Twenty Something Humans speak with four millennial mothers about what it's like to have a baby (or two) in your twenties.
Image: Courtney and her son via @courtunicomb
Imagine if your late nights spent boozing it up on the dance floor and scraping kebab meat from your shirt collar at 3am were substituted with placating a screaming baby and washing faeces off your favourite T-shirt.
Imagine if you couldn't just drop everything to join your mates for a last minute brunch or arvo beer down at your local. For many young people, the idea of a spontaneous cafe made avo on rye is but a mere relic of the past, with feeding schedules, temper tantrums (yours and theirs) and loads of laundry taking priority.
But as we found out from Courtney (24), Phoebe (23), Kizzia(24) and our anonymous twenty-something interviewee – let's call her Cass – the life of being a young mother isn't as much of a slog as we might've thought. In fact, it really can be rather wonderful.
Courtney's story is quite unique. Apologies ladies, you're going to have a minor melt down, please take a seat. Courtney fell pregnant at 20 years old while she was using two methods of contraception!
*Runs to medicine cabinet. Consumes entire packet of contraceptive pills. Puts three condoms on sexual partner. Continues to panic. Puts sticky tape around condoms. Still panicking.*
"My first was a huge surprise... I was told it would be extremely hard to for me to fall pregnant in the first place due to a chronic illness. We planned our second baby after I had a miscarriage when I was 22; we feel so lucky to have both of them," says Courtney.
For Kizzia, who has two kids, her first came when she was just 19 (not planned) and her second came two years later (planned).
Phoebe and Cass' pregnancies were unplanned and both only have one child at the moment.
Highlights and challenges
All four women said that being closer to their baby in age was a huge plus. Cass is excited to see more of her child's life, Phoebe feels she has more energy than she might've had if she was to have a baby later in life and Courtney feels as though she's able to cultivate a strong "family union".
"We get to grow as a family unit. I love that my husband and I have all these great travel adventures planned and now we just get to bring the awesome little humans that we made along with us," says Courtney.
Phoebe says she feels very adaptable. "[My son and I] are constantly going out and doing things. We both hate the indoors, I guess that's less about age and more about personality type. Honestly, I think it will be amazing as he gets older. I can see myself having a lot of compassion and understanding for the 'teenage years'."
"I love that my husband and I have all these great travel adventures planned and now we just get to bring the awesome little humans that we made along with us" - Courtney
Of course, the life of a new mum (and a young one at that) is not all roses. "I sometimes miss having time to myself", says Courtney.
"There’s no such thing as ducking off to the shops to quickly grab the milk, doing a regular session at the gym or even the luxury of a daily shower," says Cass. "What I miss most is having time. To an outsider, it might seem like I have nothing to do, but I’ve never felt so time poor in my life."
Kizzia felt the financial pressure: "I had to take time off to have kids... but I've gained little people to come home to every day".
She also says there's certain social stigmas attached to being a young mum.
"You get looks from people... they don't think you're able to look after your own kids because you're young".
Image: Courtney and her son via @courtunicomb
Phoebe was living in the UK when she found out she was pregnant, so says she had to give up some of the travel that she had planned. She also recounts feeling as if she had to give up part of herself during the 'newborn days'.
"You've just brought the most incredible little joy into the world, your mind is quite literally blown. You do everything to protect and nurture them, and in doing so I believe aspects of yourself fade a little. I have gained a love I didn't think existed (as corny and overused as it sounds, it's so very true). I've gained so much insight into myself and others. I know exactly what my future directions are with work and study, these things that had me extremely lost beforehand."
"It's a huge responsibility having a little life in your hands. You want to help nurture a wonderful, kind, funny, intelligent human. It's a lot of pressure to put on yourself." - Phoebe.
So while she may have had to give up travel plans, at least in the short term, becoming a parent has given Phoebe a great gift that'll last a life time – perspective. I'm sure all four women would say they view the world through a different lens post-child.
Image: Phoebe and her son via @pheebwah.
