I always get a bit emotional on the eve of my son’s birthday…but this year felt like a real landmark as the weight of having been a mother for a whole decade hit me. To mark the occasion and help me process the whole thing, I wanted to share TEN things I’ve learnt about the realities of being a young mum.
When I was 18, I didn’t feel like a kid…I had already lived away from my parents for a year; was working; renting a shared house; and saving up to go travelling on my gap year. I was determined to see the world before starting uni and becoming a high-flying professional…’something’.
So when I discovered I was pregnant – literally the same week my uni offers came through – I didn’t think of it as a shock teen pregnancy. But of course, that’s exactly what it was.
I’ll spare you the details of the weeks that followed…the denial, the indecision, the web print-outs of private abortion options vs. what the foetus already looked like; and ultimately, the terrified excitement of growing this new life.
Instead, let’s fast forward 10 years to where we’re at now. Toby and I. We’ve grown up together and come out the other side relatively unscathed. So for what it’s worth, here are some truths I wish someone had told me 10 years ago (not that I would have listened)…
1. Trust your instincts. My instincts have always served me right; it’s trusting them – and getting other people to trust them – that’s been the biggest challenge.
2. Comparison is a pointless exercise. Most of the other mums you meet will be 10 or 20 years older, which means they’re more likely to have their shit together in terms of money, marriage and mortgages. Saying that, I know plenty of women in their 40s who are still figuring it all out. Remember: this life is all your little one knows, and you are their entire world.
3. You will get to travel. OK so l missed out on the whole gap year backpacking thing…but a) Who says I can’t do that later? and b) We have Airbnb these days – cheap travel minus the communal bathrooms.
4. It’s hard to fit in. While most of your mum friends will be older, your peers probably won’t be having kids yet – leaving you drifting somewhere in between. BUT this will force you to assert yourself and ascertain your identity, which is invaluable…and FYI, all new mums feel lonely and drifting at some point.
5. You’ll lose some friends along the way. It’s a true test of friendship when you’re watching CBeebies instead of drinking Jaegerbombs. Those who stick around will hopefully be friends for life.
6. Your kid will become your best friend. Stuck between 30-something married couples and 18-year-olds at uni, Toby became my best friend – and that’s fine by me. Although we do bicker like an old married couple.
7. Accept help. It’s easy to get a chip on your shoulder and feel you have a point to prove. I still find it difficult to accept help, even when it’s handed on a shiny platter with a fancy garnish. Don’t be stubborn like me – accept help when it’s offered, it doesn’t mean they are judging you or think you can’t cope. And for god’s sake, let your mum do your washing up if she wants to.
8. It’ll be really hard for about 5 years. Everyone tells you it’ll be hard of course, but you won’t listen. It IS hard though – you’ll hardly sleep, money will be tight, and you’ll daydream Sliding Doors-style about how else your life might have turned out (though if you’re 18 and reading this, you probably won’t know what Sliding Doors is – Google it) . But something magical happens around age 5, when your kid can understand basic reasoning and brush their own teeth. Then, see point 6 above.
9. Your dreams are still important. When Toby started school, I went to uni to study English Literature. Whatever your dream or goal is, let your child be a reason to strive for something greater, not a hurdle that gets in your way.
10. It’s 100% worth it. Now I’m certainly not advocating getting pregnant at 18…but I will say that I wouldn’t change a damn thing.