In my little world of 19-year-old-ness I never knew what life was until I had my daughter. My life now has so much more meaning and purpose — her smile is the highlight of my day. Her cuddles are my favorite part of the morning. I want to show her the world, I want to give her the world, and I want to make the world a better place — because she is my world.
I now sing the ABCs at least 12 times a day, play instruments like the harmonica and xylophone, read books like Where the Wild Things Are, draw with sidewalk chalk, and jump on the bed. Sandwiches taste better when they are in the shape of a star and furniture looks much nicer when covered in crayon art. My alarm clock pulls my hair and asks me for a sippy cup and crackers. My evenings consist of story times and dance parties in the living room. My grocery trips now take three times longer than they used to, but I have the best little helper loading and unloading the cart for me.
Sound familiar? That’s probably because it is.
I do believe some of my struggles directly deal with my age. I was a first-time mom at 17 and am on my way to having a second before I turn 20. Shit is sure to follow. I occasionally get eyeballed during toddler playgroups and sometimes blatantly questioned about my age by curious mothers. It really isn’t that big of a deal, though. The only time that ever bothers me is if it’s followed by sympathy or straight-up negativity — it just seems silly to me. Could you imagine asking a mother her age and then apologizing for it?
It’s also a bit difficult to make and keep “mommy friends.” It could be because of my age, but it could also be because I’m straight-up weird. Not everyone in the world is crazy, vegan, and highly energetic. The one time I considered going to a playgroup for tots of teen moms, it ended up being more like a support group… which is not what I was looking for.
However, these are just a couple measly struggles for me as an individual. No teen mom or otherwise will say the same thing when asked what they deal with. Everyone has struggles — that’s life. So really, the difference between a teen mom, a mother in her 20s, a mother in her 30s, and so on is: nada. And honestly, who cares? Age by no means affects your ability to be a mother.
Whoever you are, I bet you worry about your child more than you could’ve ever imagined you would. That your child’s pain hurts you more than it hurts them. I bet that you’d spend an hour cooing at them to see a smile, and that when their little hand wraps around your one finger you melt… just a wee bit.
That’s what is important.
Comments on I’m a happy teen mom. I know, right?!?
This a wonderful piece and I applaud you! Not every young person is the same and I respect that you want to be such a wonderful mother. Good luck.
This is an awesome mommy manifesto!
But wtf are you supposed to do with the random people who think they need to tell you how to raise your kid? I’m talking people off the street whom you’ve never even seen before…seems to be a problem I’m having lately.
LOL yeah, you should let me know when you figure that one out…I still have no idea what to do. Usually I just shrug it off but sometimes I want to be like, ‘are you freaking serious? Do I even know you!?’
Here’s what I do, and I got this from a friend of mine, I say, “Thank you for your kind advice, I will take it into consideration and do what I think’s best.” That acknowledges that you “appreciate” their advice (even if you don’t, they often mean well) but lets them know you’re going to do whatever you’re going to do anyway w/out being all confrontational and shit. I change the wording sometimes so it sounds less stiff, but I’ve used that exact phrasing before and it works very well!
Please write me or add me on Facebook so we can talk. I have some questions for u if u don’t mind.. I’m 16 and curious about being a young mother. Thank you Elizabeth stone:) write me on my email for my Facebook info. 🙂 I’d really appreciate it:)
Just tell them you’re raising them to be like Dexter.
I have to use that next time I’m in that situation. =) That is to funny.
What a good read!
I’m a 20 year old first time mom, whose little boy will be turning a year old in a month. I had him when I was 19 and when he was 2 months old I left his dead beat father and am now with the most amazing man, who cares of him as his own.
I completely agree that its really hard to find “mommy friends” I know a couple but we don’t have anything in common, except for the fact that we are parents and I rather not talk about my child (although I love him with all my heart) the entire time we hang out.
I totally get that! lol…it’s really odd how difficult it is to keep mom friends as a ‘young’ mom. It’s one of those things that I never would’ve considered as ‘a down side’ 😛 It’d be nice to find someone that was, okay a mom, but also shared some interests and statistics, ya know? Otherwise it’s just awkward playdates.
