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No, having a baby didn't 'ruin' my 20s

If life goes according to plan, I'll have one more when I'm 29 and, by 30, my husband and I will be selling car seats, hitting the tail end of diapers and settling into life as a minivan family.

No, having a baby didn't 'ruin' my 20s

The other day I decided to leave work just a bit early and to pick my son up from his babysitter just a little bit late so I could get my nails done. It's not something I do often—usually my nails are chipped and bare and I couldn't care less—but it'd been a long week and I needed to take a little time for myself.

I walked in, hurried but trying to relax, and sat down with the nail technician. As she started to work we began to talk, the simple kind of small talk you make with friendly people you'll never see again, when one of her questions completely and totally caught me off guard.

As she looked down at the screen of my phone and noticed the picture of my son staring back she asked, “Your nephew?" I stuttered, “No, my son, he's two-and-a-half," and then the conversation moved on as she asked about my job and which neighborhood I live in and whether I had any plans for the weekend.

Her questions, as innocent as it was, left me bothered long after my nails had dried and my son had been picked up and dinner was made and eaten. It was only later, as I rocked my son through a tantrum and then kissed his eyelids as he finally fell asleep that I had the time to reflect on why her question had stung.

It's because no matter how many lunches I pack or boo-boos I kiss or preschool forms I fill out, the world doesn't read me as a wife and mother.

On average, women in the United States have their first baby at 26. For women with graduate degrees, the average age is sometime just after their 30th birthday. My son was born just a few weeks after my 24th birthday, two-and-a-half years after my wedding and nine months after finishing my masters degree.

By the time my friends start having kids (if they decide that's what they want to do) my son will be hitting the books in second grade. As they document their bumps and learn how to swaddle, I'll be sending my guy to summer camp for the first time, marveling at how tall he is and (probably, with the way things seem to be going) telling him I'm sorry that he's the only one of his friends without an iPhone.

My second will be born just before or, (depending on his timeliness) just after I turn 27. If life goes according to plan, I'll have one more when I'm 29 and, by 30, my husband and I will be selling car seats, hitting the tail end of diapers and settling into life as a minivan family.

In the past almost three years, I've done all the things that mothers do. I've worried over kicks and cramps during pregnancy, I've counted minutes between contractions, I've pushed and wailed and willed my son into the world with a power and fierceness I never knew I possessed. I've stared down at my sleeping baby, fresh and new, and wondered how to I'd be able to keep him safe and help him grow and leave the world a better place for him.

I've learned to nurse and I've split my life into three-hour segments for a year-and-a-half – always attached to a baby or a pump. I've gained weight, I've lost weight. I've watched stretch marks spread across my belly, I've hated them, I've tried to love them, I've stopped noticing them. I've been shocked over and over at how happy a roll or a smile or a coo could make me.

I've wondered if I was doing everything wrong when my son wouldn't sleep through the night. I've felt proud and smug and sure I was doing everything right when he started talking earlier than the books said he would. I've been overcome with both worry and joy deeper than I even knew before. I've grown as a person. I've changed. I've felt like I lost and then found myself over and over again. In short – I've become a mother.

There have been times when other moms, all 10 years my senior, assumed I was the nanny as I sang and danced with my son at music class. Or that I was an aunt. Or, once I share that he is indeed mine, that he was an accident. Though the misconceptions stung at first, when I was already raw with new motherhood, they don't bother me as much now.

Humans make assumptions, we like categories and we have a hard time when people don't fit within the picture of something we have in our mind. What does bother me, though, is when people assume that, because of my age, I'm somehow less of a mother or that, because I had my boy young, I've somehow ruined my chance to live life to the fullest, enjoy my 20s and build a great career.

First and foremost, my motherhood is no less valid because it came earlier in my life than it did for others. Though life, and motherhood, look different for women across the world, there are some things that are universal. The love, joy, and pride. The sacrifice and the worry. No matter if you're 16 or 36 when your baby is born, you're a mother.

Second, having my son early has absolutely not ruined neither my 20s nor my career. True, I've spent my 20s abstaining from alcohol, cleaning up Cheerios, and learning about ducks at the nature museum rather than cliff-diving in Mexico, partying at a rooftop bar, or making friends with people across the city and the globe as movies and middle-class culture seem to assume you should.

But this is what I want.

My family is a little bit different because I'm a younger mother than many are accustomed to seeing but, in all the ways that matter, we're just like anyone else. As my boy grows and I age, I'm sure most people will begin to read me as more of a mother. They'll begin to view my experiences as valid and to trust that I made decisions for my family and myself that made sense to me.

Until then, I'll keep on living this life, loving my son, and answer, "yes," proudly and with joy, anytime someone asks if my son is my own.


In This Article

These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.


Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin


Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Micuna: Innovative and stylish baby gear that grows with them

Since 1973, Micuna has been perfecting the art of sustainably handcrafted baby furniture. Made from wood sourced from the north of Spain and Germany and manufactured in sustainable certified sawmill companies only, their modern and minimalist high chairs are perfect for families who don't want to sacrifice their aesthetic for function. What's more, they hold themselves to the strictest of European and American safety standards, resulting in only the best for parents and their littles.

Habbi Habbi: The easiest way to expose kids to a different language

Created by two best friends as an expression of their effort to be intentional parents, Habbi Habbi Reading Wand & Bilingual Books are the easiest way to start your kids bilingual learning without the screen. Their innovative and engaging play-based tool brings language to life through a tech-enabled wand and "tappable" books that give kids instant feedback, from vocabulary and phrases to musical tunes. The content is as intentional as the books are beautiful highlighting topics like emotions, female role models and diversity.

Countdown to Mama: 14 mama-tested, mama-approved presents to get excited about a new baby

Founded by a mama who came up the idea at the end of her own uncomfortable pregnancy, Countdown to Mama is the only advent calendar-style mama-to-be gift box out there. With a range of "niceties to necessities," she made it her mission to curate a collection of mama-loved products that thoughtfully usher her through the biggest transformation of her life.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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It's 2020, but for American mothers, it's still the 1950s

Once a woman in America becomes a mother, our society transports her back in time. In an instant, generations of sexist ideas and structures descend back upon her.

We like to think that women have come so far.

We have our educations. Today, our education system not only allows girls to thrive, but it has enabled the first generation in history—Millennials—in which women are more highly educated than men.

We have choice. Access to family planning has given American women life-changing control over their fertility and the decision to start a family.

We have basic respect. Today, our marriages are built on the principle that partners are equal regardless of gender.

We have careers. It's utterly common for a woman to return to work after having a child.

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We have acknowledgment. And our culture even declares that caregiving is essential work for both mothers and fathers.

We have possibilities. And all of the potential our lives as women hold now gives girls the hope that anything is possible.

But the truth is that American motherhood has the veneer of being modern, without any of the structures to support our actual lives today.

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