As I entered my early 20’s, many of my peers began having children. At the age of 23, my best friend had her first baby and I was in awe. Not only of the tiny, beautiful baby in front of me but of motherhood itself as well. I wanted so badly to experience that alongside my lifelong friend and to have our children grow up together. However, I decided to hold off until much later, and I am forever grateful that I did.
Babies are a lot of work. Everyone knows this – babies don’t take care of themselves. But for me, I was in the thick of my college career! With papers, exams, and classes, I have no idea how I would have navigated pregnancy, morning sickness and a newborn. My grades would have plummeted. I’m not sure how many classes I would have made it to either. I ended up with insane 4 month-long morning sickness when the time eventually came.
Babies are a lot of money. This isn’t something you realize right away. When you think of a baby, you think of things like a crib, car seat, swing, etc. But those things are typically covered with a baby shower. It’s the other things that add up – diapers, wipes, medications, formula. Babies aren’t a guarantee. You may stock up on diapers that are on sale but find out that they have an allergic reaction to them. And then what do you do? You’re forced to scrap them and start with a new kind. With being young and in college, money isn’t something you typically have a ton of and a diaper hiccup like that can be very stressful to navigate.
Babies are intense. Even as an older adult I have moments where I have to go somewhere and scream. Especially in the early weeks, they don’t even know what they want most nights. When you are going on little sleep and trying to figure out this new human in your life, you start to feel like you’re losing your mind. When I think back to 23-year old me, I have no idea how I would have handled that. The difference in my mental state then and now is night and day. I am more equipped to handle it now, and even that handling isn’t the best!
Children strain relationships. Even after being together for over a decade, when my husband and I finally did have a baby, there were so many times I hated his guts. Navigating a new place in life is stressful, and when that includes a tiny baby that you are totally and completely responsible for, it’s a whole new level. The anxiety gets to both partners and the stress can affect the relationship that you have. Thankfully for us, it all smoothed out, but I can’t guarantee that it would have when I was younger and our relationship wasn’t as seasoned as it is now.
Babies are lonely. In my younger days, I wanted a baby because my best friend had a baby. But as you learn even when almost all of your friends have babies, it’s lonely. Having children means that you may see your friends less. Not only that, but some of your friends won’t want to come around. This could be because they are childless and don’t feel as comfortable with the friendship as they once did, or even because they don’t agree with your parenting methods. There are a million reasons why it happens, but 23-year old me wouldn’t have expected that.
Your brain is wired differently when you’re older. The difference between 23-year old me and 30-year old me was night and day. Your brain forms over time, and I was more “adult” as a 30-year old than I was at 23. My ability to make good decisions was better, my anxiety was more under control from having years to work on it. As a human being, I was more capable of having a big change in my life after having waited.
You have a better network. When I was 23, my circle of friends was those from high school and some new friends from college. I didn’t have people that were easily accessible to me (even the friend with the baby was 3 cities over). Now I have a group of people that I can call in the middle of the night and they will drop everything if need be. Some of those people are further ahead in the parenting game than I am, so I can call on them for advice. This is critical to being able to parent effectively and is something that would have been missing earlier on.
I am more present now. If I had a baby at 23, I would have been working and in school. Now, having waited until I was done with my Master’s degree and in a good career, I can just be present with my children. I don’t have to worry about studying or running off for a shift. I can come home from work and be completely attentive to their needs. Not only is this a benefit to them, but me as well. Having less of a hustle and bustle life is much more enjoyable.
Kids deserve the best. They didn’t ask for any of this. And although some young parents who completely rock it, I was not going to be one of those people. To get to that place took a lot of deep thinking and self-realization. I was upset at not being where I wanted to be, but I am so glad that I waited. When I look at my children, I know that they needed this mom, not the one that I would have been.
Kristyn Meyer is a freelance writer hailing from the mitten state. She is a mother, wife, writer, baker and wannabe coffee connoisseur. She is also the author of two children’s books – “Brother of Mine” and “I Don’t Know”, available on Amazon.