I am so overwhelmed right now- I should see my therapist, but I really and truly don't have a second to spare, and it's just going to be like this for the next several months at least.
I am a young mom to the sweetest little two year old boy you can imagine. I am also a full-time college student, a full-time nanny, and a part-time dog-walker. My husband, who I've been married to for four years, works full time and studies at the university full time. DH and I are both in our early 20's. We are hard-working, dedicated people and- not to toot my own horn or anything, but we make great parents. We were both raised in large families and we're very good with kids, and we have a very stable relationship and a beautiful living environment. We are a very well-loved little family, and all of our friends were thrilled when they found out that we were expecting a second baby. Even my doctor is excited about this kid.
However...I just got back from a family reunion, with all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. I have always loved these people and I've made them a priority in my life. I did not intend for them to find out that I was pregnant at the reunion, but unfortunately morning sickness hit me right in the middle of the trip and my mother felt that she had to explain my "weird behavior" (vomiting and taking naps) so that people wouldn't think that she was "coddling her kids" (??).
We were all sitting at the dinner table when my mom suddenly announced out of nowhere that my son is going to be a big brother in the summer. I would have been upset enough about the way she ignored my wishes and shared my news without even consulting me. However, the reactions her announcement received completely blew me out of the water. In particular, my favorite aunt, who I have always felt very close to and spent a great deal of time with in my childhood, made a disgusted face and said, "Omg, how old is she? Nineteen? What is wrong with her, can't she figure out how to use birth control?"
Bear in mind that I was sitting directly across from her at the dining room table, looking right at her as she said this. I was absolutely floored. For the record, I'm 23, not 19, and as it so happens I'm pretty familiar with various forms of birth control. I was on the pill, for example, when I conceived my first child. He was and is as welcome as sunshine in our home, but we certainly didn't plan to start having children when we were 20 and 21 and still in school.
This same aunt when on later to take my sister (who lives with me because my parents are going through a rather stressful divorce) aside to confide to her how angry she was with me when she first heard that I was expecting my son, and had the audacity to tell my sister that it was clear to her that I didn't even want "that baby."
It's slowly beginning to dawn on me, after three days of criticism from my family members, that they all think that I made the wrong choice in not aborting my son. I find this truly horrifying- he is a beautiful child and everyone loves him so much. As awkward as the timing was, I can honestly say that it never crossed my mind to terminate the pregnancy. I was ecstatic when I found out that I was expecting. Motherhood has not ruined my life. We are still making solid, steady progress in school and my son is enjoying a very relaxed, happy childhood at the same time...and it's a lot of work to meet both of those goals. We chose to have this second child because the timing worked out perfectly, as we're planning to move out of state in two years and I'll have to take a year off from school to make that work anyway. The next time we see a gap like this coming up in our lives where a child would really fit in well is in 8 years when we are both done with school, and I'd rather have to work harder now and let my kids grow up as siblings than to essentially have two only children separated by a decade, who perhaps never really get the chance to develop a close bond with one another.
I'll be the first to admit that our situation isn't ideal, but we are thriving and happy. Where is all this judgment coming from? Will I always carry this "young mom" stigma around with me? How is it "coddling" to "let" me take a nap in my room with my son in the afternoon when I'm 9 weeks pregnant and as sick as a dog? Do I need to severe ties with these family members in order to protect my children? I don't expect to be treated like a deity, but HELLO I'm accomplishing some reasonably incredible things here and it's taking every ounce of energy and determination I have to keep up...whatever happened to "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?"
Awww. That sounds really hard. How hurtful! You and your lovely little family definitely don't deserve that kind of judgment or treatment. I don't know why some people struggle so hard with boundaries and appropriate behavior towards the ones they love...but they do!
I'd say it's worth trying to be direct and clear the air, unless you're ready to give these people a harder time, in which case, well, I like the often-suggested Mothering technique of turning an incredulous gaze upon the offender, letting my jaw drop slightly, and just saying, "What?"
But maybe something like....????
So, Aunt Jojo (Uncle Bob, Cousin Random), you really hurt my feelings the other night at dinner. It seems like maybe you’re worried that DH and I are too young to be taking on all of these responsibilities or that we’ll come to regret our choices. While it’s true that DH and I are both having to work very hard right now to keep our family moving forward, let me tell you how much I adore my little boy, how thrilled I am about the baby on the way, and how firmly I believe that all the work we are doing now will serve as a foundation for a healthy, happy family far into the future.
