My first child was born a few days after my 22nd birthday. Four months after completing my time in the military and moving back to my home-state of Vermont, I began my journey as a full-time student at UVM with an infant daughter in daycare. It was not the most ideal of situations, but I was thrilled to be undertaking the (what seemed monumental at the time), task of juggling motherhood and college life.
There were a few stark differences mind you:
- The extent of my campus life was walking to and from class. No dorm room for this mama. I lived off campus in an apartment, which was roughly a 15 minute drive.
- My time between classes was not spent socializing with friends or sipping coffee. Instead, they were mostly spent in the back of the commuter parking lot pumping breast milk.
- Group study sessions were just about impossible for me to attend and mandatory group projects were a logistical nightmare.
It was what it was. I loved being a mom, but missed my little cherub immensely while in class or working at my part-time job. I longed to connect with other mothers, as I was surrounded by childless co-eds most days. This proved more challenging than I thought. When I would go to pick up or drop off my daughter at the Day Care Center, there was something I noticed which saddened me. The older moms did not talk to me. In fact, they rarely even made eye contact with me. Sometimes I even got the sneering-judgmental-I‘m better than you-don’t come near my husband glare.
Ballet class was no different. I seemed to be an outcast among the 30 and 40 somethings for reasons unbeknownst to me. The grocery store? No better. One deli clerk assumed I was the babysitter and asked how long I’d been watching the baby. Did I really look that young? And even if I did, who cares? Loneliness set in and I thought the whole situation seemed rather hopeless. Finding mom friends is HARD. I should note that this was back in 1999 before Facebook was the social media behemoth that it is, and Internet was just getting its sea legs.
A lot has happened in the last 15 years, divorce, remarriage, four more children and a whole lot of wisdom (and hind sight), has been gained. I didn’t know of any perks of being a young mother. There are even entire communities and on-line forums dedicated to young moms.
I may not be able to go back in time and handle those awkward moments differently, but what I can do, at the ripe old age of 37, is to encourage young moms I meet and encounter today.
So here is my older mom pledge to you young mom:
- I promise to smile at you and and offer encouragement.
- I will make eye-contact, small-talk and margaritas with you.
- I will not assume, be judgy, condescending or snooty to you. We all have a story.
- I will not tell you you’re doing it wrong. Each parenting style and strategy has validity.
- I will not insist that you enjoy the newborn-no sleep-sore nipples phase because it goes by so fast and before you know it they’re in college when you try to share your hard day with me.
- Though I may be jealous of your cute, young, perky physique; I promise not to thin-shame you or make assumptions about your eating habits.
- I will love you, where you’re at, for who you are, whatever your age. (Be careful, I hug.)