A few years ago, thirty and unmarried with zero prospects in sight, I remember seeing an article floating around Facebook titled something like, “Five Reasons Getting Married in Your 20s Is a Great Idea.” Against my better judgment, I clicked on the article, which practically begged Millennials to consider the possibility that an early marriage—and even kids—wouldn’t cramp their style too much. I remember thinking, “I agree with all of this—but where is the article for the woman who, like me, wanted to get married and start having kids in her twenties, but still hasn’t met the right man ten years later?”
Spoiler: I couldn’t find any articles like that.
When I did meet my now-husband at thirty-two, I had so many questions about first-time motherhood as an “older” mom: Would being pregnant in my thirties be significantly harder than a twenty-something pregnancy? Would my postpartum recovery be slower? Would the newborn sleep deprivation hit me harder? Would I be bored staying home with my kid(s) after over a decade of working as a teacher? Was I so set in my ways that I would find the adjustment to mom life more difficult than a new mom in her twenties?
Today, at ten months postpartum with my son Joseph, I can say that while I do sometimes mourn the fact that as I get older, my pregnancies will probably be more difficult and my recoveries longer, and that I will be an “older” mom as my son (and any other children we have) grows up, I’ve come to appreciate the distinct blessings of a later-than-planned entrance to marriage and family life.
01. I observed and learned from my friends and family who entered motherhood before me.
One of the hardest things about being single for the entirety of my twenties while my friends and family got married and had babies was feeling behind on these huge life milestones that I thought I should be hitting. But I realize now that all of those times I babysat for my sister, or listened to a newly postpartum friend as she shared her birth experience, or observed a more seasoned mom friend care for multiple children at a time, I was learning things that would help me in my own motherhood. Thanks to the wisdom of my mom friends, I’ve even been able to avoid some of the classic first-time-mom pitfalls, like buying unnecessary baby items or stressing out about all of the germs my son could potentially be exposed to if I don’t sanitize his teether every time it falls on the floor. It’s a gift to be able to spend years observing family life before entering into it, and this gift has made my transition to motherhood much smoother than it otherwise would have been.
02. I don’t suffer from FOMO.
I’m not going to lie: I sometimes miss the freedom I had as a single woman. I could basically go wherever I wanted, with whomever I wanted, and do whatever I wanted (within reason). But that freedom didn’t always translate into happiness; a part of me longed for the limitations of marriage and family life even while I was dropping obscene amounts of money on clothes at Anthropologie. And because I’ve experienced that longing, even while I was doing all of the things Millennials are “supposed” to do in their twenties, I don’t feel like I’m missing out now that my time and space are not my own.
03. I had time to do my own personal work in therapy.
I count the hours I spent in therapy as a single woman as one of the greatest gifts to both myself and my now-growing family. As a twenty-two-year-old, I was riddled with anxiety and insecurity. Now as a thirty-four-year-old, I’m more comfortable than I ever have been in my own skin—postpartum body changes and all. I’m more confident and self-possessed than I ever was in my twenties, which translates into a lot less angst about whether or not I’m making the “right” parenting decisions all the time. I know that I’ll make mistakes, and thanks to the hard work I did in therapy in my twenties, I’m a lot more comfortable with that reality than I used to be.
When I was single, I often felt as though my life had nothing in common with the lives my mom friends were living. As I navigate through my first year of motherhood, I now realize that by both maintaining friendships with those women and embracing the unique gifts of extended single life, I was preparing for life as a mom in ways that I could not have anticipated back then. And when my son wakes me up at 5:30 in the morning after a sleepless night, I can simultaneously look back wistfully to the days of uninterrupted sleep and be grateful that they are over.