20somethingwithkids

Like most monumental things in life, becoming a parent is bittersweet. In fact, it’s a lot of things: exciting, daunting, terrifying and its own form of magic. My daughter Harper was born on a sticky night in July. Labor started at Comic Con 2010 and ended 36 hours later at exactly 9:45pm; 7 pounds, 6 ounces, 19 ½ inches and screaming at full lung capacity.  I was 23 years old.

Becoming a parent in your twenties presents its own issues and opportunities. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first.

You will probably be the first of your friends to have a child and that fact is going to break your social circle down into two crowds. The first group is the people who disappear, walking slowly backwards, loudly lamenting the fact that your life is over. They will fall off the end of Christopher Columbus’s rumored edge until it comes time for a Facebook picture comment about how adorable your apparently offensive child is. The other set of friends will show up at your house with a bag of fast food dollar menu items at 10pm because you forgot to go grocery shopping. Ditch the first group, give your eternal praise to the second and relish in the fact that while you are sometimes lonely, you’ve just received 10 judge of character points. Level up!

As a twenty-something, you might not be as established as people who come into parenthood in their thirties or forties. You could still be in school or deciding what you want to make your life’s work. I found out I was pregnant two weeks after I got my grad school acceptance letter. I watched my two babies, my child and my thesis, grow up together. That was hard; not impossible, not stupid–just difficult.

And of course there is the almighty green.

Kids are expensive. Car seats, diapers, clothes, toys, preschool. Your savings account is probably still the runt of the litter; it hasn’t had a chance to hit that growth spurt that comes with end of the year bonuses and established career paths. That reality leads more nights hunching over the grocery store sale ads looking for ways to make your needs fit into your budget.

Now onto the good stuff.

Physically, parenting is easier for someone in their twenties than for older parents. For the moms who are having biological children, your body will be quicker to return to a relative normal and you’ll be able to bounce back from late nights and early mornings.  I ended up having an emergency C-section, but my healing was quick and without incident. I was fresh out of college and into grad school when my daughter was born. I was used to not sleeping and she ended up keeping me company on some of those all-nighters. And now that she is almost three, I can keep up with her and her boundless energy most days.

Having kids at a younger age means they are statistically more likely to have more time with their grandparents. One of the greatest gifts I’ve given to my daughter is real quality time with her grandparents. My parents are just barely 50, my husband’s a bit older and if fate is on our side, there is a good chance they will be around to see my mini graduate from college, get married and have kids of her own (if that’s what she wants to do, of course). It also means they are young enough to both enjoy and keep up with her, which translates into a free weekend alone with my husband every couple of months.

And the kind of awesome, well that part is easy.

That kid, the one that is in your life because the stars aligned in very specific way. The chromosomes clicked together into a bright, blue-eyed, blonde DNA strand and from that little person springs an enchanted kind of inspiration. You’re less likely to spend your twenties watching Project Runway marathons and sleeping until 2pm. Unlike those fabulous, decadent, spontaneous, jet-setting lifestyles young parents fantasize about after a day sprinkled with timeouts and spills and snot, many older parents feel like they spent their twenties frivolously.  Having a daughter who looks to me as an example of a full and fulfilled life has motivated me to make sure I am doing just that. Since she was born, I’ve gotten my Master’s degree, opened my own photography studio and have started writing a novel. Harper has gone on over a dozen flights and her passport has been stamped four times. She can write the first four letters of her name and count to 50 with a little help.

I’m not wasting a second.

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