Ever since I became a mother at 18, I’ve noticed how judgmental society can be purely based on your age. It is of the consensus that the younger the parent, the less mature and less responsible they must be. Most do not believe that a “child” can raise another child, as they do not understand the selflessness that goes with it and the sacrifices that they must make in the process.
Let me take you on a walk down memory lane. When I was 14, people were planning birthday parties or talking about the boys that they had crushes on. I, on the other hand, knew what I wanted to study, where I wanted to study and was so ambitious that to me, high school was a bore. When I was 16, it was still all about the boys but now the make-up as well. By this stage, I was more interested in news stories like the drug bust of Schapelle Corby’s and I remember losing interest in a boy because he could hardly sustain an intelligent conversation with me about it.
I always knew I was different, I had friends who were the same age but my maturity level was always way beyond their years. At the time, I thought it was a curse, I wondered why I couldn’t just be like them – it would just be easier. But when I began University, I was befriended by people whose ages ranged from 17-55 and it made me realise that there was nothing wrong with being myself and that there were people who loved me for it.
So, back to the topic at hand: does age really determine how mature and responsible you really are? And if so, does it determine whether or not you can be a good parent?
No. I don’t think so. Hubby and I took the kids to the park today, and even though a great day was had by all, I did notice something. I notice this everytime we take the kids to a playground, whether it be in an open space or in the middle of a shopping centre. I noticed that more often than not, it is the younger parents who will follow the kids around and join in on the fun. However, the older parents will be the ones who sit back with their friends and hardly even glance up at their child. Maybe these parents are simply enjoying a relaxing day with their friends, which of course they deserve; or maybe there could be a lot more to it.
A few months ago, when we were at an indoor playground, a bunch of ladies aged in their mid-30s were standing around chatting, unbeknown to them that their child had just smacked my youngest daughter in the face. I was absolutely disgusted that she was so engrossed in conversation with her friends that she did not even have the time to check that her child was playing nicely with others. I looked to my left and a man said to me: “At least one child is always hurt at these things. And there’s always a group of women chatting away who never seem to be looking after their kids”. He shook his head in disgust and you could tell he shared similar feelings to me.
And later on, the same group of ladies were still so engrossed in their conversation that their son had even managed to escape the playground without her knowledge. She was so busy chatting away that a bystander who was sitting down had to tell her that her son had gotten out from the gate. Imagine if nobody had told her… where would her son be now?
Let me make this clear – this is not a question of whether younger or older parents are “better” at being parents. I think it is neither. I think the answer doesn’t lie within the age of a person, but more so within a person’s character, their life experience and their view on life. These things determine their maturity and responsibility to be a good parent, not the biological age that they are.
I have known plenty of older parents who absolutely adore their child, and had waited until they felt they were ready enough to become a parent. But sometimes people are ready much earlier than others. And I always knew that I would get married early and have kids early.
I’m the sort of parent who will stay at home on a Saturday night to clean the bathroom vent because it’s getting dusty, refuse to go out because my child is sick, and clean the house before I hop onto Facebook. I know where my priorities lie and even though I’m “only” 22 and married with 2 kids; I sure as hell don’t act like I’m only 22.
And I think that’s the important thing for people to remember, there is no right or wrong age to become a parent. If we were to follow society in making all our decisions, we would be doing ourselves a great disservice. Why? Well, because we’d be living our life according to what OTHERS did and not what we felt was right for US.
If I had waited until I was 30 to marry my husband, 35 to have kids, simply because that is what society considered “right” then I would be unhappy as of right now. Because that’s not what I wanted for myself. I am not usually one to make rash decisions so when I look back on the reasons why I married my husband or why I had my kids; I know that I did the right thing. I know that I was ready. I may not be as “financially equipped” as a parent in their 30s, but I know I am equipped to love my child unconditionally and sacrifice anything I can to be a good parent to them. Some are 18 when they can promise to do that, some are 35.
So, before you judge a younger parent or even an older one, know that everybody is different and what works for some may not work for others. If a person is willing to do ANYTHING for their child, give up EVERYTHING and always put their child first, then that is SO MUCH MORE important than the years that they have been alive.