Over the course of three years, too many people have told me that I was lucky for having a baby so young. I thought it was merely a speech of kindness in an awkward situation when first introducing myself. People wouldn’t really believe that becoming a mom at 20 years old is considered “lucky” — right? But apparently, they do.
And, not so shockingly, these comments are made by individuals who did not experience parenthood at a young age. In fact, they’re usually those who became parents at the “correct” age of 30 or in a socially approved way — such as after marriage.
Supposedly, they know exactly how it feels to be a young mom. They think they can see through my hardships and accurately evaluate my struggles. And apparently, since I’m still young and spirited, they think I have motherhood easy in comparison. Constantly hearing these comments is exhausting and frustrating — I’m tired of having my hard work in motherhood undermined. And I want to provide my counterarguments to their claims and beliefs about the simplicity of being a young mom.
Claim No. 1: Pregnancy at a young age must have been a breeze, and losing weight post-delivery would have been a piece of cake — wrong.
Pregnancy is physically and emotionally challenging for all expectant beings, no matter the age. Why would it be any different for a young parent? I think young moms have it pretty rough during pregnancy. I worked as a waitress for up to seven hours a day until I was six months pregnant, as I was afraid to tell my parents but needed the money. Forget cravings, rest and blessings. Until the third trimester, my hidden pregnancy consisted of long hours at McDonald’s, working as a waitress. Oh, and I can assure you that having a baby at a young age does not mean your body will bounce back to its slender form. It was difficult for me to lose the 20 pounds I gained from pregnancy — and 13 pounds still remain.
Claim No. 2: Parenting shouldn’t be as physically challenging for young moms because of all that young energy pent up inside — wrong. I know this seems like a valid claim, but it is absolutely false. Before becoming a mom, I could drink until the crack of dawn, go to school, go to work and drink again the same night. But this was when I was free from other responsibilities. Before parenthood, I just had to take care of my fully grown self. I could rest when I wanted, nap when I felt like it, eat without disturbance and watch Netflix all day in bed after a wild night (or two) out.
After becoming a mom, none of the above is possible. When you have to wake up at dawn and run around like a crazy person all day because of school and a toddler, it’s natural to be tired as fuck and sleep like a baby at 9 p.m. Child rearing is tough — I’m only 23, and I’m tired.
Claim No. 3: You’re so fortunate to have “settled down” and started a family at a young age; it’s so much better than wasting your time fooling around in college — wrong. First of all, I am far from “settled down.” Starting a family does not mean I’ve settled down. I’m still a student who lives in student-family housing, and I still depend on federal student financial aid. After I graduate from college next year in May, I have no idea where I’m even going to live. And trying to map out how I will support my child is painful and terrifying.
So, no, I’m definitely not settled down yet. And though there are many positive aspects of married life, these benefits do not apply on a college campus — or to a college-aged person. Unless you have experienced pumping breast milk in front of your 21st birthday cake, or something similar to it, I don’t even want to hear you complain about all the “meaningless” hours of fun you had in college.
Yes, parenthood is wonderful, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. But I do believe that it is tough for all parents and guardians regardless of their age. I also believe that there is a more appropriate time — when one is psychologically, financially and physically prepared — to be able to fully enjoy all pleasures of raising a child. Of course, this is just coming from my experience. But one certain fact is that every parent experiences child rearing differently, and it is unacceptable to make rash judgments regarding someone else’s experience. Unless you have been in my exact situation, you don’t know what I’m going through. The least you can do is sympathize, rather than diminish my challenging experiences of motherhood with the excuse of age.
May Choi writes the Monday column on being a transfer student-parent. Contact her at [email protected] .