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The Problem With Having Kids When You’re Younger

After reading Buzz’s piece “The Problem With Having Kids When You’re Older,” I knew I had to show the flip-side of the coin. As someone who started having kids at a very young age (22) and is building a community to support and encourage other young and formerly young parents, I know about the grass on this side of the fence. And like all of our metaphoric yards, some spots are greener than others.

For those familiar with EarlyMama.com, it might be surprising to see me writing a post titled “The Problem With Having Kids When You’re Younger” because I spend a lot of time writing about the perks of getting started early. I have an entire section called Why I Love Being an Early Mama! And I don’t do this to obnoxiously proclaim that having kids in your 20s is universally better (I’m very clear about that), but to show that there are perks to every situation. And that a lot of the negative assumptions of young moms — that we’re doomed to have failed relationships, failed careers, and eternally live in poverty — are often ridiculous.

Like Buzz said, having more energy and a more optimistic life view can definitely be in our favor during the early years. So can our lack of lifestyle adjustment (we were already poor, exhausted, and overworked in college) and our early empty nest (my son graduates high school when I’m 40).

That being said, there are some very real challenges to being a young mom. I’m not talking about money or maturity — both of which, in my opinion, are quite subjective. (I’ve known plenty of 30- and 40-somethings living paycheck to paycheck and behaving like children.)

But through my own experience and the countless other women I’ve met through Early Mama, here are the most common challenges that young moms should be mindful of:

  • The (Possible) Problems with Having Kids Younger 1 of 13
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    Did you have kids in your 20s (or earlier)? Here are some common obstacles we might have to overcome...

    Photo: Picnik Photography

  • The What Ifs 2 of 13
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    Spiraling down the rabbit hole of "what ifs" isn't unique to younger parents, but it can be an especially difficult mind trap to overcome when most of your peers are living very different lives. After hearing so much about what we "should" do/have done, it can be hard to stop the "shoulds" from ruling our lives — whether it's that we SHOULD be married first, we SHOULD have waited until we graduated, we SHOULD have waited until we're 30, we SHOULD have "sowed our wild oats" and traveled and really lived before being sucked into the boring blackhole of parenthood. 

     

    One of the biggest challenges is created and perpetuated in our heads, and it can be hard to break that mind chatter without someone telling you that everyone has "what ifs" — and they're always unproductive.

  • CONFIDENCE: Part 1 (Stereotypes) 3 of 13
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    Probably the #1 challenge for younger parents is CONFIDENCE. And this often stems from the negative stereotypes surrounding younger parents — lumping us into statistics and doomsday predictions, because all young parents are throwing away their lives and have nothing useful to contribute to society. (WRONG.) 

     

    The lack of confidence can also make us feel extremely self-conscious and defensive. So while we might have the physical energy to keep up with toddlers, the shame and embarrassment can be emotionally draining.

    Image: Polina Sergeeva/Flickr 

  • CONFIDENCE: Part 2 (Negativity) 4 of 13
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    Along the same lines, many young pregnant women are met with a knee-jerk reaction of negativity — with ads claiming that young moms will ultimately ruin their children's futures, and TV shows only showing young moms if they're disadvantaged or incarcerated.

     

    Listen — being a parent is hard. And when you're constantly being berated by negativity — on the news, on the Internet, in random comments from strangers at the grocery store — it's only harder. Negativity leads to discouragement, hopelessness, and a severe lack in confidence. What young parents need is positivity. 

    Photo: Picnik Photography

  • Annoying Comments 5 of 13
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    When you announced your pregnancy, was the first question "Did you plan this?" in a semi-accusatory tone? Was anyone angry at you for throwing away your life? And now, as a parent, do strangers constantly mistake you for the nanny? 

     

    One of the biggest challenges of being a new young mom is dealing with the ridiculous comments that we all get. Again: If we were more confident in our parenting, we wouldn't be so hurt/angered by the comments.

  • Competing Roles 6 of 13
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    The most challenging part of being a young mom — for me — wasn't becoming a mother, or committing to wifehood, or maturing into adulthood. It was doing all three things at once.

