Dear Young Mom,
I’m writing you because my oldest daughter will be 20 next week. This fact probably has you dropping me into the “as old as your parents” black hole but I’m you, just a decade or two away from where you are now. There is so much I have learned that I want to tell you and I hope it sounds like it’s coming from the place it’s intended, a place of understanding without a bit of judgement or an ounce of lecture. I’m sure you’ve had enough of that already. So here it goes…
1. You can do this. You can. It will not be easy and you will feel alone at a time when you should be surrounded by friends and parties and fun but you will make it. You might be trying to finish a paper due tomorrow while bouncing a baby who won’t nap or you might be wondering if that paycheck is worth it since you already used most of it to pay a sitter. It’s not easy, I know, but it’s worth it. You are going to crash a few times but you will not burn. Keep focused on today and don’t think too far into the future. Take one hour at a time and one of these days you will be “old” like me, marveling at how you and your baby made it all the way to 20 years together.
2. It will be fun. It will be miserable. No matter what age you become a parent this is true but it’s especially true for you, young momma. People will tell you how hard it is going to be, how little you will sleep, how much you will sacrifice. This is all true and nothing to roll your eyes at (unless you’ve already heard it 800 times). But you will also have fun too. You have more energy than all of us older moms and you will climb through park tunnels and slide down swirly slides and giggle so hard at your baby’s first full-on smile. You will grow up together for a while and be closer because of it.
3. You need help. This is a hard one to admit, I know. You are at an age where you want to prove yourself and you are in a position where everyone is doubting you and you want so badly just to tell them all where to go and show them how well you are rocking this young mom thing. But you need to ask for and accept help. You will need to do this as a mom at 19 or 29 or 49. None of us birthed a child with an instruction manual and the only good thing I found on YouTube was a video showing me how to babywear with style. If you don’t have someone you can lean on email me and I promise to help you find someone close.
4. Do the fun things. If you can, show up for a few of the things that people your age still do. I know you want to show you are old enough and responsible enough but you are also still in the throes of school dances or college applications or 21st birthday celebrations. All of that stuff only happens once and, no matter your age, you’ve got to remind yourself you’re still human. Experiencing the normal parts of your own life will help you be a better mom and not look back with regret on your fast track to adulthood. Plus you can look back at how good you looked not wearing mom jeans.
5. You’re going to be lonely. I wish I could say this isn’t true but it is. You are young and you have a baby. No matter how awesome your friends, there’s a good chance they will pick parties and late-night test cramming in a dorm over lullabies and lights out at 8 pm. And the only thing you have in common with the women who do have kids the same age as yours are your kids. It’s going to be tough to find someone to relate to for a while but when you find them, hang onto them because those friendships are gold. Until then, look for a Facebook group or some other kind of online support that I would have loved to have available when I was a young mom.
6. Be proud of yourself. You are doing a big thing. Being a young mom takes a ton of dedication and responsibility and you are doing it. I know it’s easy to get caught up in being embarrassed by your situation or let others think they know better because of their age but be confident in the mothering skills you are learning. Don’t let anyone treat you like you are less because you’ve taken on more.
7. This won’t last forever. There are so many things about being a young mom that are overwhelming and, if you’re like I was, you’re obsessing over the future and how to make this all work. I know you can’t even imagine it, but in a few years things will be so much different. You will have finished college or found a steady job or finally left Mr. Not Right for Mr. Oh So Right. Think about how much things have changed in the last year or two, it’s going to happen again before you know it.
8. YOU ARE ENOUGH. You are, you are, you are. I spent SO much time worrying I wasn’t married and didn’t have a house and that my daughter would probably move a gazillion times before we were ultimately settled like a “normal” family and you know what? None of my worrying made an ounce of difference. Do you know what she remembers about her childhood? She remembers laughing hysterically while I tried to squeeze a gigantic Christmas tree through the door of our flat and burning so many meals and how we went to the park all the time. She has no idea that I thought we needed a guy to make our park trips better and a house to fit our Christmas tree. She just needed me. And she had me.
She still does.
Sending you all the love and hope and strength,
A young mom who’s not that young anymore
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