looking young means nothing. when it comes to your ability as a mother, just like it doesn't matter if you're 45 and having your first baby. You can be an amazing mother at any age if you try.
"Wait. You're His/Her Mom? No Way!"
If I am calling myself, "Mom" and taking care of my child, do you think I'd be doing so just for fun? Are you assuming this is some sort of street performance? Nope, it's not. Yes, I'm a mom. Again, just because I look young doesn't mean I am not a perfectly capable mother.
"So, How Long Have You Worked As A Nanny?"
Never. This is my daughter, I am her mother. I do not employ a nanny (not that there is anything wrong with employing a nanny, because there definitely isn't). I have never been a nanny. Again, thank you for the compliment, I guess? I mean, I feel as young as I apparently look!
"You Look Way Too Young To Have A Baby Of Your Own"
Is there some super secret, silently discussed proper age that society has decided women should be when they have children? Wait, don't answer that. I already know and I already don't care. Last time I checked, motherhood was about maturity and responsibility and if the individual and/or couple and/or co-parents are or were ready, not about the public's perception of them.
"You Must Be His/Her Mother. No Way You're A Grandmother..."
I can't tell you how many people have said this to my daughter's grandmothers (and in front of me). Without fail, the majority follow up this assumption by blushing and trying to make it better, usually by flattering the grandmothers and then nervously smiling at me like, "I'm sorry, you just look so young." Yes, I know I look young. Yes, I know my daughter's grandmothers look young, too. As flattering as this is for them, it's just as offensive to me.
"...And You Must Be The Older Sister!"
Nope, I'm not the older sibling. I am, in fact, the mom. In fact, I would very much appreciate it if you would treat me as such. Thank you.
"Are You Married?"
Again, isn't that a personal question and for that matter, a personal choice? Some women choose to have children alone either by adoption or sperm bank. Some women choose not to marry the father and/or their partner; Some women are married or are engaged to be married. Each individual has their own story and their own situation that works best for them. In the big scheme of things, does that really matter? As long as the mother and any other parent and, of course, the baby is healthy and happy and thriving, the marital status of any or all involved is irrelevant.
"Was Your Baby Planned?"
Seriously? In a world of questions and comments that aren't arbitrarily categorized as "politically correct," we're "allowed" to ask a question like this? Isn't that private information between the two parents? Just because I have a baby face does not mean my child was not planned. I know plenty of people who have "baby faces," whose children were planned and plenty who have "baby faces" whose children were wonderful surprises. Please don't inquire as to the reason why two people were having sex. That is absolutely none of your business. Just, no.
"Wow. What Are You? Seventeen?"
As I've said before, is there a problem with being young? Is there a problem with looking young? I've never heard of people saying looking younger is a "bad thing." I mean, we're living in a society that values youth to an almost (read: definitely) unhealthy degree. In fact, since I have a baby face, I've often been told, "Wait until you're older. You'll be so excited when people tell you that you look young." Ugh.
"Did You Gain A Lot Of Weight When You Were Pregnant?"
Excuse me? Um, I'm sorry (not sorry), but since when is it ever appropriate o ask a woman (or person) her weight or weight gain/loss? I, personally, have no problem sharing, although I do find it rude that people randomly ask as if they're privy to that kind of personal information. I gained 40 pounds with my daughter, and lost all but maybe 5 or 10 pounds. However, and this is worth mentioning since people seem so inclined as to ask; no, that extra weight is not in my face. My face has always looked this way, thank you very much.