I was 17 the year my first child was born, unplanned. I was 19 when my second child was born-still and unplanned. And I was 20 when my youngest was born; this time planned. There was no plan to starting a family. It was due to my lack of knowledge of the consequences of losing my virginity out of “love” for someone else. I am now 29, a single mother with two beautiful and strong girls, but not one ounce of it was easy.
At the time of their birth and infancy (my late teens and early 20s), I thought that anyone could be a good mother, regardless of age. As long as they put unselfish and devoted love and complete and utter effort in to that child, it didn’t matter if you could barely put food on the table. I struggled through waitressing and bartending jobs, a failed marriage to their father, and school so that I could provide for them. My mentality through sleepless nights and paying for preschool and diapers and formula when I would have rather had my nails done, or gone on a trip, or had a better car, was so very hard. In my mind I knew that those girls did not ask to be here. It was my selfish decisions that brought them here, and it was therefore my duty to do right by them.
Now approaching 30 and looking back at life and my parenting, I realize that while it is true that good/selfless parenting doesn’t really come with an age; security does. They felt my stress. Things were unstable. We moved often when rent got too high, or when jobs were lost, and they did not have very good meals unless I brought things home from the restaurants I, and their father, worked at. Their father turned to alcohol for stress relief and was very absent between working two jobs and drinking, and it was not until the eldest was about 7, did things start to look more secure. By that time, however, the damage and subconscious worry was already there.
In all honesty, I wish I would have waited. I feel like there was a lot I still needed to learn about me, so I could have been better at protecting them. I could have been through and done with selfish and tumultuous relationships first, before bringing them in and making them live through it. I wish I would have been financially stable at the time, and even now, more than I am. But they did get to see me graduate college, which put a pretty big example in to their educational sights and goals for their own futures. However, if I was not in school, I could have spent that time with them. I would have liked to have been able to provide them with a nuclear home of a mom and a dad and a house, and two cars, and a dog, and a cat, and a white picket fence.
That does not mean my children are any worse off than any other child. They truthfully have turned out well given the life they came from. At 12 and 8, they are both on honor roll at a local private school, both compete in high level nationally accredited sports programs, play instruments, and participate in volunteer/extracurricular activities through and for their school. My goal is to continue to advocate for them to be women who will not be broken by a decision they did not make (to be born), but strong enough to succeed if they should make a decision that detours their future, as it did mine.