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January 23 2013

With two exceptions, my baby boy was not out of my line of sight for five straight days. Five. Straight. Days. It was equally an act of self-sacrifice and selfishness. Selfishly, I was attending a conference several states away from home, my two year old, and my husband. But, I was also still nursing my baby and was dedicated to sustaining that for his emotional and physical health, despite inconveniences. This meant that the nursling and I traversed the cross-country travel and the conference together.

One exception was when I left him with a friend while I ran downstairs to a cafe to buy some pop. In line and feeling gloriously liberated. I could finally focus more on my surroundings than my offspring. The conversation between the ladies in front of me spilled through their air space and into mine.

“Yea, this’ll be her third kid. She got married young and they’ve just had one after another. I think that’s unhealthy. I’m glad I have my twenties to myself…”

It was so glaringly ironic, I thought I might throw up a little in my mouth. I was 26 at the time and had been a mother to one or more children since I was 23. Standing there without my child for the first time in days, I was the very antithesis of having my twenties “to myself”.

Myself, the one who only made it three years into my twenties before her young body was wracked with stretch marks. Myself, the one who has spent countless nights soothing children and more countless mornings groggily still attending them. Myself, who sometimes cries at the difficulty of it all and dreams of running away.

Myself, the one who has seen and felt first-hand the love a parent lavishes on their child. Myself, who has learned that she must put a vice grip around Grace and never, ever let go. Myself, who learned that she is capable of far more than she ever thought possible. Myself, who sometimes finds it hard to tell where she ends and her family begins.

In a very real sense, I have both lost and found myself in my twenties.


  1. Wow, do I get this! I, too, began mothering at 23 and had 3 under 4 by 27. And it was hard. And my 20’s were lost to others. But I don’t regret it for a minute. ANYTIME is a good time to have babies – I’m convinced of that. But I’m glad I had mine when I was young. We grew up together a bit — and now? We have the wonderful experience of having grandchildren in their 20’s!! (Make that A grandchild in his 20’s – but the others will surely follow, right?)

  2. My mom and dad were 23 when they had me and I loved having young parents. We, in essence, grew up together! I HATE that I couldn’t repeat their pattern…my 20s were pretty good and I learned a lot. And though you and I have taken different paths, I know you’re learning a lot, too. Those girls in front of you didn’t know what they were even talking about…and I hope they’re learning something, too.

  3. Why are people so judgey?! You are right about losing and finding yourself. My children have given me a reason to be the person I want to be.

  4. Philippa

    I had my first child at 23 and wouldn’t change a thing. I now have 3 and the youngest is 17. In my late 40’s I am doing things I couldn’t do when my children were young. I loved having them when I was still young and now I love having a bit more freedom. And I’m still young enough to enjoy it, and mature enough to appreciate it!

  5. I had my first at 27. It was good for me, but in the beginning of sleepless nights and exhausting monotony, I decided it was better for people to have babies as very young adults because THEY have the energy to one all nighter after another.

    Well, maybe not, but do you see where I’m going with this? The older you get, maybe you will become more laid back or maybe not. The older you get, the more you don’t recover as quickly. The older you get, the more you don’t have the same kind of energy.

    It’s a story of the laws of nature! I wish I had been younger, but if I had, I probably would have killed myself trying to do everything perfectly. For me I needed to experience a few hard knocks to realize that I can’t control everything. And even then, I still struggled greatly!

    You are awesome! Don’t you love being the antithesis?

  6. I love this piece! I just had my first child at 29… Almost 30 and have been thinking that all the reasons why I wanted to wait to have kids were so silly. I would happily go back and tell my post college self to be less selfish and that I would actually love being a younger mom. Thanks again for sharing such a wow moment in your life!

  7. Melanie

    Thank you, thank you for this article! I had my son at 24, a surprise early in our marriage. Over the past year I have struggled so much with being a young mother. Thank you for the reminder that it really is worth it!

