I spent the third decade of my life pregnant, giving birth, and having kids, but I don't regret "missing out" on my 20s by having kids young. There's nothing wrong with choosing a different path than the rest of your peers and besides, that whole partying lifestyle? Totally not for me. Motherhood suited me much better. There are times, mostly when my kids are screaming or having a meltdown or I have to wipe someone's poopy butt for the 10,000 time that day, that I allow myself to briefly fantasize about how different my life could have been if I hadn't gotten pregnant in my 20s. What would I have done? Who would I have become? Would I have lived that stereotypical, cliché, and carefree life every 22 year old dreams of? Would I have explored and traveled and spent my summers worry free, by the pool or at the beach?
I don't know. And a part of me will probably always wonder what it would have been like to have my 20s all to myself. Part of me even wishes I would've had a chance to live it up a little, have a little too much fun, enjoy some adventures, or stay up for a reason that didn't include taking care of a newborn. But if I'm being honest, I was never that interested in what a lot of people my age were doing. I've always been somewhat of an "old soul." I preferred reading to any activity growing up, was babysitting by the time I was 10 years old, and looked forward to getting the class syllabus simply in order to do my work ahead of time.
I had plenty of time to perhaps indulge before I got pregnant shortly after my 21 birthday, but I just wasn't interested in keeping that up. I think I went to exactly one college party and I was bored the whole time. I was more interested in doing other things: I started a club during college, worked two jobs, and studied abroad in France. I packed a lot of living into a time when most of my friends were sleeping off their hangovers.
I didn't buy into the fact that turning 30 meant anything more than a number, but it did feel like a milestone for me, simply because I knew that there was no going back.
So when I found out that I was pregnant a few weeks into my senior year of college, even though my pregnancy upheaved everything in my life, I think that deep down I still knew I'd be fine. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was a long road to figuring out motherhood, but I feel like I had a head start simply because I didn't have to mourn the loss of my carefree partying days.
And now that I actually and officially have left my 20s behind forever — I celebrated my 30 birthday earlier this year — I couldn't help but look back and wonder if after an entire decade spent having kids, I had any long-lingering regrets.
But I don't.
Instead of hazy memories from parties, I have memories of my babies taking their first steps.
When you're in the thick of the baby years, you don't really have a lot of time for reflection and contemplation. I had four kids in six years, so most of my time was spent just trying to survive. It wasn't until this year, when my 30 birthday hit and my youngest approached her second birthday, that I felt like I could finally take a breath. Up until this point, my life had been whizzing by on full speed.
Turning 30 might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people and in some ways, it's really not. I didn't buy into the fact that turning 30 meant anything more than a number, but it did feel like a milestone for me, simply because I knew that there was no going back. Turning 30 made me panic a little bit and wonder if I had missed out on something, some kind of key self-identity journey. In some way, when I was still in my 20s, even though I was also having kids, I was still able to tell myself that it was OK to still be in the learning phase of life — the only difference was I was learning with my kids by my side. Turning 30, however, felt like the jig was up: I officially had to adult.
I would never have the chance to be carefree and party on the beach with my 22 year old not-pregnant body. I would never, ever feel the pressure to decide what to do with the world that was at my fingertips, the way fresh-faced 21 year olds so often do. And you know what? I'm OK with that. I'll look back on my 20s as the decade when I found my dream job, gave birth to — and raised — four beautiful children, built a home and retirement accounts, and where I started a life.
Even though part of me dreams of the day when my kids are grown and I can lounge on a beach with my husband, comfortable enough with my stretch marks to rock a bikini, I still don't regret that my 20s were anything but carefree.
In fact, I feel anything but regret. I feel grateful. Intensely, intensely grateful that I was able to have children when so many women can not, that we were able to find jobs that have allowed us to care for our families, that we were able to purchase a home at 23 years old. I feel grateful that instead of spending my 20 biding my time, waiting for my "real" life to start, I spent them building a life I can be proud of. I feel grateful that instead of hazy memories from parties, I have memories of my babies taking their first steps, cuddling with me in the early morning hours, of my husband and I working hard to build our careers together.
I don't say any of this to insinuate that spending your 20s any other way is somehow less valuable or worthwhile, because it's not — at all. But for moms like me, the ones who may occasionally wonder if we "missed out" on having a blast by having babies, it's nice to look back and realize that honestly? I wouldn't change a thing.