Being a teenager can be tough, which is something I'm sure you've never, ever heard before (*cue teenage eye roll*). Your hormones are all over the place (meaning everything from your skin to your love life to your self-esteem is often a mess), time often seems as though it’s going at a slow crawl, it feels like your parents just don’t understand (although they probably do), plus you’re still not quite old enough to do all the “cool” things your favorite TV show characters are doing. On the flip-side, for many of us, being a teenager also means feeling as far away from having kids (or any responsibilities, really) as humanly possible.

I personally always figured that if I even had kids at all — something I was totally not convinced I would ever do — I would begin having them at around age 35. That seemed like a solid, stable age by which point I would presumably have my sh*t together; a good time to embark on what seemed to me like the scariest thing ever. Life decided to throw me a fastball when I turned 27: I found myself pregnant and wondering what the hell to do next. But having a baby didn’t “ruin” my life, as my teenage self sometimes thought it inevitably would, and while it's been scary to an extent, it’s also been the most amazing thing I’ve ever gotten to do. Having a baby sooner than expected also taught me a thing or two about my younger self, about my old priorities and misconceptions, and about the things I should and shouldn’t have done.

I Had Lousy Self-Esteem (AKA, I Wish I’d Learned About Body Positivity Sooner)

My teen years were filled with laundry lists of what I felt was “wrong” with the way I looked. At 12, I hated my body because my boobs were too small and I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs yet. At 13, I hated that my arms were “so hairy” (according to one jerk in my math class). At 14, I decided I needed to get a nose job because my nose wasn’t as small and upturned as Kate Beckinsale’s. At 15, I hated my brace-filled mouth and all my acne. And I always, always hated my belly. So much hate for myself, because so many (school mates, magazines, television) all told me I wasn’t beautiful. But I was always beautiful in my own way. And I still am. Having a baby taught me to be body positive, and taught me just how important it is to recognize our beauty and to pass this mentality along to our kids, things I wish I’d realized sooner.

There Was No Reason To Stress As Much As I Did (Or As Much As I Do Now)

I’ve always been a worrier, but when I was a teenager, my worries were about having to do a group project or about asking my parents if I could go to this year’s Warped Tour. I stressed the hell out of these now obviously simplistic “problems” when in reality I should’ve just lived and let live. My stresses as a parent have been much more complex, starting from the ten months of high-risk pregnancy to the two months I spent by my son’s isolette in the NICU. I still sometimes find myself stressing over not so important things as well (like whether or not my son ate enough eggs for breakfast even though he’s perfectly healthy), but nowhere near the way I stressed as a teen.

That Actually Wasn’t The Most Hormonal Time Of My Life

As a brooding, angsty teen, I experienced lots of highs and lows almost daily. I would find myself laughing along with Daria one minute and then sobbing at a Staind song (I know...I KNOW) afterward, but figured it would all level out someday. And it did for a while...until I got pregnant, that is. Suddenly I missed my old teen hormones because as anyone that’s been through pregnancy knows, our hormones are the worst.

I Picked The Best (And Worst) Friends

When I was a teenager, my life revolved around my friends, and I had plenty of them. But in those days, I was nowhere near as discriminant as I am now. Thus, I had a wide array of really fantastic, supportive, wonderful friends as well as horribly toxic, negative, no-good people that pretended to be friends. Once I had a baby, though, I realized how wrong I was to keep holding on to those friendships that hurt me more than anything else. My twenty-something mom view on the world changed drastically and Take No Shit became something of a mantra. That said, about half of my best friends are all folks I met my freshman year of high school, and they are now my son’s unofficial aunts and uncles.

Those All-Nighters Watching 'Conan' While Talking On The Phone With Friends Were Simply Preamble To All-Nighters Watching My Son While Talking To Social Media

Back in middle and high school, I spent a lot of time talking on the phone with friends (this was before Facebook and Twitter and even before MySpace, y’all) and watching basic cable television in my room into the wee hours of the night. I always felt kind of proud when the National Anthem came on at around 3 a.m. to signal the end of the day’s broadcast (which no longer happens thanks to infomercials). In my early twenties, while in college, my old stay-up-late skills transferred over to a series of all-night cram sessions and all-night drink-a-thons. But the real testament to being on #TeamNoSleep was having a baby. Everything they tell you about getting all the sleep you can beforehand are 100% true.

I Was Wrong About What I Thought Mom Style Was (And I Was Kind Of A Judgmental Jerk About It)

As a teenager, one of my biggest fears of motherhood was becoming one of “those women” who were all about wearing mom jeans and culottes and what I believe to be generally frumpy clothing. My own mom wasn’t too stylish in those days either (though these days, she frequently puts my style to shame), and neither were any other moms I knew. I figured if I were to have kids, the elastic waistbands would be fine once I was in my fourties, but not a second sooner. But here I am, in my twenties, fluctuating between a sleek, all-black look (because black goes with everything, damn it) and my own special brand of “frump” (oversized Nirvana tee with yoga pants is basically my uniform). And you know what? I dig it. Teen me should’ve been less judgemental, especially when my own style back then consisted of outfits that combined fishnet stocking with plaid schoolgirl skirts and mesh black tops.

I Didn’t Know My Parents At All (But Can Now Enjoy Them In A Different Light)

Unless you’re Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, chances are your teen years were fraught with arguments about curfews and what’s for dinner and ride to practice and sleepovers and chores. I know in those days, I did not appreciate all the thing my parents did, nor did I express to them that I appreciated them, nor did I realize they had lives outside of being my parents. But having a baby has many me see them in a different, more real, and sometimes even more vulnerable light. And what’s great about this all happening in my twenties is I’ll get to continue developing this new relationship with them for much longer than had I waited until my thirties to have kids.

Images: Priscilla Blossom; Wifflegif(7)