  8. I was one of those women who made comments about how happy I was to be in my twenties and be child-free. I was free to come and go as I pleased. I wasn’t on anyone’s schedule but my own. Then, I became a mother last year, and have realized that happiness is not confined by your personal definition. There is room for happiness; happiness for people of all walks of life.

    I am sorry for my attitude toward motherhood, and toward the young women who took the journey before I did. May we all offer more grace and extend more compassion. We can’t all live in the same season, but I believe it is possible to have appreciation for each one.

  9. Ha! I didn’t even have my teens to myself!

  10. I’m 33 and we are just now getting around to the kid thing :) – first baby expected in March. It’s fascinating to read this – because its such a different perspective than my own!

    We all tend to judge and envy each other I think. I’ve experienced both – people judging because I wasn’t married. Then judging when we didn’t (at the old age of 28?) immediately start trying for kids. On the flip side, I heard mothers envy me – I had a career, traveled etc. how lucky was that?

    I think my takeaway is just this – we each have our own challenges and blessings. The difficulty is in accepting that rather than falling into envy on one side or judgement on the other. My unique walk before God is mine alone, and no one else’s will look exactly the same, nor should they :)

    As C S Lewis suggested – “maybe we would all be better off minding our own business!”

    • Lindsay

      I love your response – very humble. Very true. Very gracious.

  11. My mom had me at 21, and then my brother when she was 24. My son was there to help her celebrate her 50th birthday. My in-laws were 20 when my husband was born, and they had 3 kids before they hit 30. As a mom now, I cannot overstate the blessing it is for my children to have such young grandparents. I had the same experience growing up, and up until four years ago I still had all four of my grandparents. I think we forget that the notion of waiting until our 30s to have children is a very new notion, and was very rare just a generation or two ago.

    • And to finish my though… we all have different paths to motherhood, and it’s hard enough without feeling like whichever way we took was not quite right. Regardless of our age when we have or adopt children, we will all have struggles at some point or another. I hope posts like these remind us to be less vocal in our judgement and more quick to offer support and encouragement to one another.

  12. Ed

    It’s impossible to speak into another person’s life until you’ve walked with them and understood their reasons, their fears, and what they sense from God. Diana has a great point that any time is a good time to have a child. I was personally quite intimidated at the thought of a being a parent. We had our first when I was 32, just a month from 33. He is a delight, even if he radically changes things. I wish I could have told myself in my 20’s that things would be OK. I’m not sure if we would have had a kid any earlier since we’ve both made some huge career changes in the past 4 years, but I at least would not have thought of having kids as crossing into some unknown, scary abyss where I lose myself. Life changes, but I’m still here… albeit with a sidekick at times.

  13. so glad i read this.
    there *is* a losing and a finding of oneself in parenting, isn’t there? and now that mine are approaching their teens and i’m in my 30’s, a new way of being found is starting to emerge.
    the journey, it goes on.
    i really relate to you. the sacrifices and the joys. thank you for sharing your perspective.

  14. oh girl, i know this feeling. i was 21 when I had Noah (our first) and i’m done with Eli (#4) at the ripe old age of 27. :) i don’t know this “to myself” business anymore. but, i wouldn’t change the adventures we’ve had as a family and the way i’ve grown in myself and in my marriage. xo, grace, peace, and joy and all those good things to you, Allison!


  15. I think the same can be said of any adult venture in your 20s. Our culture idealizes the 20s as a decade of self-focus and freedom: Getting married? There’s plenty of time? Buying a house? Why not be free and mobile? Having kids? Why so soon?

    But there can be tremendous benefits to growing up fast (which isn’t fast at all, according to most of the world’s standards, but that’s another post). I got married when I was just a few months past 21, and yes, my lack of maturity made marriage hard. But my husband and I have grown in maturity TOGETHER in ways we never would have if we had married later in life. To everything, there’s a trade-off.

  16. karabo

    I had my first at 25.I’m expecting my second at 27 and I am looking forward to having my thirties being about raising my children and focusing on my career.


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