I thought I’d start off with a moan. Get it out of the way in the beginning so that I can focus on the topic of discussion: being a young parent, or rather a parent who is young (under the age of 30). I admit that 30 is actually quite a low number, and ‘young’ could extend to 35.
My eldest son turned 7 years old two days ago and it’s so hard to believe that time has flown so fast. As many old people say when they refer to the past, ‘it feels like just the other day’ when I was pregnant with him, and felt him kick for the first time. That specific pregnancy was quite difficult, not that there were any physical issues or concerns, but rather many emotional challenges posed therein. I was 20, unemployed, unmarried and dating someone almost twice my age. So in short, there were big issues I needed to deal with not only around finances, but also around learning to be a parent. Being a parent, albeit a good parent, included (as I was informed) sacrificing everything appealing in your yout: late night parties, short skirts, dating many a guy, wearing bright colours (you now wear pastel colours in an uncool way) etc etc. The biggest adjustment I found was having to be so organized- having a plan and then always being ‘present’ in the child’s life. Even though you may not have all you ducks in a row, you need to know how many ducks you have and have a plan to get them in a row. Children know when you’re all over the place. Regarding being ‘present’ in your child’s life- that entails being actively visible when interacting with them. Sometimes, for anyone, this could be difficult, especially when you’re trying to count how many ducks you have, or trying to figure out you have a couple of chickens and not ducks. I remember when I used to work late at campus or be so stressed with university work at home, I explained to my son that I’m doing my best to build a future for the both of us. So he always knew where I was and why. Being a young parent in this regard was a challenge for me for several years. This is because as much as I needed to be ‘present’, and have a plan to succeed, I also had to truly know yourself. And there was no way that I knew myself at that age. One could argue, if one were brave enough, that I was then not a great a parent I could have been had I been older.
One thing I do need to mention at this point is that having my eldest at such a young age proved to be a major game changer. I learned to be a better version of myself by pushing myself in ways I never knew existed- challenging myself to do better, be better and reach farther. This all because one soul was handed to me- and I believe I never would have achieved any of my successes without him.
We can’t look at young parenting with the effects and interactions with other people, both young and old.
Socially, I admit, being a young parent sucks sometimes. You’re always caught up in some kind of middle ground battle, being young, and having major responsibilities and then being older (because of having major responsibilities) and yearning to be young and care-free.
When complaining about how messy kids are or how tired I am- I would either be face with a facial expression that says, ‘no one sad you should have kids.’ (Those are often by young people). Or I’d get the ‘talk’: ‘this is what happens if you have sex.’ (As you would believe, this is voiced quite openly by older folk).
When young people get tired of hearing of you complain of how difficult it is to raise 2 children, the late nights, the early mornings, the price of nappies, the fact that it’s such a big inconvenience and expense to go out, you’d rather be at home and watch a movie than go clubbing or braa-ing (barbecue) late at night…. They actually look pissed off at you. Things change when you have children-part of the reason why I can’t wait for everyone else to have kids. I want them to experience how long it takes to get everyone ready to leave the house, how expensive nappies are, how careful you need to be with germs and preventing colds. Just all those things. I don’t think when they have that facial expression signally their slight disgust in you complaining about the kids, because you had sex, that they’re considering everything that goes into being an okayish parent, producing and maintaining a clean and very cute little person they love to play with. That, and they’re totally disregarding the fact that it’ll be their turn too.
With regards to the old people: Ah, things like ‘your life will be over once you have children,’ fly around. This is also dependent on what your background is culturally. In my culture, having a baby before turning 21/ before getting married tarnishes the family name. Yet, this happens a lot in my culture anyway- which would be a another interesting topic.
I now have two children and I’m pregnant with my third- I’m relatively young, and I still endure the torture of opinions from young and old regarding being a young mom. Young people can’t understand why I refrain from certain activities, or limit myself as a parent. To them it’s like, ‘Come on, you’re still young.’ And to old people, it’s more about I don’t know what I’m doing because I’m young/ inexperienced.
I’m used to the comments and attitudes, I have endured it for 7 years. At least now I’m not doing it as a single parent.
What one can’t always prepare for is the losing of friends because of it. Relationships with family members also change. I figured that your life does change when you have children: you enter a new phase and the conflict in opinions and misunderstanding occurs because of the difference in phases and priorities people have.
I don’t have a real conclusion because one can’t always change another person’s mindset if they don’t see the world as you do. If you can’t get them to your level, yet: let them have their opinions. You just can’t stop them from keeping their opinions to themselves.
I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.