I was 22 when I gave birth to my son, and I never once thought it was a decision I would regret. I had no desire to live a wild and carefree life during my twenties. I wanted, very badly, to become a mother. It was a deep, primal yearning – and one which I was easily able to justify given the fact that I had also married young and finished college. It was a choice I had thought through – and I felt very confident that I had all my bases covered when I took the plunge into motherhood.
I thought through all the ways having a child young would affect me. I felt confident I could handle being the first among my peers to have a child. I was ready to make the sacrifices necessary to become a mother. I had no disillusions about parenthood being easy or relentlessly joyous, but i still wanted to do it, hard work and all. I felt confident in my abilities, confident in my choice.
However, I didn’t think completely through how it would affect my son. I was all about looking on the bright side – how he would be graduating high school when I was 40, and how much more energy I would have to keep up with not only him but my grandchildren someday. I thought it would be best to follow in the path of our own parents, starting with very little and working our way up in the world with our kids by our side.
Now when I look back, I see how selfish it was to have my son so young.
None of my friends had kids. Hell, none of my friends even had dedicated partners at the time. Babies were so far off on the horizon that it would be years before another child entered my circle of friends. To be honest, I thought it wouldn’t bother me, but as my son grew, I realized that me not having a mom-community also meant him not having a circle of friends either.
I didn’t have anyone to go to the park with while our kids ran wild on the playground. I didn’t have friends who could come over to the house and hang out while the kids nurtured their own friendship. It wasn’t just lonely for me, it was lonely for him as well. I didn’t realize that having kids young meant denying my son the constant companionship my younger children enjoy because they were born when my friends were also pregnant and having kids.
My son is now six while my friends have infants and toddlers. My third child has a wealth of littles his age to play with every time we go to a party, while my son is relegated to playing nice with babies. While he has friends at school, there is an immersive experience to having every gathering full of friends your age – the kind who can sometimes stay at your house past bedtime because your parents are talking and everyone is having a good time.
I thought that school would help bring me into a new circle of mom friends for my son’s sake, but I still find myself an outsider. I am still the young mom, and the mixture of my insecurity about my age, coupled with the fact that many of these moms were friends long before kindergarten creates a barrier I can’t seem to break. The same is true of my son’s extracurricular activities.
While I would never choose to change my path, I do sometimes regret the fact that having kids young has given my son less community than his younger brother and sister enjoy. Hopefully as they all grow older, the age differences will not seems so glaring, or perhaps school friends will become more established without the prerequisite that I also be friends with their parents. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep putting myself out there to make new mom friends and give him a bigger and better circle. I want him to have the strong bonds he deserves throughout his childhood, and I certainly don’t want to be the reason his sense of community is hindered. Because in my haste to bring him into the world, I forgot that we both would need friends to lean on.