For Courtney, that lens looks like kitchen dance parties, LEGO play and all day colouring in festivals – because sometimes life is more fun when you take things less seriously. For Phoebe, it was about learning that the world doesn't revolve around her (I dread the day I have to learn that lesson) and figuring out what was and wasn't important to her.
A different generations of mothers
Courtney's approach to parenting is much different to her experiences as a child, describing her upbringing as "quite tumultuous at times". Her priorities for raising her kids are around quality nutrition, mental health and the value and importance of looking after the environment, things she believes weren't such high priorities in the nineties.
Cass was brought up with "non-practising Irish Catholic values", she clarifies "New Testament/Jesus niceties". Her parents are the children of unionists/ALP members, so she will pass on similar values to her baby, but due to being around ten years younger than her parents were when they conceived her, she feels she will have "more of a grasp on changes/shifts in culture and political correctness".
Image: Phoebe and her son via @pheebwah.
Phoebe thinks it's easier being a mother in 2018 than when she was born in the 90s.
"I've Googled if my kid's poo is normal more times than you could imagine, which you couldn’t do back then. Motherhood can also gets pretty lonely in the beginning. Being young means most of my friends are busy travelling/working/studying, so it’s pretty amazing that it’s so easy to [contact them]. Plus, I feel like there is less pressure to be “set up” before having kids these days."
Although her husband says she raises her children like her own mother did, Kizzia disagrees. "There's more freedom in our house," she says.
When asked if they felt they were missing out on anything as young mothers, all four women said something along the lines of "not really".
"I feel like I have a really good balance with friends and social things. Before having a child, I'd done a fair bit of travelling and partying. We still travel and go camping and to festivals... it's just a lot tamer than it used to be," says Phoebe.
Courtney added: "I’ve been really fortunate, I haven’t had to really miss out on anything that I was doing before I had kids. That's due to all the support I have. I’ve been able to continue studying and we just bought a caravan with plans to do lots of holidays and travel around the country, which is something I’ve always wanted to do."
Being a mum in the Age of Instagram
Being a twenty-something in the Age of Instagram is tricky business. You want to look a certain way, cultivate a certain community and give off a certain ~vibe~. Some people might feel pressured to wear the right clothes and buy into the right brands but imagine if you were doing that for yourself AND a baby/babies. That's an expensive endeavour indeed.
Kizzia knows this looming pressure all too well.
"I don't want the judgement from people, particularly from other mums. I feel like I have to compete with other mums who are older and can afford the best of everything. They post images of their 5 star holidays with their kids; there is a lot of comparison going on."
Phoebe tries to counteract this feeling by "keeping things real".
"Meltdowns and tantrums are REAL! I make sure to only follow people on Instagram that ring true to me, because I can see how parenthood can be glamourised, when really it's one of the hardest and least glamorous things. In saying this, keeping beautiful photos of your babe to look back on is something I completely understand. I think it all comes down to being true to yourself and the life you lead."
While Courtney uses Instagram as a "digital scrapbook" she also believes it's a platform that should be taken with a grain of salt. A sentiment I can definitely get behind. After all, you're always going to find someone who appears to be "doing life" better than you are – if you scroll down deep enough – so why not cut the umbilical cord (so to speak) and simply use it as a casual platform to house your own memories – with or without a green smoothie in hand.
Three cheers for millennial mums
Courtney describes the feeling of having her baby placed in her arms for the first time as "indescribable"; a feeling that never goes away.
"Your twenties can be pretty emotionally messy. It's a weird limbo between teenage years and adulthood, having our kids let us skip all that. You suddenly don’t have time to worry about any of your problems because you have this amazing little human to protect and they teach you so much about your own strengths and show you this innocent perspective of the world which can be so humbling," she says.
Mothers of all ages are truly amazing humans, but in my opinion young mothers who figure it all out while the rest of us are still struggling to fill out a tax return, well, they are just that little bit more amazing.
If you've got a great story to share with us (maybe you'd like to talk about being a young Dad or a dog owner) then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you!
Kate Neilson is the Founding Editor of Twenty Something Humans. She likes to eat her morning toast in bed and feels awkward writing about herself in the third person. Lurk her @katiepotatierose.