I’ve always felt such a bond with you, it really hurt me to hear that I don’t have your full support. I want you to be part of my children’s lives and have them come to love you as much as I do, so I hope you’ll be able to accept the choices that DH and I are making as we build our family and our lives together.
I'm also a pregnant student at UW right now, but 40 years old! How would you like to be there at that age with your second child? I would give anything to have completed the childrearing thing (and grad school thing) in my 20's. You and your husband are in a FANTASTIC place in your lives. Just ignore the negative family members, for the sake of your own sanity. I can imagine it's overwhelming right now to juggle school, work, child, husband, family, and pregnancy... but it is definitely manageable. You are accomplishing a lot of goals right now, and all at once, but sometimes life just works out like that.
Honestly, I think you guys are doing an outstanding job. You seem to have all your priorities straight, and are succeeding. I'm unsure why your family members are not supportive, but they're absolutely wrong. They will realize this in a few years. In the meantime, protect yourself and your family from all that negativity. Just blow it off. You're working hard to create beautiful lives for your family, and nothing else is important.
It will all be so worth it in the end! And you'll still be in your 20's when you graduate!
The two life events that always seem to provoke people into being negative are the start of a new relationship, and pregnancy. No matter how obvious it is to you that this is a positive event, that you are totally happy and ready for it, some people always seem to come out with the attitude that your good news is a tragedy. Why do people feel justified in talking like that? Are they jealous? Sometimes with a pregnancy, I think they project their own feelings onto the parents- it would be too overwhelming for them, so they assume you feel the same way.
Like you said, you don't have even one minute to spare for their crap- you're too busy living the life!
Step mom to Malakie, Cameron , and Aurelia
That reaction sounds a) awful, b) unbelievably tacky, and c) completely baseless. I am so sorry you had to deal with that.
My personal response in that sort of situation is to just scorch people with my rage -- possibly not the best approach for everyone, but you might want to consider writing a, "How DARE you?!" email, and then editing it down to a less incendiary version, and sending that. Or heck, just copy and paste this post and edit it as needed.
I have to say ignore them :). I'm older now and my kidlets are 16, 14 and 12 but the older 2 were 2 weeks shy of 3 and 6 months old when they got all dressed up and watched their daddy graduate. Yes it was hard, especially on me as the working parent (he was a SAHD and full time student) but oh so worth it because now that they are older, guess what? So are we?! I can't imagine denying my dd especially the first 3 years of her life with her dad as her buddy. They went everywhere together and we have pics of the two of them with his diploma because they pretty much did it together.
My only advice would be to see if you can go down to part-time school or part-time work when your 2nd one comes along.
Otherwise, ignore the rest. You're raising your child, you're doing fine in school, and you've got a roof over your head, right? What business of theirs is it whether you're doing this all at once or whether you're doing it according to some 'master plan' they've created in their imaginations? I wouldn't dignify their reactions with a response.
First of all, I think what you are doing is absolutely amazing. I had my first when I was 28 and found it pretty overwhelming. You obviously have your act together and get to look forward to so many more years with your wonderful children than if you had been older.
Second, re the incredibly rude comments. I unexpectedly became pregnant with my second in between my first and second years of a very competitive graduate program when my first was only a year. I gave birth in my last quarter just before graduating. I was shocked at how mean fellow students were to me about my pregnancy. Really, what would they care? (In some ways, by making myself essentially unhireable, I did them a favor!) Point is, from that and other life experiences, I have come to the realization that emotionally damaging comments arise from people's own hurts, worries, anxieties and insecurities. Marriage and children is a universal human experience that touches on every individual's aspirations and desires, whether they want marriage/kids or not. For students who were still struggling to find a spouse or for female students who felt abandoned by women who chose parenthood over career or had troublesome pregnancies/births/parenting experiences or kept putting off kids for career, etcetera, my pregnancy meant very different things to them that had nothing to do with my own personal experience of it. I was just an easy target for their pre-existing frustrations or fears. I suspect your aunt's reaction may have something to do with her own personal experience of parenthood or lack thereof or something else. Ultimately, it's not really about you unless you were a neglectful parent and placed a burden on your family, which you did not. (My mom btw was not excited about my second child because she thought it was too soon. Most of family agreed. That hurt because I wanted a hearty congrats, but everyone loved the baby once she arrived and I got over my disappointment.)