Having had a kid at what a lot of people in my hometown consider “late” (and what people in my new place consider “early”) I have to say — I think 19-25 year olds are frankly, much better suited to the physical and mental strain of having children than 30-45 year olds. I mean, when you look at how much more energy they have, it just makes sense in a biological context.
I used to work as a nanny, and 10 years ago I had more vigor, more creativity, a higher threshold for sleep deprivation, more lax attitude about messes, less of a need to be “perfect” — etc etc.
Now at nearly 36 with a 2.5 year old, I feel much more tired, both physically and mentally. I feel like I would have been a much more fun mother 10 years ago. Of course, I didn’t feel ready to have a kid then. I was with them all day long and I think that was enough for me. I certainly enjoyed handing them back at the end of the day, lol. 🙂 But I didn’t get any of the truly great things about being a mommy, the kisses and whispered sweetness and after-bath pajama cuddles.
I love my daughter but I do wish I was a bit younger. I want a 2nd kid, but I worry- about not only my own health but the health of the child and possible complications. My life would have been drastically different to what it is now had I had a child earlier, and I am quite happy with all the twists and turns that led me here.
But there is definitely a case that not all young mothers got it wrong (and not all older mothers got it right). You sound like a great mom, Elisabeth, and congrats on the impending arrival of number 2.
“I think 19-25 year olds are frankly, much better suited to the physical and mental strain of having children than 30-45 year olds.”
As a 36-year-old with a toddler, I totally agree with this sentiment. I also feel like I’m better suited NOW to academia/career development than I was when I was 20 and trying to focus on those things.
I have weird sci-fi musings on what the future might look like if culture shifted so that people would have their babies when the human body wants to, in their teens. Physically, teens are in perfect reproductive condition… so it would be an issue of culture shifting: the way things are set up now, it’s hard work to be a young parent trying to go to college, build a career, etc.
I’m rambling, but this is all to say that despite the MANY challenges of young motherhood, I totally recognize the ways in which my energy in my late-teens/early-20s could have made aspects of parenting easier. (Even if culturally/financially it would have been much MUCH harder for me.)
I completely agree!
It’s our society that makes teen motherhood difficult. And really, our society that makes life difficult for anyone that lives outside the “normal” conformity of our culture.
I’ve been trying to convince everyone of this since forever! I’m really glad to hear someone older and wiser than me say it! Thanks Ariel! 😀
There’s a group of people in my broad and wide social circle a little older than me who did further study and are NOW having kids. Although I want to do that further study, my plan is to do that later on. At 25, I’m ready now and have been ready for a couple of years.
When I visited Iceland, things were set up to allow this! Mothers had children very early. All the college dorms had nurseries, and society is just set up to support young mothers. All the grandparents are in their 40’s, their careers having been established, and they are ready to do babysitting during exam time! It was quite cool to see.
I’m jealous. I’m 24 with a one year old and I can barely eek out time to write a term paper. Maybe I should convince the hubby that we should move to Iceland… 😉
THIS. I just gave birth to my first baby at 23. My husband and I debated waiting until I finished (yet another) degree, but I decided being a young parent was really important to me. I consider myself extremely lucky to be in a position where going back to school later is a feasible option.
I really think it depends on the individual. Some people (like the author of this post) are ready to have kids at a young age and make great young parents when they are in their late teens or early twenties. Other people really aren’t ready (or interested) at the same age, and make better parents once they are a bit older. There are plenty of people 30+ who are perfectly capable of keeping up with young kids physically and mentally.
Biologically you are more intended to be a mother as a teenager than as an older woman.So in that respect, physically, you are right. Unfortunately we have built a society that pushes teenagers to stay children longer regardless of their physical developments. This subsequently makes them less practically ready for a child. Society doesnt ready women to be mothers at the age that they are biologically intended to be. So in those ways I think a teen mom is still underdeveloped as far their capabilities in parenting because the world has disallowed their adulthood.
I think this is where traditional extended families worked well. The Grandmother/matriarch type (still in her prime forties) did a lot of the rearing and household management. Creating, in my opinion, a nice blend of health and wisdom.
