Becoming a mother at any age can be a challenge, but young moms deal with an entirely different set of obstacles and expectations than those that waited until what society considers the "appropriate" time to procreate. I, myself, am a young mom, and though my parental adventure was (mostly) planned, there is still some stigma attached to it. Having children when you're young usually means that everyone, from your grandmother to your grocer, wants to tell you about the things that all new moms should do, which is fine, but their advice rarely takes into consideration that being a young mother doesn't mean that you're an inept one.
I know, from my own personal experience, that people assumed the age I was when I became pregnant meant that I was going to be over-my-head and ill-equipped for motherhood. No one took into account that my husband and I were both self-sufficient, independent, and mature individuals. No one assumed that we did the responsible thing and, you know, actually discussed parenthood before deciding to enter into it. There are plenty of things you can do to help a new mom, but telling her how to live her life and warning her of the impending doom she'll be powerless to overcome, isn't one of them. There are things every new mom worries about, no matter what her age is, so assuming that a young mom should have more fear or anxiety about motherhood , just because of her age, isn't only off-base, it's rude.
Personally, as a young mom, I unfortunately allowed other people's expectations of me become the very expectations I had for myself. Those unrealistic or unnecessary expectations morphed into the following nine things I though I had to do because I was a young mom, but as it turns out, I didn't, and you don't have to either.
Lose The "Baby Weight" Immediately
I hate when people talk about getting your body back after having a baby. Like, my body never left, so why are people telling me to get it back? We didn't break up, we made a human. Together. Still, we live in a world that is constantly sexualizing women and holding them to unrealistic beauty expectations, and if I didn't "get my body back," I was afraid that I would no longer be relevant or meaningful (at least not as much as I used to be, before kids). My age made this especially hard, because I was not yet at the point where people expected me to "let myself go," and dear god people are just the worst.
Pregnancy took a major tole on my body, and it probably won't ever look the same, but that's okay! What I gained in my life far outweighs the pounds that I haven't lost, and what my body accomplished when it made my sons is far greater than the abs I once had.
Want To Immediately Be Social
Having kids doesn't mean forfeiting your social life, but it does affect it. As a young mom, some of my friends and acquaintances expected me to be back at the bars just weeks after having my son. While I think girl's nights are a great and necessary part of postpartum life, I enjoy spending more time at home with my children than I do hanging out in bars. That's sometimes hard for my friends that don't have kids to understand, and I often have to answer what should be the rhetorical question, "Where ya been?" Well, obviously I've been taking care of my kids. You know, being a good mother!
Prove My Maturity
I know by now that age is no indication of maturity, but not everyone agrees. Young moms, especially, have to deal with the unfair assumption that just because we're young, we must be immature. That's just not the case, but that didn't stop me from wanting to prove to others that I did, in fact, have my shit together and I was, in fact, capable of raising another human. I know now that the opinions of anyone other than my child and my partner are irrelevant, and that the health and well-being and happiness of my children, speak for themselves.
Listen To Everyone's Advice
I like to think that when people offer their unsolicited advice, they mean well. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. When my kids were sick or fussy or sleepy (but refused to sleep), people wanted to tell me what I needed to do. No one ever stopped to consider that maybe my husband and I knew how to take care of our baby, or that we maybe knew our kids' behavior a little better than most. Advice and suggestions, when asked for, can be great, but when it's delivered in a condescending manner, it's insulting. I had to learn to trust my own instincts and say, "Thanks, but no thanks," when others tried to intrude on my parenting.
Start Planning For Another Baby
Why does everyone assume that where there is one baby, another must immediately follow? I've got two boys, yes, but being a one-and-done parent was something I seriously considered. I had roughly five minutes with my first son, before people started asking about a second.
Go Back To Work Immediately
As a young mother, I felt like I was still proving myself in my career. I cut my maternity leave short, not just for financial reasons, but because I wanted my boss and coworkers to know that I was serious about my job. Unfortunately, this cut into some of those precious first weeks with my son, and proved to be one of the most guilt-inducing decisions I've ever made.
Not Want To Go Back To Work At All
On the other hand, I also felt like I was missing some maternal gene because of the fact that I wanted to go back to work. I thought that I was supposed to want to stay at home with my son all the time. While, yes, I did want to spend as much time with him as possible, I also wanted to maintain my sense of self, and working outside of the home was a big part of that.
Hop Right Back Into Bed With My Partner
Our society assumes that young women are constantly exuding sexuality, and if we don't, well, we must be prudes or hate men. I loved being physical with my partner, but having a baby made me a little hesitant to jump back into bed with him. Being physically prepared for sex after having a baby is one thing, but even once I reached that point and was cleared for sexual activity, I still wasn't sure whether or not I was mentally and emotionally prepared for it. Our sex-obsessed society only made me feel worse about not wanting to have sex immediately after I had a baby. Women, no matter their age, shouldn't have their sexuality questioned ever, but especially after having a baby.
Try To Be The Same Person I Was Before I Had Kids
Becoming a mother means making so many sacrifices and constantly putting another person's needs above your own, without hesitation (okay, maybe a little hesitation). Having a baby changes a person, sure, but in my own case, I feel like I was better because of those changes. When you're a young mom it can feel like you have to constantly prove yourself to, well, everyone. We're supposed to prove that we can still be the people we were before we had kids; that we're still fit and fun and relevant; that we're able and mature and capable of rising to the occasion. I still feel like I'm the same person at my core, but the person I am today completely trumps the one I was before I had kids because I am able and mature and capable of rising to any occasion that parenthood throws my way.
Sure, I'm also still proving myself, but not to the people that question my maternal abilities because of my age; I'm proving myself to my kids. I'm proving every single day that I can be everything that they need me to be, and that is all that I really have to do, not because I'm young, but because I'm a mom.