‘I’m a young mum. Yes I know who the father is’
I distinctly remember the first time a stranger thought it would be acceptable to comment on my age as a mother.
I was six months pregnant at the time with my first baby, and I happened to be 19 years of age. A woman in my class, also pregnant, asked me point-blank if I knew who the father was. After I got over the initial shock of what I'd just heard, I answered her with, "Yeah I do. He's also my husband."
I wish I could say that, ten years on, things have improved - but I'd be lying.
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I'm thirty years old this year and I have four daughters under the age of 10 - and I still get strangers commenting on my age, apparently in awe, on a weekly basis.
"You have four children? How old are you?!" "Wow you are so young to have that many kids!" "They're all yours?" "Wow you began early, didn't you?!"
Seriously. It's not like I'm 15 with four children.
Why is my age as a mother up for public commentary and discussion?
Yeah yeah, I matured fast. I wasn't ever into the whole reckless partying scene. I fell in love with my husband hard and fast. And I'll let you in on a little secret that may shock you: all four of my daughters were planned, intentional and much-desired pregnancies. My husband and I, absolutely without question, intended on having all of them.
It's gotten to the stage now though that I'm no longer surprised by these ridiculous comments. I tend to roll my eyes and ignore them, questioning internally why it's OK for people to do this.
But here's the thing: I know for a fact that if I rocked up to some random woman who appeared to be middle-aged and said, "Aren't you a bit old to be a Mum?" I'd get completely flamed; I'd be met with disgust.
With that in mind: why is it OK for people to comment on younger mothers, but completely not OK to do it to older ones?
Why does this double standard exist?
Last I checked, parenting abilities are not defined by age. Yes, there are some pretty sh*tty mothers out there who happen to be young but this is true for women who become mothers over the age of 40, too.
The fact is, there really is no perfect time to become a mother. That perceived perfect time does not actually exist. There are going to be challenges that exist with raising small humans regardless of one's age. If a woman decides (or the universe decides for her) to become a mother at a young age then yes, she will have to put some things on the back burner while she raises her children. And sure, when a woman has a little more time without co-dependents she can achieve more career-wise and personally before she sacrifices her own needs to raise her children.
But at the end of the day, kids don't care about age. Every single individual has the capacity to learn, develop and love their children unconditionally - regardless of their age. Every individual has the capacity to be an incredible parent to their children, whether they are 17 or 45.
There is never ever a perfect time to elect for no sleep, and there are always going to be more things to buy and more bills that need paying. Motherhood requires commitment, sacrifice and determination no matter the age it begins at.
So I ask you, can we please just call it quits with the ageism?
I understand and appreciate that sometimes when strangers comment, it could be considered as a compliment because I'm obviously doing such a great job with my amazing little women.
But why does age have to come into it? Instead try simply saying "You are doing a great job" and leave it at that.
This story is originally appeared on Kidspot and is republished with permission.