I was 24 when I had my daughter. And even though that pregnancy was neither expected nor pleasant, I was optimistic. Sure, I guess your 20s are "supposed" to be about finding yourself, finishing college, starting your career, and navigating less-than-ideal romantic relationships, but I took a different path. When I had my son years later, I realized there are more than a few hilarious differences between having a baby in your 20s versus your 30s. I guess a lot can be said for a significant amount of self-growth and experience, right?
I'm sure I'm not alone when I say this, but I felt completely out of my league when it came to caring for my daughter. My partner and I didn't know what the hell we were doing as first-time parents, so every diaper change, feeding, burping, and bedtime routine was a "try it and see what sticks" type of situation. It was frustrating at times, sure, and
I worried about everything every hour of every day, but we had the energy and willpower to find what worked. God bless any and all caffeinated beverages.
By the time I learned I was
pregnant with my son, however, things took a drastic turn. I was really tired, and my soon-to-be 5-year-old was really into that whole "I'm independent and do what I want" thing. In my 20s I was able to bounce back from those all-nighters and toddler tantrums a little quicker, but with my son, well, I had less energy to devote to the exhausting work of caring for two kids simultaneously. That doesn't mean my son suffered, though. In fact, he was spared all the mistakes we made with his sister. But I can tell you that there are some hilarious ways having one baby in your 20s compares to how things play out in your 30s. For example: Your Definition Of "Tired" In your 20s: "I'm hella tired, but let's get a sitter and get drinks anyway!"
Yes, I was new to the mom thing, but I wasn't new to the out-all-night thing. Having been a club singer for years, it wasn't abnormal to get to bed around 3 a.m., only to sleep a few hours, wake to start the day, and do it all over again the following night. I honestly thought I was tired when I had my first baby, but neglected to notice how fast I learned to navigate that fatigue. Because, youth.
In your 30s: "I'm hella tired, so let's put on pajamas before an early dinner and fall asleep watching a romantic comedy at 5 p.m. and way before the sun actually sets."
I don't know what happened when I hit 30, but just waking up in the morning makes me tired. By the time it's noon, I'm spent.
Your Ability To Give AF In your 20s: "I'm so upset that person criticized my choice to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula. I'll cry about it for weeks, at least."
I gave breastfeeding a solid go, and in the end, it wasn't for me. But in my 20s, I couldn't handle anyone judging or shaming me for the choices I made — even if I knew that choice was the best possible choice for me and mine. For example, I suffered through undiagnosed postpartum depression (PPD) for many months. It affected the way I parented and forced me to do things differently than I had originally planned. Still, I was too afraid to tell anyone how I really felt. I figured I would be judged, shamed, and ridiculed for being anything other than blissfully happy. The moment I got treatment, though, I realized how much time I wasted caring about other people's opinions. In your 30s: "Please tell me how dissatisfied you are that I'm going straight to the bottle with my second baby so I don't have to struggle with the same breastfeeding sh*t I had to suffer through with my first kid. I'm on pins and needles just waiting for your unsolicited advice and unnecessary judgment."
Having my son in my 30s meant making the right choices for me and him. Period. No one else's opinions mattered. And you know what? It was freeing.
Your Obsession With Your Child's Health PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier, Getty images In your 20s: "OMG, there's a small scratch on my baby's leg, and wait... yes... that's a cough. Definitely a cough. We have to go to the emergency room immediately."
Aside from when my daughter fell off the bed and actually needed to go to the hospital and the week she had pneumonia, there were plenty of times when I overreacted as it pertained to my kid's health. If she scraped her knee or had a fever, it felt like I needed to call the damn ambulance.
In your 30s: "Kid, you're fine. Shake it off."
Yes, there have been a couple of times when my son needed to actually see a doctor, but, for the most part, I'm sure it's fine. Right? Right.
Your Meticulous Planning In your 20s: "I'll have everything in its place months before the baby arrives, and it'll stay that way. I'll make homemade baby food from scratch, I'll always be on time, and I'll schedule naps to make sure I sleep when the baby sleeps."
Oh, to be young and convinced a baby wasn't totally going to f*ck up your routine. I figured I would keep my house clean, keep the fridge stocked, and find time throughout the day to manage my various obligations and still
catch a nap when the baby slept. And you know what? For the most part, I was able to "do it all." The downside, however, came when I realized that I was also sacrificing time I could have spent with my baby. I didn't have to "do it all," I just needed to do enough. In your 30s: "Eh, the laundry is fine and we can just order delivery and, look, the pediatrician will hold our appointment, so it's fine if we're not exactly on time."
Sure, there are times I get the cleaning or cooking bug, but with two kids I've accepted the fact that some things just aren't worth my time or energy. That's why things like Febreze and McDonald’s exist.
Your Tantrum Tolerance Mayte Torres, Getty images In your 20s: "Child of mine, I promise I will give you whatever you want if you please stop crying and screaming and yelling and embarrassing me in the cereal aisle."
I would've gifted my daughter a castle in the hills of Ireland if she would've just picked herself off the damn grocery store floor like I asked. I
know I've traded loose change and some candy in return for her cooperation. I really had no idea how to deal with her emotional outbursts, especially when they were in public, and every single situation was humiliating. In your 30s: "Dude, if you don't get your sh*t together, I will leave you in this aisle and you can be someone else's problem."
Yeah, I don't barter anymore. I do, however, offer a ride home to those who can pick themselves up and dust themselves off.
Your Travel Arrangements In your 20s: "We have to pack at least 10 outfits, their favorite stuffed animals, 10 action figures, and probably their crib. Yes, I know it's only a day trip, but you never know!"
I admit, when my daughter was a baby I would pack a huge-ass suitcase for a simple day trip to my mom's. Those diaper bags can't hold all the "what-if" scenario supplies like flashlights, firewood, or 11 changes of clothes. Maybe it was overkill, but I was prepared.
In your 30s: *Whatever, just grab a handful of Cheerios. We're good.*
OK, so I'm exaggerating. Yes, when my son was born and we ventured outside the house,
I took a diaper bag with the mandatory items, like a diaper and wipes. But, aside from that, I just packed the hope that we'd make it home without needing to swaddle the kid with a random T-shirt I had thrown in the back of my car for reasons unknown. Your State Of Worry In your 20s: "What if she has a virus? What if the storm wakes her up in the middle of the night? What if the sun explodes before I give her a bottle?"
As a new mom, it's
natural to worry about every little thing. In the end, I guess that's what helps you remove the important stuff from the trivial stuff. So, yes, I worried about every single possible, and impossible, scenario that could somehow negatively impact my child. And yes, it was as exhausting as it sounds. In your 30s: "Whatever happens, happens." Having my second child in my 30s was much easier, only because of my experience and altered perspective. I figured out what I was doing in my 20s, so parenting in my 30s seemed much less overwhelming. So now I know one universal, important truth when it comes to taking care of children: You can't control everything, but if you're doing the necessary work, the rest sorts itself out.
And if not, there's always wine.