Now this model looks like a kid with failure to launch.
I have a friend who spent some time in South America and wrote quite a bit about how the culture of motherhood there is built around those reproductive years… basically, that girls often have their children young, go to school while matriarchs watch them, still have lives outside of parenthood, etc. It was really interesting to contrast the cultures of early parenthood there and here.
Fascinating! I’d love to read more about that. Links? It makes a lot of sense in many ways.
Wow yeah! I agree this is super interesting sounding!
Right, I’m talking about biology. Young women are meant to have babies, I don’t think anyone can deny that – of course things have changed quite a lot in the last few hundred years! Life expectancy, education, careers, and basically our entire societal setup.
I’m almost 36 with a 2.5 year old. I went to university and had a full time job for many, many years. I didn’t feel ready to devote my life to child rearing when I was 20, plus even though I was with my current partner – we were broke(er) and we didn’t want the added stress of money worries on top of the regular stress of having a baby/kid.
BUT I think the concept of having a kid early, then having a career later is a really fab idea. In my mid-thirties, I feel more ready for higher education now, more ready to seek work that suits me, and have a better idea of what I really want, than I did at 20.
I look forward to my child(ren) being older so I can do some life goal stuff, even though I’ll likely be in my early 40’s by the time I can commit to it. I hope my comment didn’t irk anyone, it was more observational than anything else.
The only problem with this theory is that by having them young and NOT establishing your career and financial stability you might be denying your kids something financially that you would be able to offer them if you were more established.
There are many women who put off having children waiting to be in this position of career and financial stability, only to find that it never comes (but DO end up with issues of infertility). You may never have your dream job or desired income-and that’s okay. You won’t be denying your kids anything by not having a large income, I think there are important life lessons that can be learned from being broke.
That being said, I do think that people should be able to support their children’s basic needs (food, clothing, etc), I just believe that being mature and emotionally prepared for parenthood is much more important than being in an ideal financial position (which varies tremendously between individuals).
This nearly brought me to tears (hormones?) I’m currently pregnant with my first child, I’m 19 and this is what I’ve been waiting foe my whole life. I’ve always planned on being a young mother and almost wish it happened sooner. I’m happy to see others who feel the same way and I hope I’m as great a mother as you seem to be:)
Great piece! I am a former teen mom also: had my first at 16, my kids are now 10, 2, and 2 months old. I completely relate to people asking inappropriate questions about age, I still get asked if I’m my son’s sister, or if I’m my kids’ nanny.
Good for you for knowing who you are and being proud of it!
I can’t even count how many times I’ve been asked if I was a nanny just in the past year. But what is really funny is that when I was 13, my mom had my baby sister. Every time I’d be in the store I’d get complimented on how cute my baby was and how my mom must be such a proud grandmother…at 13!!! So then at 19 I’m seen as severely young? So confusing, LOL!!!
Totally odd to me. :/
LOL, a similar thing happened to me. My kid brother is 7 years younger (but has Downs-syndrome so his age is hard to guess, for instance now at 12 he looks closer to 7 or 8 ) and people have been assuming that he was my son since I was 14! And at 19 they still do it all the time.
I’ve never really noticed any strange looks though, probably because I’m constantly mistaken for several years older than my actual age just as he is younger (a combo of maturity, articulation, and not dressing like a teenager, or so my mom tells me. Whatever it’s still weird 😛 )
But anyway GO TEEN MOMS! You’ve got my love <3
I love this piece. I was BARELY a teen mom – my daughter decided to show up 5 weeks early, two weeks before my 20th birthday, but it’s still hard in all of the ways you described. I’ve found that moms my age (that I’ve met and hung around with) are typically vastly different than me. I’ve got one mommy friend now and I’m not counting on making too many more any time soon.
But – I think I’m doing a bang up job at raising a toddler and I absolutely love it.
Thanks for giving words to a lot of things I’ve felt in the past three years as a mom.
Just beautiful! All the love to you and your family.
