I was asking my 25-year-old brother about his thoughts on marriage recently, and whether he thought his current relationship was heading in that direction. He balked at me and said, "Well, we can't all be child brides." Touché, little brother. Touché. I wasn't a child when I married my husband, but at 23 and 24, we were the first of our friends to get married. Getting married young was natural for us, and it has turned out to be an added bonus in actually helping us to be better parents.
I sometimes wonder what our lives would have been like if we had met 10 years later, instead of in our early 20s and in our last year of college. We would have done so much growing up separately, we probably would have dated a lot more people before settling on each other, and we likely would have done more career-building separately before starting to make those decisions together.
What-ifs aside, however, getting married young actually helped us to be better parents to our daughter and to the foster children who have shared our home. Getting married young helped us grow together as a couple, have lots of life and world experiences before having kids, and essentially turned us into a much stronger parenting team than we might otherwise have been.
We Had Time To Build Our Relationship
We got married when we were in our early 20s and, because we weren't in our early 30s, there was less pressure to begin our family straight away (although that didn't keep friends and family from asking that dreaded question every change they had).
Instead, we spent a few years growing together as a couple, learning (often the hard way) about our weaknesses and trying to build them into strengths. By the time we became parents, we were a strong team. Even as our first year of being parents has been rollercoaster of foster care challenges, in addition to our daughter, we've been able to operate as a cohesive unit.
We Built Lots of Experiences Together
When we got married, we knew we wanted to do lots of exploring together, and our love of travel ended up broadening our horizons before having children. After fitting in as many adventures around Europe as we could, while living in Ireland, we built shared experiences to draw on when parenting our little one. We also both now know how important it will be to share that love of travel with our children as they grow.
We Learned Flexibility
If there's one characteristic I believe makes a person a good parent, it's flexibility. As it turns out, getting married young meant we didn't have much opportunity to become inflexible or set in our own routines before we got married. Flexibility and compromise in dealing with situations that weren't exactly to our liking was the norm, not the exception.
We Learned How To Sacrifice Together
That might be a bit of a euphemism for the truth: we were very poor early on and that prepared us to sacrifice for our kids. Financial stress is one of the hardest difficulties to face in a marriage, and we spent the first year of our marriage very, very poor (happy, but poor).
Now that we have our daughter (whose adoption was quite expensive), we know what it feels like to go without, and that financial stress is something we already know how to deal with as a couple.
We Had More Time To Get Our Finances In Order
The follow-on from being poor very early in our young marriage, is that we had time before becoming parents to work on being more financially ready to become parents. We've definitely had frugal years as we saved to buy a house and re-built our life in another country while we hoped to adopt, but we were financially more ready to be parents because we got married young.
We Shaped Our Ideas About Parenting Together
Maturing happens for different people in different ways, but getting married younger means your ideas about parenting are mostly formed together. While there will always be compromise in how we parent, but we didn't have specific ideas about how we wanted to parent until after we got married and started exploring those concepts together. We also got a chance to watch other people parent, and then discuss together whether we'd do the same thing or choose a different road.
We Answered Fertility Questions Early
File this under ways getting married young allowed me to become a parent at all, let alone better. Because we were married relatively young, we started asking questions about why we weren't getting pregnant before we even turned 30. Because we got married earlier and started getting fertility testing earlier, we had a few more options (like adopting first and leaving IVF for later) for becoming parents.
We Learned to Put Someone Else First
Putting someone else first is really at the heart of parenting, and when you get married young that's what you've been practicing for your whole adult life. There's very little opportunity to act selfishly when you're married, and you quickly need to learn the art of compromising in order to make sure everyone's needs are met.
Getting married young means you learn to put someone else's needs before your own, really setting yourself up for success as a parent when a tiny human is screeching for more food when all you really want to do is watch Real Housewives.