Motherhood should be about love and understanding, but too often is it riddle with judgement.
On age alone, I was technically teen mother. Despite graduating from a top high school in Florida at 16, and going on to attend the University of Florida, when it came down to it, I was 19 years, 11 months and 20 days old when my eldest child was born. Society told me all was lost. My partner at the time told me continuing the pregnancy was a bad idea. I was terrified. There were things I wanted to accomplish and I was wondering if all my dreams would vanish the moment those contractions surged through my body while birthing my baby boy.
This fear pervaded my pregnancy, and caused severe depression; Now, nearly 8 years, another son and 3 years into marriage later, that depression and fear still lingers. When people ask me how old my boys are, I become self-conscious as I see their expression when I answer. “Oh you had them young.” I have heard it time and time again, more times than not, there is a tinge of judgement in their tone.
Motherhood isn’t scary to me because I am now responsible for two little boys who will grow into two men, it is scary because my role as a parent seems to open me up to so much more criticism and scrutiny than I ever imagined.
I’m sure that every new parent, whether 19 or 29, struggles with raising their children at times, that there are times when self-doubt appears. You may read all the books on parenting at your local bookstore, take numerous parenting classes on various approaches and styles to grooming your child for adulthood, and even are confident to the point of arrogance, but you can never prepare for everything. Who knows what your child’s personality will be, what issues they may encounter. They are simply trying to find their way as their parents do the same.
Even with my ups and downs, my fears, my struggles and my successes, what I learned above all is to be gentle to fellow parents, to new parents, to non-parents, to anyone who has the pleasure of helping a child through this world. Each child and each caregiver is unique.
There may not be a perfect time. I recognized there were days where I may not have been able to afford that awesome Lego set my 7 year old desperately wanted, but I know that I will always love my children. I am trying to be a great parent, not a perfect parent.
I was technically a teen mother. I am coming to terms that does not make me a worse mother because I got pregnant earlier then some of my peers, nor does it make me better because I was extremely energetic and able to grow right along with my child. I was a teen mom and I am navigating motherhood regardless of how old I was, I am or will be if I decide to have another child in the future. No judgement, just love and understanding that it can be difficult for all of us.