I’m 23 now (was 22 when I had my baby last year), and I’ve been absolutely amazed to see how often people act like I’m ridiculously young to have a baby. It’s so weird to me that people would even care – if my child is well cared for, I sure don’t see how my age matters!
“most mothers, regardless of age, just love being a mother”
Right on sister. It’s hard to make mommy friends at any age (I’m 31 with a 1yr old) and it’s even harder if you don’t only want to talk babies. I am glad you are so happy. And I completely agree with everything you wrote. Enjoy your family!
I’m 23 and happily married with a two-year old and another due in two weeks. Although I was never a teen mom I’m definitely still young enough to get stares, etc, etc. I find I feel slightly less judged during this pregnancy because people can see that my toddler is perfectly fine so therefore I must not be as much of a screw up as they might have thought otherwise. During my first pregnancy we felt SO alienated my our OB and by other parents. After my son was born we moved to a much more liberal city and found it way easier to connect with parents here. I had a hard time finding mama friends still at first but I realized quickly that a lot of that was me judging them and not the other way around. I just assumed they would judge me and think I was a bad parent. I assumed that they wouldn’t want to spend time with me because I was broke, or too young, or not married yet, etc. But as soon as I recognized this I realized I just needed to be confident with myself as a mother and connect with people about parenting stuff that has nothing to do with age or stuff that has nothing to do with parenting at all. Into art? Me too! Cloth diapering? Me too! Cooking? Yes indeed. That’s how I managed to finally make friends that stuck. Also, our midwives have commended me on my age and NEVER made me feel shitty about it which is a huge plus. Thanks for this! You are definitely not alone girl.
*Raises hand* Another happy young mum (23, with a 5 year old and an almost 3 year old) here, and it is awesome to see that I’m not alone. I also have trouble finding mummy friends, mostly due to age and differing beliefs/values and the various stereotypes that come with being young and offbeat. I married young as well, and we’ve just celebrated our 6th anniversary, which really messes with some peoples perceptions!
I love this! Although I am not a mother yet, my mom was 17 when she had me and my age, 21, with my sister. Those who put down young mom’s aren’t taking into account the many of them who are great parents. I love my mom being young. She kept up with us with no problem and now she is still young now that we are out of the house. And she will still be young when my husband and I have a child, hopefully next year.
Great post! I’ve found it hard making mommy friends and getting past that awkward stage too! But don’t give up!!! It just takes time!
I can relate to getting the stares (and I always joked to myself that I must be too damn hot to be a mother-and it works lol) but honestly I know they were staring because I had two toddlers screaming and outta control w no support-and obviously a worn down struggling single mom-trying to get a grip on motherhood (at 22-23) If it makes u feel any better-I think every mother feels judged… And different? And I just wish people would quit staring and start supporting!
You seem so much more well-prepared, thoughtful, and graceful than my mom was when she had her first kid at 19. Also, way to be a vegan mom. That shit’s hard. I think I have a new hero 🙂
Thank you for this! I was a first time momma at 19, but I have a baby face. My best friend had her first child at the age of 15, and people think her now 12 year old son is her brother. On Raising Hope there’s an episode where they say “you look hot, I told you getting pregnant at 15 would pay off someday!”
This made me LOL. 🙂
oh man, this is the best! i am happy to know that there are other hippy-dippy young moms at least SOMEWHERE in the world! having a kid before 20 is awesome (for me), i just wish that people would stop usurping my and my husband’s authority as our daughter’s PARENTS at every turn. shit’s hard, but totally worth it.
Thank you! I’m 19 and I have a beautiful 8 week old daughter. I’m so tired of people thinking that I’m so unfortunate or irresponsible for being a teen mom. I’m damn proud of my mommy status and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
Dear young moms, I am an educated older mom. I spend my time with other educated older moms, and you know what?? They are boring. If I could do it again, man, 19 sounds about right. Kudos.
I agree that age doesn’t matter, in that everyone has their own timeline. Some people are ready to have a kid earlier, some people later, other people never. I would not wish my 19 year old self on any unsuspecting child 😀 For me 29 was just the right age. If only we could cut back on projecting our own experiences and generalizations onto other moms. It’s hard to do, but worthwhile.
