The Hidden Perks of Young Motherhood

I'm spreading the early-mama love over at mom.me!

There are so many little-known benefits to starting a family early — perks I would have loved to know at 22 years old.

No one told me that young motherhood can be an incredible motivator to better ourselves, tackle our goals, and redefine what's important in our lives.

 

Or that young moms don't have a decade of "me" time to get used to — with lazy weekends, a hefty vacation fund, and adult lifestyle habits to undo.

 

Or that our kids will be grown by the time our currently childless friends are in the trenches of parenthood. After all, IT'S ONLY FOR NOW.

See all 7 Hidden Perks of Being a Young Mom on mom.me, and share it with your early-mama friends.

Here are some of my other favorite reasons to love being an Early Mama, which weren't included in the article:

What's your favorite perk of early motherhood?

The Joy of Young Parenthood

Why EM Contributor Briana loves being a young mom...

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My husband and I were married shortly after our 22nd birthdays. We were pregnant by 23, though we hadn't planned on becoming pregnant so quickly. I have been mistaken for a teen mom numerous times, and much of young parenting has been an uphill battle.

No one will be as surprised as your peers. I remember the surprise and shock of other Teach For America corps members when I told them I was pregnant, and the cries of, "I'm so glad I'm not you!"

I remember the open stares as I walked through downtown Boston with my parents — a burgeoning advertisement for young pregnancy, seemingly without a significant other in sight.

Of course there were sacrifices — the unpursued graduate degrees, the dreams left to languish, the friendships left behind in lieu of new diapering, swaddling, and feeding routines; the hunkering down of a married couple in the trenches of parenting.

But the hardships are not the end of the story. Watch the pages turn on this little storybook of young parenting. You'll see my husband work through his lunch break to support his new family. He has vied for a promotion, putting in extra hours to get a new company project off the ground, while his co-workers go out for beers.

Our long nights of drinking wine while cuddled up in front of the television have turned into long nights of learning what it means to love when exhaustion has trumped reason.

We've learned to budget and live within our means, with one car shared between two people, sans exorbitant graduate student loans that would have sent us underwater. We've learned that we can live on less — as well as how to turn off lights to save electricity, how to re-use that pot roast for roast beef sandwiches, and how to buy the marked-down chicken at Wal-mart.

It could certainly be said that we have narrowed down our options, diminished our career options, along with other rational objections to our family choices. However, just as there are advocates for waiting to have children until you have "your ducks in a row," there have been generations of people who survived and thrived while parenting young.

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As a result of our children, family ties have tightened, bringing grandparents into the fray. Instead of shouldering the burden of caring for our children and our aging parents, we have experienced the joy of young grandparents — recent empty-nesters with space in their days to bond with their grandchildren.

Our finances have taken a few years to stabilize, but we've been determined to save money for our family — perhaps even more motivated than our peers to launch out on our own.

Sometimes I look back with missed nostalgia at the first years of my Twenties, which have flown by, while my friends' Facebook statuses have given witness to Med School white coat ceremonies and bar exams. These are milestone that I know I could have with time. I have often wondered, would I have taken a different career path had all the world been open to us? And yet, in characteristic parenting idealism, I also cannot imagine life without our two kids.

Sometimes it takes grown-up life choices to make a grown up out of us.

There has been some increased discussion for young marriage — the incendiary Princeton marriage argument, for one — but it still feels like we're forging ahead in new territory for our generation. We often take solace in the fact that we are young: Young enough to wake up five times a night, young enough to get pregnant fairly easily, young enough that we will be trailblazing the empty nest before we know it.

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But right now we have joy.


Read more from Briana at BrianaMeade.com, as well as the Early Mama archives.

Reason #26: Finding Yourself

Pinterest is littered with quotes about "finding yourself" overlaid on images of nature, or faraway places, or solitary introspection. And the Internet — and strangers and your friends and your mother — have one piece of advice for young 20-somethings: find yourself.

