The best decision for one person can be the worst for another. There are plenty of women who meet "their person" early on in life. They know in their gut that's who they want to make a family with and, if they choose to be, they're wonderful moms. That's not my story, though. I was 32 when I got married and honestly, waiting to get married made me a better parent.
My group of high school friends was convinced I'd be the first to get married and have a baby. I basically set out to do just that. I got engaged the February before I graduated from college. I made all the arrangements for the blessed day, bought the fabric for my mom to make my dress, and reserved the church and reception hall. In my heart of hearts, though, I knew something wasn't right. I ended up calling off the wedding two months before it was to take place. It was heart-wrenching but, ultimately, the best decision I could have ever made.
So maybe I wasn't ready to get hitched at 21. I took some time and partied and played, but by my mid-twenties I was beginning to worry that Prince Charming would never show up. Of course, I was looking in all the wrong places. In the end, it was a decade before I met the man who became my husband. He always says he wishes he'd met me sooner, but I don't. It took me that long to love myself enough to love him.
I truly believe that getting married and having a baby later in life has made me a more confident, effective, and loving mom. That's certainly not to say that you can't be those things if you get married early on (I have former students who had their children the same time as I did, and they're awesome mamas). It's just that, for me, waiting was the right path, and here's why:
I Was Comfortable In My Own Skin
There was a time in my life when I really lost myself. When I ended things with my fiancé, my sister said she was relieved to finally have her sister back. Still, I was still pretending to be something I wasn't for the men I dated. Once I realized my partner wasn't going anywhere, I settled into being the real me. In her maid of honor toast, my sister told my new husband, "Since Kimmie has been with you, she has been more her delightful, funny, flatulent self than I’ve seen her in years."
What does this have to do with being a mom? Kind of everything. Unfortunately, we moms must navigate a sanctimonious, judgmental world. We are subject to shaming regarding our decisions about how we feed, sleep, bathe, dress, and discipline our children. But me? I don't give a rat's ass. I full on own my parenting decisions. I don't waste precious energy worrying what other people think of me as a mom.
I Was Ready To Dedicate Myself To Motherhood
When I became a mom, I can honestly say I had no regrets. I worked in my field with a good deal of success for 13 years. During my single years, I learned no fewer than five new dance styles, went to museums and plays, and cultivated friendships. At the age of 28 with no marital prospects, I decided it was a perfect time to volunteer abroad at a Honduran orphanage.
So when I found out I was pregnant and that my husband's job would take us away from home, I didn't feel any resentment. I was proud of my achievements but ready for a new adventure. I don't begrudge my daughter her constant neediness (most of the time) because this is what I wanted to do. I don't harbor fantasies about when the kids are out of the house because I already got to do so much before I got married.
I Was More Mature
Easy there, comments section. There are plenty of young people who are the epitome of maturity. I just wasn't one of them. I'm still kind of immature now. I like Disney movies, and I think farts are hilarious. But over time, I've actually become really good at "adulting." Yeah, I still call my mom to find out the best way to thaw frozen meat, but I run my household like a boss.
When I was in college, I had a panic attack over having to figure out the bus system to get my ballet slippers fixed. At that age, I would never have recognized the girl who hitchhiked to Tegucigalpa (Do. Not. Recommend.) It takes a lot to reduce me to tears anymore. These days, toddler tantrums and huge messes are annoyances, but no more.
I Had Lots Of Experience With Kids
Before I had my own kid, I had been a babysitter, nanny, preschool dance teacher, tutor, and elementary school teacher. I knew how to change a diaper, give a bottle, and comfort a crying baby. I also knew exactly how I wanted to raise my kids. When there was something I didn't know, I researched it.
All this meant that when I faced the huge learning curve that is motherhood (Why won't my baby latch? WTF is in her bellybutton? When will she sleep?), I felt like I had a leg up.
I Was More Independent
When you're single for a long time, you learn how to take care of yourself. I was the one who did the grocery shopping, balanced my budget, and took the car in for an oil change. No one else was going to do it for me. It's cool because when my husband does one of those things, I don't take it for granted. Honestly, I was in a good position to do the single parent thing, which has been beneficial with a spouse in the military. I know I have the capability to take care of my child all by myself, I'm just grateful I don't have to.
The single life can also force you to be more outgoing. I learned to take risks and try something new, whether that was flamenco dancing or an advanced Spanish grammar class. This was a useful skill when I found myself a new mom in a new place. I joined a mom group, took my daughter to story time, and frequented the local pool. All these experiences and new friends enriched not only my life, but my daughter's as well.
I Was In A Good Emotional Place
I called off my wedding around the same time as I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. My 20s were a time of self-destructive behaviors in terms of my social life. I was in and out of therapy and on and off medication. I couldn't get my weight under control. I was in no position to bring another person into the world.
By my first date with my now husband, I was under the care of a wonderful psychiatrist. I'd found the right dosage of meds. I was exercising. I'd met a friend through dance who showed me how I deserved to be treated. So when the right guy came around, I was ready. With my mental health under control, I was able to care for and love my baby in the way I'd always imagined.
I Was Financially Stable
I mean, I wasn't making it rain. I was a teacher, after all. But after a decade in my profession, I was able to buy a house. I had a retirement account and good benefits. I paid off my credit card three days before my girl made her debut.
You don't need money to be a great parent. We were dirt poor growing up, and I had a magical childhood. But not having to worry about having money for food, shelter, clothing, and education really takes a load off a parent.
I Had A Willing Partner
My husband and I met online (but if he asks, I didn't tell you that). It was cool because by that point in my life, I knew exactly what I wanted. It was right on my dating profile that I wanted to get married and have kids. Anyone without the same goals could simply move along.
Because we both wanted to have children, I didn't have to worry about him walking out when it became difficult and saying, "You're the one who wanted a baby." (My bioligical dad said this to my mom about my colicky sister.) It helps me be a better mom when I know that someone is always going to have my back, and it really helps that that person is the man I decided to grow old with.