I think this is a lovely piece. I love that you are so totally in the place that you’re in.
I think though that it’s hard at any age to find mom friends. It’s a little like finding a life partner. You want someone who may be a little different from you but it would be nice not to feel snarky over how they discipline or do food or sleep or play. It’s no fun feeling snarky about your friends. (I say this quietly because surely there is someone out there judging me and I don’t like that either. Silly humans!)
Great article, I to want to write about being a teen mom! I was a mom a little bit younger then you (I had just turned 16), My daughter who is now 11 has been a joy in my life and I wouldn’t want to have done it any other way! Now I am not suggesting teens of 16 go out and have babies I wouldn’t wish that one anyone. It’s a hard and tuff road and not for the less confident.
I believe in all my heart that having my daughter young is what was the driving force behind the success I have now! when I found out I was having a baby A LOT of people told me that I would never get anywhere in my life, that I would be a drop out all those things, BUT none of it happened. I was determined and did graduate “normal” high school with a baby around my hip — same goes for college. My life has been crazy but a good kinda crazy! I wish you lots of laughs and joy in the years to come 🙂
I agree that teen motherhood isn’t for everyone. I happen(ed) to be crazy enough to pull it off and love love love it. I didn’t finish high school but aced my GED, did a year of college, then quit (lol). But I’ve had a successful photography business and have been published as a fashion photographer so I guess…it depends on your drive for sure!!! I think after getting published the fam finally stopped bugging me about career choices 😛
Good crazy is definitely fun. Happy mommyhood to you 😀
This is a great essay! I also went over to your blog and I love your photos! It also reminds me of something that still bothers me. When we were expecting (in our mid 30s), we took a child rearing class at the local hospital and almost every body else was a late 20s to mid 30s couple, expect for one young woman, late teens, there with her mother. It was so clear from her questions and demeanor that she was going to be an awesome mom. I remember the final week that she mentioned she was planning a natural childbirth, and the teacher of the class looked at her with the most condescending look and said in the most condescending voice, “oh honey, I don’t think so. You’ll see as soon as you get in there that it won’t be possible for you.” Maybe she would have made that comment to anybody in the room, but I felt like the tone was presuming that this young woman was clueless and naive because she was young and unmarried — when I think she was anything but! It just really bothered me, and so I told her after class that I think she should go for it and feel positive about her plans.
Oy. I was 20 when I was pregnant with my first kid, but I looked around 16. I received so many condescending comments from my healthcare provider and pat-on-the-back, patronizing answers to my childbirth questions. The thought of it still makes me a little irate, not just for my own sake, but also for all the other young moms who are working hard to be great parents and get those kinds of reactions. Do judgers really think that young parents don’t already know that our culture thinks they should have waited and gone down the academic->career->marriage->parenthood track? What good do they think their behavior brings? I am always reminded of social psych studies that suggest that people will basically conform to what is expected/presumed of them. Treating young parents like they MUST be lesser parents is like urging them to be lesser parents.
Kudos to all the young parents like this author out there. You’re doing great!
Wow! How rude of that lady! I am glad you said something to her afterwards…I’ve gotten a lot of similar comments in regard to my birthing plans but I wasn’t sure if it was more “young mom” advice or if they’re just rude to everyone like that lol.
wow! Rude much! Wouldn’t it have been the other way around anyway? As a younger Mum, her body would be more suited to an unmedicated birth as they’d be less complications.
My friend did a nursing prac in a maternity ward and she assisted with a number of births. A young Mum came into the hospital in labour, my friend got her on a wheel chair and went to get a registered nurse/doctor. By the time she came back, the baby was out! Everyone was surprised at how quick it was.
Kudos to you on your beautiful and healthy outlook!
I had my first at 21 and my second at 23, although not as young as you, but young enough for the same issues you talked about it.
My mom actually had me at 21 and my sister at 23 too, and now people still assume/confuse her for my sister. I’m definitely looking forward to that upside!
My cousin got married and started having kids right out of high school. She’s now 22 and her third kid mcnugget is on the way. She and her husband are the most adorable happy couple ever. Yay for young responsible moms!