Third, what to do? I would whatever makes you feel best. Sometimes confronting people and expressing my feelings is a relief. Sometimes it is a burden. Depends on who I'm dealing with and the circumstances in my life. You don't have to do anything. You certainly don't have to excuse or explain yourself to anyone. This is your family's burden, not yours. What is important is that you are loving and responsible parents, which you are. No one can fault you and your fertility is your decision. (23 is not exactly a crazy age to have kids either. I was just reading Loretta Lynn had 4 kids by age 19. Phew.) Personally, I have a very strong commitment to exclude anyone from my life who brings me more pain than joy. I have had to let go of family and friends over the years who I felt incredibly close to at one time. All of those losses were painful and I still feel the loss but keeping the relationships wasn't worth it. And I feel much healthier for having ceased communication. But I know others who are more willing to put up with the irritation in order to keep continuity. Different things work for different people. Maybe you have to just bear out the criticism and in 10 years when your immediate family is so obviously strong, your extended family will have to concede their mistake. We're all imperfect and judgmental. Unfortunately, these flaws in your family members are hitting you in a very personal way when you most need love and support and that is incredibly immature of them.
Not to be trite, but you have to take care of yourself first. Your family may come around. Be patient and suspend disbelief if you can. But try not to let their imperfections become your burden. You don't need that.
Mother of two since 2007 and 2009. Hoping third time's a charm in 2012.
I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to put up with such hurtful comments during your reunion!
A couple of things to add to the above comments...
First, my mom was a young mother & I totally thought it was the greatest thing in the world. She was always so energetic, and is now an awesome young-ish grandmother. I am sometimes a little regretful that I didn't start having kids sooner (but, here we are...). So I think, if the timing works for you & your DH, good for you!! It sounds like you are happy as a family, and that's really what counts.
Second, the flip side of being young is that your family likely still views you as a child and simply cannot shake the expectations they have/had for you. I would try once to clear the air and reassure those who are most important to you that you are happy & confident in your choices. If the negativity doesn't stop, then I'd protect yourself & your family by avoiding situations in which that negativity would likely come out. But do try to reconnect with your Aunt & others... the last thing you'd want is to allow a meaningful relationship to fade without attempting to save it & later wonder if you had just had that conversation if so & so would still by a part of your family's life. If you try & nothing changes, you know that you made an effort and then have to move on & find ways to cope with the fact some people don't change. (I know, all this is easier said than done...) I agree with the above PP, though--Take care of yourself first!
Mama to my little busy bee.
You are awesome for creating the life you want. Think how much this will mean for both your kids when they get older - to have parents who modeled working for their dreams and loving their family with their whole hearts. Yes, it's a harder path and maybe things could have been a little easier if you had started having kids after getting out of school - but easier DOES NOT mean better, and it certainly doesn't mean your life would have more joy.
My dh and I had our first and so far only (surprise) baby when I was 22. I think the younger we are when we start a family, the more vulnerable. We're still defining ourselves as part of a couple (psychologists say that stage lasts for the first three years of a relationship at least), defining ourselves as adults, and suddenly defining and defending ourselves as parents. And most of us are just a couple years out the door of our parent's homes, and it takes time for our relationship with our parents to morph from being parented to being an adult and a peer. I'm 26 now, my dd is 3.5 and I think in only the last two years has that change in relationship really happened for me and my parents.
Other pps have given some great advice. I just wanted to offer that one in three women has had an abortion, and some of them have never resolved the emotional issues surrounding that time in their lives. Maybe your favorite aunt is one of them. Maybe not. Either way, isn't it usually true that the things that bother us about someone else are really projections of ourselves? Your aunt's comments were certainly terribly inappropriate, but it really makes me wonder whether there is some personal pain and self-anger she is unconsciously protecting by judging you.
You will add another beautiful baby to your family, the years will pass, and you will master your challenges with grace - because you already are. Your family members, if they stay on their current track, will not. You will grow as a person and they will probably stagnate in this area that has caused contention between you and them. I admire you. I'm sorry for them.
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