I was 25 years old when I had my first child. Obviously, far from a teen mom, and most women in my family became mothers around that age or even younger.
To me, this was perfectly normal, and at the time I didn’t consider myself an especially young mother. I was married at 23 and we knew we wanted kids fairly soon. It felt right to start when we did. After all, my mother had been telling me for years that it was best for my body to have kids young (she works in healthcare) and I always assumed I would be a younger mom.
What I didn’t take into account was my generation and the fact that many women my age were putting off having children to get careers off the ground or, to simply enjoy their 20s. While I was posting pictures of my new baby girl on Facebook, my high school friends were posting about trips to Europe, new job opportunities and fun nights out. I didn’t regret my choice to have a baby as young as I did, but I also had literally no friends my age with kids.
I joined a few playgroups hoping to find common ground with fellow moms, and as far as finding other mothers with kids my daughter’s age, I succeeded. Playgroup was wonderful for that purpose, and I won’t ever regret joining.
However, there were precious few moms with babies my daughter’s age who were anywhere near mine. The vast majority were eight to 10 years older than me. That didn’t make much difference in our baby talks, but it made a difference in most other areas. Discussing college or high school, marriage (they were all several years married while I was two or three), our childhoods, 40th birthday parties… it became quickly apparent that I was in the minority as the 20-something mother of an infant.
The bond of having little ones the same age was enough that I felt accepted in the playgroups for the most part. It was when my kids entered school that I noticed a bigger chasm.
I volunteer in their classrooms free of make-up, in jeans and a ponytail, which I realize gives me even more of a juvenile vibe. In talking with other moms, the subject of our age will come up in various ways — be it discussing what year we graduated high school or an upcoming birthday. Without fail, I am almost always the youngest by several years. I get the “Oh, hush! You can’t whine yet about feeling old!” line regularly. They’re probably right, but when so many conversations center around that topic, it’s weird to sit silently, unable to participate.
This brings me to the strangest and loneliest part of all. My high school and college friends are all just now having babies. I am 33. My Facebook page is littered with their pink, screaming newborns and round, pregnant bellies while I am over here coaching my daughter on the importance of wearing deodorant daily and how to deal with bullying.
When I spend time with these friends, I find it hard to connect. In the ever-changing world of what’s popular for infants, I am very behind. No one uses Bumbos anymore, there are all kinds of squeezable fruit pouches that weren’t available when my kids were babies and everyone has new theories on how to get an infant sleeping through the night. I already feel obsolete in my attempts to give them advice, and of course they have little interest in my life as the mother of elementary school kids, as it seems so far off from their perspective as brand-new mothers. It seems this is one area where we simply won’t ever find common ground.
It’s far from the biggest tragedy, but I can’t help but feel as though this is something rarely discussed in the realm of parenthood. We are in a generational shift with moms deciding to have kids at an older age, and I went against the grain. And while I have been fortunate to find many women online to relate to with kids the same age as mine, I feel like I don’t fit with the people I grew up with and those in my current circle. I don’t feel like I fit in with any group of moms now.
I wouldn’t change a thing about the age when I started having kids, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel lonely.