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I may be married with a newborn at 24, but I didn't throw away my 20s

Claire Swinarski is a writer and wife living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her work has been featured in dozens of publications and she’s a proud alum of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She’s usually eating a cupcake. Follow her on Insta...

Just because I married young doesn't mean I'm wasting my 20s

There’s a Facebook meme floating around that kind of pisses me off.

It’s a girl standing in front of a map, as if the whole world’s her oyster. And it reads, “People having babies, and I’m like… what country am I going to next?”

The meme infers that all the baby-makers are just sitting at home, knitting and binge-watching Game of Thrones while they could be out having adventures, drinking the day away and living it up.

I’m 24 years old. I’m married and I have a baby. I live in a suburb by a Target and a Red Robin. I don’t have the wild and free, no-cares-in-the-world 20s experience — and I’m perfectly OK with it.

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As a person who got married semi-young last summer, it’s annoying to have so many people think I “wasted” my 20s. Our culture definitely has this idea that your 20s are for finding yourself and your 30s are for settling down, but I completely reject that. The strongest way I’ve ever “found myself” is by sacrificing for a family and seeing what I’m capable of in the adult world.

As I was writing this article at the coffee shop I live above, my husband suddenly appeared with our fussy newborn who needed to eat. I ran upstairs, fed him quickly and dashed back down to finish the morning’s work. We’re traveling to Europe in the fall to visit my husband’s grandparents, and we still have regular date nights. As a freelance writer, I’m incredibly blessed to be able to juggle motherhood, work and marriage in this particular way. And of course, I don’t advocate having kids before you’re ready emotionally or financially. But I do want to challenge this “meme mindset” that being single and childless or free of responsibilities in your 20s is a more fulfilling lifestyle.

As a mom, I’m still able to live out my passions, work on my career and travel — but now I also get to do it with a snuggly baby. It’s not a this-or-that decision; it’s about finding a way to integrate your interests with your phase of life.

Twenty-four is such an odd age. I have friends with two kids, and I have friends who work part-time retail jobs and binge drink every weekend. In a TED Talk by clinical psychologist Meg Jay, she discusses why 20 is not the new 30. She talks about how women who put off finding serious relationships or making career decisions are harming themselves by essentially hitting the “pause” button on their life. Jay says that “claiming your 20s is one of the simplest, most transforming things you can do for your work, love, happiness and the world,” and I couldn’t agree more.

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Overall, I think everyone needs to take their own path in life. I’m not saying that you should marry the first guy you meet in a bar or get pregnant the second the vows are said. But I am saying that thinking one lifestyle is far superior to another is dangerous. Everyone has their own timeline, and the decisions I’ve made have led to a creative life that I thoroughly enjoy. Can I jump on a last-minute flight to Tahiti? No. But I still wouldn’t have my life any other way.

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