In a time when the average age that a woman has her first child in the U.S. has been steadily rising for decades, bucking the trend and deciding to have children at a younger-than-usual age comes with a pretty unique set of pros and cons (and unfortunately even various negative connotations). Being a young mom means you will likely, at some point, have to deal with the world’s assumptions regarding your relationship with your kid's other parent, your financial ~situation~, and/or your educational status. When you aren’t even old enough to rent a car, people may question your ability to parent a child. It’s crappy, but then, people are crappy.
However, all the crappiness aside, there are actually many advantages to having your kids young, including the ability to offer experience-earned parenting advice to your besties who wait a few more years before starting a family of their own.
For as long as I can remember, my best friend has had a pretty specific “life plan.” She wanted to become a doctor, marry a total Baldwin, and have a slew of adorable little Greek babies (she's Greek). Against all odds, I, the girl who vowed to never get married or have children, actually settled down with my beau, tied the knot, and had two babies long before she ever began enacting her grand plan. Recently, my best friend found her own Prince Charming and has been feverishly counting down the days until they get married, begin their lives together, and start trying to have babies. She’s offered me so much over the years in the way of love, friendship, and impeccable advice that I wish I could adequately prepare her for everything motherhood entails. But I’m not even sure where I’d begin.
Perhaps as early as the “trying to conceive” point on the motherhood timeline? Because girl. I would tell her that I know our mothers led us to believe that if those hotties-with-bodies back in high school even looked at us, we would get pregnant, but it’s actually not always that easy. So I would tell her to not panic if it doesn’t happen right away.
Or should I start at childbirth? I would tell her that her outrageous organizational skills are going to incline her to create a 16-page birth plan, but that she should try to prepare herself for the reality that things don’t always go as planned, especially when it comes to getting a baby from the inside to the outside of your body, and that she should prepared to roll with the punches.
Or should I address those first few postpartum months? I want to tell her about what happens after the hubbub of pregnancy and delivery has died down, and she is left settling into the reality of life with a newborn, and how she may have a moment or two when she questions what the hell you were thinking having a baby at all.
We want to tell our friends a lot of things when we have kids before them. Because all the research in the world won’t prepare you for the crippling exhaustion, rollercoaster of emotions, and terrifying isolation that can accompany new motherhood. I promise it gets easier, and I beg you to reach out to other moms that are right there in the trenches with you. You don’t have to go it alone. You need someone to, if nothing else, reassure you for the millionth time that all of those feelings you're feeling weird about are completely normal. And you need someone, when things feel particularly bleak, like when the baby projectile poops all over you and themselves minutes before their birthday, to take the baby and give you a minute to chill out.
Like many before me have said, the days will be impossibly long, but the years will go by painfully fast. Soak in that newborn smell, each toddler giggle, and the quiet bliss of the preschooler who had a bad dream and came in to snuggle with his mama. But in the grand scheme of things, I’m still probably playing on the J.V. team of parenthood, so don’t just take my word for it. Here are a few tidbits from other seasoned moms, who had their kids young, and can now give you the behind-the-scenes scoop on motherhood:
(Ages below are age at birth of first kid, because that seems more relevant here, right?)
Put your phones down and connect with your kids. Technology is great, but disconnecting from social media at least once a day, for several hours, is a must. Also, it's healthy to have your kids do chores around the house and be responsible for their own messes. They should pick up toys, make [their own] bed, bring dishes from the table to you at the sink, and even sort clothes for laundry. Example: Find all of your white things and put them in this basket. How early? If they can walk, and understand direction, they can do these things. - Elizabeth, 24
I guess my advice would be not to worry about making it work with a new baby. It will work. You might not have the money or job or house you want for this time in your life, but it will all come together. And you'll have the greatest joy you've ever felt and the deepest love you'll ever give or receive with this new baby. Things will always change but you'll always be mom to this wonderful little human. - Nancy, 28
Make sure you are secure with yourself and who you are. Everyone will tell you an opinion on EVERYTHING. You, as the mom, know what's best for your family, so stick to your guns. And newborns are just f#@king hard to handle some days. It's so exciting and you're so in awe of this adorable tiny life you made, but it's also exhausting. Learn to prioritize. You can't always get everything in that you used to, so pick and choose what to go to and what to pass on. - Krysta, 26
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Raising kids can be hard and needing help is nothing to be ashamed of at all. - Sara, 20
Don’t worry about having your kids too young. One of the greatest benefits is that you’ll eventually get to be a young grandma. Still active and vibrant enough to enjoy those, little rascals. - Marlene, 22
“Let the majors be majors and the minors be minors!!!” - Anonymous (but it just seems like good advice, so here you go.)
"This too, shall pass." So appreciate the good moments and rest assured that the bad ones will change into good ones. - Anna, 19
Took me 3 kids to realize that excessive time, energy, and intricate details put into kids birthday parties is unnecessary. Those things don't matter at all. It's all about the meaning of the day and remembering why you are really celebrating. Also, I didn't get as overwhelmed or irritated when it was just 1 or 2 kids. Once I had 3 things changed... and I had to learn to adapt! - Erica, 24
It's way easier to be a single mom than it is to co-parent with an a**hole. - Bitsy, 26
Stay true to your values and stay away from ‘nevers!’ For instance, my husband and I decided early that one value we wanted to hold true to was raising our children in a church. And I always swore I would never let my kids play with my keys. HA! Eventually, I found myself handing over my keys to a fussy kid in church. That's when I realized, we were holding our value but giving in on our ‘never.’ - Erin, 21
If it works for your family, and doesn't cause anyone permanent harm? Do it! - Christine, 29
Speak up when it comes to your child. Don't ever let any doctor, family member, friend, etc., tell you what is best for your child. - Franza, 20
You're going to feel like you suck at it. But that's okay. The fact that you are researching and second-guessing yourself means you are doing a good job. -Jessica, 25
The only real parenting advice I have is don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Do you and follow your own parenting rhythm. - Kristina, 26
"No" does not damage their psyche. Start that immediately. If you get fed up, call in backup at any cost. Single? You're not alone. Find/make a friend asap. Never, never, think that your friends won't help. Sometimes an ear and calm voice on the phone is all it takes to change everything. - Holly, 25
Images: WB; Giphy(12)