Why I am happy I had my first baby at the age 24
While that’s not 16 and pregnant, it still felt like it when I got pregnant at 23 and I had turned 24 by the time my daughter was born. I was a college graduate, had a full time job, was engaged to the father (now my husband of 8 years), and it still felt like I was a teenager when I got pregnant. It felt wrong to be pregnant, like I was too young. Everyone my age around me was exploring life, trying to figure out where to travel to next, Friday nights were spent clubbing and going to parties, and their lives had no predictability. Their lives felt thrilling as if anything could happen and they were free to do anything. Meanwhile, Mr.Relatable and I were shopping for a crib, researching car-seats, and taking birthing classes. The future for us looked very predictable and not free for us. I spent my twenties creating my family, something my friends my age are just starting to do now. And that seems normal because the new normal seems to be starting a family in your thirties.
And I often get asked, “are you happy you had kids early?” Without a doubt, my answer is “absolutely happy” and that doesn’t mean it has been an easy ride. It just means that I am glad life unfolded this way for us. And here are some reasons why.
We were young and had energy
When I reflect back at the baby years (now my kids are 7 and 4) I get tired just thinking about it. My first born was in NICU for a couple weeks and even after an emergency c-section, I had energy to recover, pump milk, go to NICU everyday with barely any sleep. Then when my son was born, I was 27, my daughter was a toddler, and I somehow had the energy to chase a toddler, make it to play dates, and to keep our regular life going with a newborn in the mix. While we would love another baby, the thought of sleepless nights and adding a newborn into the current mix is our most effective contraception. I cannot do it again. I am tired at 3 PM and ready for bed by 7 PM everyday. At 32, I am happy that I am not waking up every couple hours to feed or respond to sleep regressions. I paid those parenthood dues back in my twenties.
We are still young and still have energy
The best part is that we are still young and we do have energy. It’s just that we have the perfect type of energy for the current ages of our kids. We are the parents that climb on the play ground equipment with our kids. We get messy, dirty, and get into playing with them wherever we go. We will race each other on their razor scooters. I’m the parent who is the volunteer soccer coach. We love being able to things we couldn’t do with them as babies and we love having the energy for it. Our kids make us feel alive and we are learning through play with them. I am not at all saying that older parents don’t play with their kids or that they don’t have energy. I am just happy to be 32 and being able to go on bigger adventures with my kids now. And getting enough sleep and being able to sleep in on the weekends refuels us.
We spent less money
This doesn’t seem so obvious because babies are supposed to be expensive. And they are. But compared to what?
Our priorities shifted. We stopped going out to eat, we weren’t partying or clubbing, and my husband gave up alcohol with me for the entire pregnancy, and that alone saved so much money. We took advantage of the things we couldn’t do any more and social or peer pressure was irrelevant to us when we had a baby to think about. We actually paid off a $10,000 loan, saved up another $10,000 as a safety net for when our daughter arrived, and our careers were ready for take-off. We just started to take ourselves more seriously sooner than we had planned to. All of our goals got fast-forwarded by five years and in hindsight, that was a gift. I have now been with an organization for over 10 years and I am 32. Most millennials have switched through many different jobs.
While we were taking ourselves seriously, we were spending less money. One because we didn’t have the extra money to spend because we were still very early in our careers. And two, we were afraid to spend any extra money.
We lived small but comfortably. We did’t eat out. We cooked together a lot. We didn’t have a nursery set up for the baby from Pottery Barn. We took in hand me downs and got the cheapest strollers and baby gadgets. When friends ask me for a list of must-haves for babies, I give them my list of “all the crap you don’t need in the first year”. I didn’t buy maternity clothes. I just wore my husband tee shirts and sweatpants the last few months of the pregnancy. We prioritized saving money above anything and we were able to buy our first home at the age 25. We continued to surprise ourselves and others around us.
We weren’t stuck in our ways.
We didn’t know how valuable this would be for our mental health as new and young parents. As we got older, we have begun to “get stuck in our ways”. What that means is that we have structure now. We like things done a certain way. We have expectations of our weekends and days in a way that we didn’t before. I am glad we are transitioning into being more structured as our kids grow up. In my opinion, the first two years with a baby demands flexibility and being able to go with the flow. Everything is a phase. If they are sleeping well, it’s a phase because a sleep regression is coming. If they are teething, it’s just a phase and they will be happy again. Because we didn’t have a way of doing things, flexibility came natural to us. We just went with the flow. If we were to have a baby now, the most difficult thing would be figuring out how to make our structured life more flexible and responsive to the changes of a baby. And this takes me to my next reason…
Our marriage took the hardest battles in the beginning
Until you are holding your baby after birth, you actually have no idea what it’s going to be like. The first year is full of magical firsts and eight years later, I cannot believe I am saying “time just flew by”. While time did fly by and it seems like I didn’t get enough time with my babies in their infant years. The days were long. The days were slow. The days were a struggle. Imagine having to problem solve daily, learn how to be parents, and keep little humans alive with no sleep with a partner. It’s impossible. It shouldn’t be attempted but we did it. We also did it with no help from grandparents. It was just us. Parents do it every day around the world. We are not unique.
If you remember from the beginning, I got pregnant while engaged. We got married within a month in the courthouse and our marriage has never had a phase without pregnancy or babies and kids. We never got to spend time as a married couple in the honey moon phase. We didn’t spend any time as a married couple traveling, working, living and creating life just for us two. We have been tackling parenthood from the start so our marriage has never had to restructure itself around kids and the new normal. We fought a lot. We made up a lot. We learned to fight fairly. We hurt each others’ feelings. We have had weeks where we didn’t talk. We just didn’t give up on each other. We never wanted to give up. And now we are in our new normal in which we have had our roughest fights already and nothing we tackle now is as hard as being young parents with no help. We know what arguments matter and when to just go to bed angry while spooning. We know how to comfort each other when we are fighting. The seeds planted early in our marriage are in full bloom.
When my oldest is 18, I’ll only be 42.
And this needs no explanation. Our 40’s will be our 20’s.