It's good advice, considering the 20-something years have incredible potential for self-growth and transformation. But "finding yourself" isn't so much a switch turning, or a light-bulb sparking, or a wave of "AHA" — but more a way of reconciling the person you want to be with the person you've always been. It's growing into yourself.

But does it have to be in the woods or halfway across the world? Is the journey to self-discovery always better alone?

I can't say how or when I would have "found myself," had I not gotten pregnant so early in my 20-something years — although I'm sure I would have, eventually. But it might not have been so overwhelming and affirming. (Or maybe it would have, who can tell?)

Like so much in life, there isn't one blueprint for "finding yourself." Not traveling, not living alone for X-amount of years, not motherhood.

Yet young motherhood is certainly an underrated outlet.

Because there's been nothing as transformative as seeing myself through the lens of a new life — through fresh eyes. Maybe it was the urgency to grow up. Maybe it was the front-row seat to watching a baby — our species — grow and develop from his very first second. Maybe it was the cluster of life lessons, like learning how to roll with the unplanned.

Whatever the reasons, it worked.

I became a better version of myself, not only for my son but because of my son.

So ignore the (well-meaning) voices of concern and warning, because — as long as you're mindful and aware — you can find yourself just as much in a rocking chair as you would a hostel.

We just have different ways of getting to the same place.


See all of the reasons in our Why I Love Being an Early Mama series.

Reason #25: We're Adaptable

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I've been writing about my "Reasons I Love Being a Young Mom" series in various outlets — from Parenting Magazine to Disney —  and one response keeps popping up from younger and older moms alike: We're more adaptable in our 20s.

And it's true, right?

The 20-something years are an incredible time of self-growth and self-discovery — baby or no baby, marriage or no marriage. We're defining our adulthood, our selves. And according to clinical psychologist Meg Jay (who gave that mega-popular TED Talk "30 is not the new 20"), the 20-something decade is the most transformative period of our adult lives.

Her advice?

Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital...Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that’s an investment in who you might want to be next.
— Meg Jay, "30 is Not the new 20"

And if you think being a mother adds value to who you are — if it's someone you'd like to be — then maybe you're lucky to be integrating that role into your identity now. Maybe it's easier to incorporate parenthood into a lifestyle and mind-state that's currently being molded. We're more flexible to change in our 20s because we're already transforming and defining ourselves.

And the introspective lens of motherhood might be a really helpful way to become the people we want to be.

What do you think?


Note: This series isn't meant to say young motherhood is universally better, but to inject some confidence into the 20-something mom and encourage her to embrace the positives.

See all of the reasons to love being an early mama!

Reason #24: Eternal Optimism of the Young Mind

When I was at Camp Mighty, one of the speakers read this awesome quote (I can't remember the attribution) that basically said it takes a certain amount of foolishness to be wildly successful. It's the naive, optimistic fool who takes the big risks and keeps chugging along — because once we believe we can't, we can't. It's a self-fulfilling assumption. If we stop trying, we'll never get there.

Steve Jobs would agree:

And who has that wonderful foolishness? Youth.

I took some really big risks — I continue to take big risks — and I often wonder if I would've made those jumps if I were older, more jaded, more realistic. I had/have more to lose than the average 20-something, considering I have a child who relies on me for things like food. But it's precisely that optimism and youthful zeal that helps keep my plates spinning. It's that undefinable foolishness that keeps me thinking I can do this. I will do this.

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine echoed that same idea — that the most successful 20-somethings are a generation of people "who see no boundaries, see no limits, see no obstacle that they can't hurdle — it is the most stimulating environment that you can ever be in."

Although the article is about mega-millionaires and bestselling authors, we don't need to embrace that level of ambition to harness the power of our 20s. We can define success in any way that feels right for us, while still experiencing that quiet buzz in the back of our young minds, humming "shoot for the moon."

