When I became a mother for the first time at the age of 19, one of the comments I got used to hearing from other people was how ‘brave’ I was, or how ‘strong’ I was.
Seemingly unable to do anything else but comment on my young age, strangers would regularly regale me for my apparently astonishing ability to cope so well, and mother my child.
But now, almost 13 years on, I look back on my journey to becoming the mother I am today, and there’s no way I would have done it any differently. In fact, I’d choose to have children young any day over the choice to do it later, without question.
Discovering myself through mothering
There seems to be this huge misconception about being a young mother – in that, we have to sacrifice our identity to mother our children. But this simply isn’t true. In no way did I ever have to ‘give up’ being who I was so that I could become a mother to my girls. In fact, in becoming a mother at a young age, I was able to discover who I was and learn about my strengths and weaknesses along the way.
Motherhood has never robbed me of anything; it has actually done the complete opposite, instilling in me a sense of self-love, pride, resilience and respect for my capabilities as a woman that I never knew existed beforehand. I’m still the same coriander-hating, opinionated and impatient woman that I was before I had children – only now, I can wrangle the needs of my four daughters at the same time, too.
Being able to relate on a real level
Looking back over my childhood and reflecting on the bond that my Mama and I had together, I feel fortunate that the age gap between my daughters and me is far less. With an age gap almost double to that of my own with my daughters, I am sure there were many times my Mama felt out of her depth. So many years had passed, and some generational gaps are truly pervasive.
Now that my eldest daughter is almost 12, I can still remember what it felt like to be that age. I remember vividly how uncertain some days felt, and I can relate to her desperate need for independence while carving out her place in this world. It wasn’t so long ago that I was her age, after all, and this has definitely aided in solidifying our connection together.
Having the energy and resilience to keep up
I’m not entirely sure that I would have been able to bounce back from the long-term lack of sleep that comes with raising four small humans, had I not become a mother at 19. Nothing really prepares you for the sleep deprivation and physical demands of raising children until you become a mother. People will tell you that you’ll be tired, but it doesn’t hit home until you’re feeling it.
Having my daughters young meant I was able to keep going and manage to keep up with them, something I’m sure I would have struggled with as the years went by.
Witnessing relationships between grandparents and great-grandparents
Without a doubt, one of the best things about having children at a younger age is being able to see the bonds your children form, not only with their grandparents but also their great-grandparents. I remember growing up and having to talk to my Opa who was about 80 years old and needed assistance moving around. The relationship I had with him is worlds apart compared to the relationship my girls have with their extended grandparent circle.
I feel so very fortunate that my daughters have been able to experience relationships like this that have played a vital role in their childhood and directly contributed to their identities as individuals, shaping and guiding them over the years.
I’ve just turned 31 this year, and I was finished making babies four years ago. My eldest daughter begins high school next year and the toilet-learning, sleepless nights and breastfeeding days are long past. I’m so excited to see what the coming years bring to our family, and to me as a woman in my own right.
Although it can sometimes be a little awkward being the youngest parent in the room with the oldest child, I still enjoy a chuckle about it and really wouldn’t change a thing – in fact, I’d strongly recommend it!
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