     

    One minute I was a young college student with a decade of "me" time ahead of me, and then within months I was responsible for a growing fetus, a new marriage, and the livelihood of not only myself but a family of three. Which brings me to...

    Photo: Picnik Photography

  • Personal Growth/Developing Your Identity 7 of 13
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    I'm one of the many young women who found motherhood to be an incredible catalyst for personal growth — shifting our perspectives and refocusing our goals. Motivating us to be better and do more.

     

    That being said, it can be easy to lose yourself in the pile-on of responsibilities. Personal growth has to be mindful and deliberate, otherwise it's easy to let motherhood consume your adult identity — because you didn't have time to develop one beforehand. Motherhood may have made me crave personal development more than I would have as a childless 20-something, but it also might be harder to dedicate the time and discipline to make it happen. Not impossible — just more challenging. (But there's no better motivator than having kids looking up to you!)

     

    Photo: Picnik Photography

  • Comparing Your Life to Non-Parent Friends 8 of 13
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    Your pre-baby friends are trekking across Europe and having impromptu brunch dates and partying all weekend. The 30-something parents seem to have it so much more together — with their shiny SUVs and hefty 401-K accounts. You can't keep up with Pinterest crafts and recipes. 

     

    Comparison steals the joy from many young parents because our narrative is often different than the typical soccer mom. But again, it's another challenge that's completely internal and can be controlled.

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  • Loneliness and Isolation 9 of 13
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    One of the biggest challenges I hear from EM readers is, "How do I make friends with other moms?" (Again, here's where confidence helps!) The truth of the matter is there might be a 10 - 15 year age difference with parents at your kids' school, which can be intimidating for younger parents. And that age gap isn't something that ever goes away, all through high school.

     

    There's also the fact that a lot of young moms are the first of their friends/peers to navigate the strange new world of Parenting, which can be an isolating experience.

    Photo: Picnik Photography

  • Sustaining a Young Relationship 10 of 13
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    If you're fortunate enough to find the right person and be fully committed to marriage in your 20s, there are actually a lot of perks to getting married sooner rather than later. But marriage itself is met with a lot of cynicism these days. Young marriage? What are you CRAZY? That'll never work!

     

    The doomsday messages that young couples hear are overwhelming at best, detrimental at worst. Marriage is hard — always — so when you're constantly told that your relationship doesn't stand a chance, it might be more tempting to throw in the towel when times get tough. Why fight for something that's destined to burn in flames?

  • Following Your Intuition 11 of 13
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    I've found that young parents are often more reliant on "experts" and/or antiquated standards from moms/aunts/older family members because what could we possible know? It's hard to trust yourself when you're constantly hearing that you don't know what you're doing. 

     

    Young parents — ALL parents — deserve to be educated and supported in their decisions.

  • The Lack of Perspective 12 of 13
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    This might be the connecting thread tying all of these challenges together. No matter how mature we are, how much we educate ourselves, how intuitive we are as parents — we simply can't have the perspective that comes from life experience. Even just going from age 22 to 27, the perspective I've gained is invaluable.

     

    We feel attacked when the 40-something mom in playgroup turns up her nose, but that's because we don't yet know that all mothers are judged for something (and age is just an easy target). We drown in "what ifs" because we don't realize that all people, at all ages, harp on the what-could-have-beens. We feel stifled in our mom roles because we don't yet know that there's more than one mold to fit into.

     

    We think that our lives are over because we haven't experienced life's many, many cycles. 

     

    But thankfully the perspective will come — maybe even quicker with young parenthood, which is often like a crash-course in life lessons.

    Photo: Picnik Photography

  • Stay Tuned for an Upcoming Webinar 13 of 13
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    One of my biggest goals for EarlyMama.com is to help young women to not only feel comfortable and confident in their new roles, but to continue to grow and develop throughout their 20-something years. 

    And so stay tuned for an upcoming webinar (partnered with The Conscious Perspective) addressing all of these challenges, with practical tips and self-help strategies to make us all better, stronger, more self-assured women. Sign up for updates here.

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