Monday, September 23, 2013

Motherhood in Your Early Twenties

Girl goes on exchange to a strange country, where she knows absolutely no one. She is excited, thrilled, and a little nervous about what she'll encounter there. Girl sees boy on her very first day at university. Girl sits next to boy and introduces herself.

One month later: Girl is sick of her university accommodation and boy suggests she move in with him. She has never done anything this impulsive, this irrational, this exhilarating. She moves in three weeks later. Girl and Boy start falling hopelessly in love with each other.

Six months later: the pregnancy test comes back positive. Girl runs to tell Boy. Both of them are surprised, scared, happy, and a thousand more emotions at once. Boy decides he will move back with girl to her home country, 36 hours away by plane, which they ended up doing in the second trimester of the pregnancy.

Three years later: Boy proposes. Girl says yes. They start preparing the wedding, which doesn't take place until a year and a half later.

If you think this is a story taken from some old rom-com movie, let me tell you that this is my very own true story. I met Sean in New Zealand in July 2009, and on the 13th of September 2010 our son Tommy was born in Colombia.

When Tommy was born, we were both 22 (I am older than Sean by exactly 17 days!). It has been quite a ride, full of ups and downs. I always thought being a mother was going to come easily to me. Throughout the whole pregnancy I kept daydreaming and picturing how we were going to raise our son, the values we would teach him, and the habits I didn't want him learning. Three years down the road I can see how naïve I was. I was really smug and thought I had it all figured out by the time he was born. I was prepared and ready.

Except I wasn't. I wasn't prepared for those moments in which I have wanted to scream in frustration because he just isn't cooperating very much. I wasn't prepared to feel like I was missing out on my youth because of him, nor for the inevitable guilt that comes one second after thinking that. And I definitely wasn't prepared for the strain it put on my relationship with Sean.

We come from completely different cultures, so our ideas about how to raise Tommy, discipline him and teach him right from wrong sometimes differ greatly. And that for me has been the biggest challenge of motherhood in the early 20s: you are only just starting to know yourself, but are forced to know what kind of mother you want to be and on top of that, reconcile that concept with that of your partner's.

Also, in order for me to function, I need some me-time. It is part of who I am, and if I don't get it often enough, I become stressed, anxious and overwhelmed, definitely not the kind of parent I wish to be. But it is hard to get that me-time when I am working at a full time job and trying to spend as much time as possible with my toddler and fiancé. I feel guilty very often, and that has also been very hard. I don't think this happens exclusively to mothers in their 20s, but when you have children a little further down the road, you have had enough time to be on your own. I didn't have a lot of time when the only person to consider when making a decision was myself, and I have resented that at times.

Sleepy Tommy. 24 hours old.
A dirty, just-after-dinner Tommy at age 1.
Tommy at age 2

Tommy three weeks ago, aged 3.

However, I have also enjoyed many aspects of being a young mother. I love that we are both young and energetic (most of the time, anyways) to play with our son. I love that we have our whole lives ahead of us still and get to enjoy them with this little person that looks up to us. I love how when he is a teenager, we will be in our mid-thirties and although he will probably think otherwise, we won't be too old for his stories. I also like the idea that we will probably get to meet and enjoy our grandchildren, just like our (still very young) mothers are enjoying Tommy: my own mom is 47, and Sean's is only 43 having had him at the age of 18.

Those early mornings when he wakes up at 6am; those times when I have had a long day at work and he is being especially clingy; those times when our friends call us to go out but we can't find someone to look after him... all those times are worth it when I come home and have someone waiting eagerly by the door to give me a big bear hug. Or when he is in bed and tired beyond belief but still manages to give me a little kiss and whisper "I love you mommy" with half-open eyes. Or when he comes home from kindergarten, and excitedly starts telling me snippets of his day. Because of these and a million other moments, it is all worth it. Those moments fill my heart more than any amount of outings or parties ever could, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

There are few things more adorable than cute baby stories, so if there is/has been a special baby or toddler in your life that has completely melted your heart, I would love to hear about them in the comments.


  1. Hi there. I came across your post on Mamamia today and I have to say this. Your son is absolutely 100% gorgeous. He looks like a really really lovely kid. Kudos to you. As a mum to 2 boys (4 & 8) and about the same age as your mum (!!), let me tell you this. Mothering at my age is pretty much the same as mothering at your age! I wish you all the very best. Jodie.

    1. Thank you so very much for your lovely comment, Jodie! Mothering always comes with many challenges, doesn't it? but the rewards and joy we get from them far outweigh them. I also wish you the very best for you and your two little ones! xo -Veronica.


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