Over the past few decades, the average age when a woman has her first child, has steadily increased. The rise of feminism, the implementation of anti-discriminatory laws, and the various technological advances in the reproductive field all have contributed to making many young women feel empowered about making choices about when or if to have kids, rather than just... ya know... having them because "that's what you do." Instead, they are pursuing higher education, taking the workplace by storm, and establishing themselves in the career world. While having a kid if you're under 30 doesn't exactly make you a freak show, in ever-more social circles, anyone who decides to procreate in their 20s (especially their early 20s) is increasingly kind of an oddity.
I was 23 when I got pregnant with my first child. Personally, I think this hardly qualifies me for a Guinness World Record, but the reactions I have received over the years might lead one to believe otherwise. My graduate school professors were shocked, my peers were astonished, and my own family was mystified by the fact that I would intentionally try for a baby at such a “young” age. And that was just the response from people who knew me. When I was pregnant, strangers would look on me with pitying eyes. Later, when I had my son, people would often initially assume I was his nanny. If you’re a young mom, or even a youngish-looking mom, you’ve probably been subjected to some of the following ridiculous assumptions too.
Your Pregnancy Was An Accident
In this day and age, no one would intentionally get pregnant and squander away all of their youth and promise, right? It just had to have been an accident. Everyone will incorrectly assume that your life is some sad, real-life reenactment of Juno or Where The Heart Is and passers-by will nod sympathetically and spew well-meaning platitudes like “every child is a gift” as you roll your eyes.
And That You're Depressed About It
And if you aren't acting bummed out about becoming a mom, you're faking it. There's absolutely no chance that you could be a mom at your age and actually be happy about it.
You Are Uneducated
Being a young mom, means running the risk of people intentionally or unintentionally talking down to you. Your baby face and burgeoning belly will lead people to believe that you are uneducated at best, and ignorant at worst. They will assume that you have never attended college, and might even peg you as a high-school dropout. As a young mom who received her Master’s Degree and gave birth, all in the same calendar month, I can attest to how incredibly annoying these assumptions can be.
You're Unmarried (And Obviously Depressed About That Too)
During both of my pregnancies, I gained an inordinate amount of weight. And by inordinate, I mean I looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I’d like to blame the “baby retention caused my fingers to swell so much that I could no longer wear my engagement ring or my wedding weight” on my two boys, who were 9 and 10 pounds respectively, but I think it had more to do with my insatiable Oreo cravings. But I digress: This excessive weight gain and my subsequent lack of wearing my wedding ring. As if being 23, and hugely pregnant in the peak of Florida summer was not bad enough, I would frequently fall victim to old ladies pointing and whispering at my naked ring finger as well. I even had a particularly brazen woman approach me, while grocery shopping, to tell me that she’d pray for me to “stay strong” and that “adoption was always an option.” I’m sure you can imagine how well that went over when coupled with my hormonally-induced, third trimester pregnancy rages!
You Have No Real Career And Work Sh*tty Jobs
Being a young mom, especially to more than one child, seems to elicit powerful, stereotypical imagery of barefoot, pregnant women, toiling away over hot stoves. The idea that a young mom could also manage a successful career seems to be difficult for many people to fathom. They often assume that if you are employed, you work a low-paying, menial job with few prospects for advancement. The reality is that young moms are employed in a variety of professional settings. They often hold well-paying and/or prestigious positions such as teachers, nurses, police officers, and even military personnel.
You Don't Believe In Contraception
Even if you can successfully convince someone that your pregnancy was not accidental, that you aren’t uneducated, unwed, or unemployed, invariably they will still assume that you belong to some cultish religion that made you marry young and pop out babies like a belgian rabbit. If you have more than one child, they may go as far as to try and educate you on contraception. I find it best to just smile, nod, and say things like, “So that’s how that works!”
You're Basically Just A Bad Mom With Terrible Parenting Skills
Perhaps the most difficult pill to swallow, of all the assumptions about young moms, is that a lack of life experience translates to a lack of parenting ability. Because I was a younger mom, and one of the first of my friends to have kids, I didn’t have anyone to field all the parenting questions and concerns that popped up. I knew that I was in over my head and therefore overcompensated by zealously researching every facet of parenting, from childbirth classes to breastfeeding positions, vaccine schedules to positive discipline techniques for toddlers — I covered the gamut. Google and I became besties.
I’ve learned over the years that when it comes to parenting, there are a lot of skills that cannot be taught. They are only obtained once you are deep in the trenches. So theoretically, one’s age has no bearing on the type of parent they are capable of becoming. Instead, it's the depth of their love, commitment, and devotion to their children that matters.
As a young mom — or even just a youngish-looking mom — you know better than anyone that the old adage “never judge a book by its cover” is terribly accurate. However, you won’t be able to change everyone’s viewpoints. If you can, it’s best to learn to brush off these rude assumptions and remarks and simply revel in the lack of wrinkles and boundless energy that come with your youth.
Images: blanketboat/Instagram; Giphy(7)