I alluded to this in my post On Growing Up:

Yet what I lack in perspective, I make up for with possibilities.

With blind ambition and positivity.

With leaps of faith and time to spare.

With impossible hopes that can easily be possible.

I happen to think that positivity begets positivity, and the most successful people could also have been considered fools. It might be difficult to tackle a prestigious degree/launching a business/chasing your dreams along with motherhood, but if there's anyone who can do it, it might just be us. The wide-eyed fools with leaps of faith and time to spare.

The Times Magazine article also made another interesting point that I think is quite applicable to us. The advantage of less lifestyle adjustment:

How many people do you know who said when they were young that they planned to work for a couple of years, put some money in the bank, so that they could later pursue their passion and start a new business or strike out on their own?” he asked me. “It almost never plays out that way in practice. What seems to happen is that after some period of time, people are making good money and they’re typically spending all of it and it becomes really hard to dial that back. If you bought a house or have all sorts of obligations of one sort or another it may be very difficult.

Dear god, exactly.

EXACTLY.

Once you get used to a certain lifestyle — a certain discretionary income or comfortable job path — it can be harder to switch gears, be that a lofty career risk or the chaos of new parenthood. Not impossible, of course. But if you're feeling a little low about your young-mom status, add another check to the "pros" column.

Twenty-something parents definitely have more to lose than single 20-somethings — so maybe we're not spending 80+ hours a week on a start-up company or pouring ourselves into our work without guilt — but we still have that unique spark of youth that ranges from flickers of hope to full-on fireworks.

Harness that. Use it.

It's our advantage.


Slate Reports What We Knew All Along...

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Well maybe not all along — maybe not when we were staring at a positive pregnancy test, imagining our lives (and our careers and our relationships and our bodies) circling the drain. Maybe not when we felt stares at the grocery store or heard judgmental comments from the cool kids in our high school/college, doing so much more important things than growing humans. Maybe not when we caught phrases like "ruining your life" and "can you afford this..." and "but you're so YOUNG," while our minds were consumed in a thick, blurry fog.

Maybe not then. BUT NOW! Now we know what Slate is talking about when they report on The Case for Having Kids in Your 20s. Or when The Stir reports on that same article, but uses an even better title for our egos: Smart Women Have Babies in Their 20s. HELL YEAH WE DO.

To sum up: Slate is responding to an opinion piece in the New York Times written by a pregnant medical student, Anna Jesus. She wrote about why getting pregnant in med school — as opposed to during her internship or residency  — was best for her. And so the Slate writer, Jessica Grose, writes about why it's not so crazy to get pregnant in your 20s.

"...Perhaps ambitious women in their 20s who also want kids should consider having them sooner rather than later."

The article touches on some of the things we've talked about here — the possible career benefits of having kids earlier, the big fertility advantage, and the fact that you don't have to "have your ducks in a row" before having kids. The Stir stepped in with the "younger bodies" argument, as well as explaining that a lot of young women (herself included) waste their 20s away.

And may I add a few more? How about the fact that young 20-something parents often have less lifestyle adjustments than those who wait until their 30s and 40s, and that motherhood can give us refocused goals and priorities at the BEGINNING of our careers rather than mid-way through. We also (typically) have less pregnancy complications and birth defects, less pressure from a ticking biological clock, and more energy.

Sometimes I tell people what my site is about and I get comments like, "Is it really THAT weird to have kids in your 20s — isn't that normal?" Or "Isn't it a little anti-feminist to encourage women to have kids so young?" And just when I'm about to internalize it, I get an email from a woman who found comfort in Early Mama, or I read articles like these that remind me just how "weird" it can be for ambitious women to get pregnant in their 20s. This site isn't about normalizing anything, it's about supporting the women who feel isolated and embarrassed and hopeless and completely out of control. To remind them that there are a lot of important benefits and a lot of smart, accomplished, ambitious young mothers out there. So answer me this...

Why was it smart for you to have a baby "earlier"?