I was 22 when my now husband, Trent, asked me to marry him. We were overjoyed. I joined the ranks of young people getting engaged and posting the news on Facebook. I know for every person who liked my post announcing that we would be married, there were a few rolling their eyes. Once we shared the news, we were inundated with people, young and old alike, telling us we were too young to make such a huge commitment like marriage. Complete strangers would notice the ring on my finger when I was out running errands and beg me to wait. “There’s no need to rush into things,” they said. At my bachelorette party, an older woman pulled me aside and chided me. “You are way too young to do this! You have your whole life to settle down. Why waste your youth like this?” I smiled politely and thanked them for their advice and moved ahead planning our wedding.
We got married a year later. Marrying Trent was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. He is compassionate and strong. He challenges me to be better. He’s fun. He loves me every day more than I deserve on my best days. He is steadfast where I am flighty. I’m spontaneous and he is responsible. We balance each other well. Do we fight? Sure. What married couple doesn’t? Is marriage difficult? Absolutely. It’s hard to live with another person who could show me a lot of evidence that I can be really selfish. But, being married to Trent has taught me so much. Every day, I’m grateful to have him by side.
Seven months after our wedding, we were surprised to find out that I was pregnant. It wasn’t exactly the timing we’d had in mind, but it was happening. Again, when the time was right, we shared our news on Facebook (as it turns out, baby posts get even more likes than marriage ones). We were excited and totally scared out of our minds. I can only describe having a baby as the craziest mix of the most extreme emotions I’ve ever experienced. Our daughter, Ailey, was born September 27 and she is one of the greatest joys of my life. I’ve been exhausted and frustrated and covered in spit-up at times, but I’m not lying or attempting to save face when I say that it’s worth it. There are times when it’s really hard, but I have difficulty even remembering the tough times when she smiles her huge, toothless smile at me or wraps her tiny hand around my finger and holds tight. I know we’re new to this parenting gig, so I can hardly speak with authority, but so far being a mother has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Just like we’d experienced after we announced our engagement, once the pregnancy was announced, the dissenters spoke up. In the months leading up to Ailey’s birth, we heard time and time again, “I can’t imagine having a baby as young as you guys” from others our age. Several people who were much older than us said, “get ready for your life to change forever.” “You’ll never sleep again,” they warned. Upon hearing we were pregnant, countless people asked “did you guys plan this?” It was pretty obvious that a lot of people thought we were way too young.
And I do understand where people are coming from when they say that we were too young to do what we’ve done. Actually, I myself have said those things before we became the very people I was referring to. I recognize that divorce rates of young couples are climbing. I know that increasingly, kids are raising kids. We all make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are closely tied to major life decisions, like getting married and raising kids. Here’s what else I know: marrying my husband and giving birth to our daughter are two of the best things that have ever happened to me. Having both of them in my life has taught me (and at times, forced me) to be a more selfless, loving person. I think of my own needs far less often than ever, and I am a far better person for it. Have I missed out on being young? Maybe I haven’t partied, or traveled, or goofed off as much as I was planning to before getting married and having a baby, but I don’t know that it would have mattered. I can say that no amount of single or childless years would have better prepared me to be a wife or to have a baby. There is no “perfect” time at which you are suddenly prepared for marriage or parenthood. We’ll travel more once our kids are older, while those of you who wait to have kids will still be raising young ones when ours are grown. It’s a tradeoff. Getting married and starting our family young was the best thing that could have happened to us. But, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying everyone needs to hurry up and start families. Rushing into marriage is not what I’m advocating here. I just want people to understand that my timeline is different from yours. Actually, everyone’s timeline looks a little bit different. There is nothing wrong with being unmarried at 35 or with having four kids by then. The problems arise when we put pressure on others, or judge them, because their major life events are coming at a different pace than our own. I experienced a lot of doubt and anxiety because so many people voiced their opinion that we were too young to do what we did. Maybe they’re right, I thought. My life is over, I worried, instead of enjoying the exciting parts of life that I was about to experience.
I’m also not trying to say that there aren’t young people getting married who should have waited. That happens, too. I’ve had friends announce engagements that have made me cringe because is was concerned it wasn’t the best for them. I think if my younger sister wanted to marry someone I didn’t think was right for her, I’d lovingly share my concerns. But, the majority of the negative comments that we received cautioning us not to rush into anything were from people who didn’t know us well, if at all. Unless you know someone well enough to have some business expressing your opinion about their relationship, just don’t. Everyone who knew us and knew our relationship well supported our marriage, which was an important confirmation to us that we were doing the right thing. I don’t think it’s wise to marry someone if the majority of the people you trust don’t approve, but most people, myself included, can’t hear that unless it comes from someone they really trust. So why say it to strangers?
So, let’s all stop hating and just be happy for each other no matter which stage of life we’re in. Mmmmk?