Friday, January 6, 2012

You Are So Young.

A few months ago, I bought a Groupon to get my hair done and finally one Saturday in December,  I was able to go.

After the makeover.

It was fun. My stylist was an Iranian woman who didn't speak English, like at all, and because of that the owner of the salon kept coming over to talk to me to make sure I wasn't lonely. Jeff and Adam were out shopping during my year-long appointment and at one point, they came in and said hello.

After they left, the owner came running over. "You have a baby? You are so young. It seems like you are much too young to have a baby." Very slowly, I reached under my smock and zipped up my hoodie, making it less obvious that I am crazy enough to have not only ONE, but TWO babies at my age. I didn't want to distress her.

My age? I'm 23, but I usually tell people I'm 24 if they ask me in reference to my child-bearing. It's only a lie until March. If they're still distressed, I tell them that I am married and college-educated and when they hear the word "college" I can visibly see them relax. I kind of want to sit the commentators down and tell them that where I come from having kids at my age is not considered a huge deal and while I am on the younger end of the spectrum, I am not necessarily on the stupid end of the spectrum.

You see, I get comments a lot. Not enough for me to write a good blog about it until now, but it happens a fair amount and is certainly increasing as my second pregnancy progresses. I wish I could find a good solid stat to back this up, but the average age of first time mothers in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley has to be about 40. That's an exaggeration, but not as much of one as you'd might think. The first time I took Adam to the public pool in Palo Alto, I thought that all the women with their babies were grandmothers. On the other hand, people often think I am Adam's nanny. Because you just don't live in Silicon Valley and not have a nanny.

I've heard so many of my friends/FB friends/acquaintances complain about the narrow-mindedness of people in Utah/Idaho/Mormon Country. I'll be honest, most of these friends are ex-Mormons or Mormons who are  too cool for school. Let me be clear: they are cuckoo-crazy wrong. People are narrow-minded everywhere. There are culture bubbles every place you will go and in these pockets you will always find people who: A.) fit in and think other culture bubbles are crazy and B.) do not precisely fit in and think that the local bubble is crazy.That's why my friends who don't fit well into LDS culture feel that they are in the seventh circle of crazy and that's why I sometimes feel like I am in another (insane) world. But  neither Utah nor California has a monopoly on being judgmental- people in general do.

I wish I could have this conversation with the next person who is offended that I have a baby- let's say she's a woman named Sal.

Sal: I see you have a small child. That is interesting, because you seem to be very young.
Me: Ah, yes. He is the light of my life. I am young, but not obscenely so.
Sal: But you chose to have a baby over a career?
Me: Sort of.
Sal: But really, aren't you too young to be having a family?
Me: Who knows? I don't want a career right now and I like having a family. I like being a mother.
Sal: What a novel idea!
Me: You see, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and family is an important component of our doctrine. Culturally, we often get married and start our families young.
Sal: That's interesting. I believe that a woman is not ready to have a family until she has worked for several years and left her mark on the world. Then she will have really lived life before starting a new one.
Me: That's also very interesting. I think it's a very good philosophy- but maybe not the right one for me. I believe that having kids is not taking away from my life- it IS my life and I like my life.
Sal: I respect you. You go and have more babies.
Me: I'm 22 weeks ahead of you on that one.

To prove that I'm actually a hypocrite, I have to tell you something. I was playing at the park with Adam yesterday and after about a half-hour of observing (and finally I just heard her say it several times in Spanish), I realized that who I thought was a 15 year-old girl playing with her 2 year-old sister was actually her mother. I was just as distressed and condescending as all of my commentators always are when they look at me. Maybe she looks younger than she is? Maybe she is in a loving, committed relationship and she and her partner can easily support their little girl? Or maybe she is just an absurdly young teen mom who will have a hard life- does it matter? She will continue to live that life with or without my condescension and I'm sure she'd appreciate it if I didn't stoop to becoming one more commentator on her life that will surely be full of rude comments by strangers.

There's not an easy solution to my predicament, because I am still about 10 years off the accepted age of a local mother, but I'm going to try to be more patient with the next person who tells me I'm too young to be a mother. I am not the norm here and I understand that my lifestyle can be baffling to others. I am happy and confident in my abilities to be a young mother and I will try to let that shine through in these awkward little confrontations.

And also... I think I'm going to start telling people I'm 25.


Matern Mayhem said...

I just had to laugh in agreeance(is that a word) at this post. I get this ALL.THE.TIME. I am 24, 25 in May, and I have 3 kids ages 3 and under. And I live in Utah. haha More power to us young mamas!

Chloe Smith said...

People think YOUR crazy?! Just see the faces when you tell them you got married at 18 , first baby at 20, second baby at 22 like me! Haha I don't regret any choices I have made..however I feel like a hypocrite cause I see 18 year olds now (I'm 23) and I think its absoulutley absurd for them to even think about marriage!
Hmm you made me want to write a blogpost about my own experiences on age ;)

Jonathan and Linsi said...

Haha Sarah, you know when we lived in good old Viriginia together people would ask me that all the time! And I agree, when we went to the park it took a while for me to realize that the other moms were not the kids' grandmothers. But I liked that I could play and run instead of being too tired to chase my kids around. That's why I wanted to be a young mother. But don't worry, once you have two, people just start assuming you're older than you look and then you start to wish everyone didn't think you were quite so old. :)

Val said...

Ha Ha my sister is in Colorado and she gets the same looks and comments. She just had her second and she is only 22. All her graduate school neighbors can't believe that she had a baby at 20.

I have the opposite problem, or maybe I'm just paranoid. Sometime strangers see me with the girls and ask me all the routine questions. One of the questions I get asked all the time is, "are these your first?" And then I get all nervous that I look really old. I guess the fact that I didn't have kids until I was almost 26 is just out of place to some people in Utah.

Karissa said...

I love this. I've been thinking a lot about judging lately, I think because I think people judge me sometimes for being married for three years and not having kids yet. But, then I started thinking about how I judge others. I think everyone has their own idea of when the "right" time to have kids is or the right time to get married, etc. I also think that if you don't fit into someone else's "right" timing they often judge you for it. I know I'm guilty of this. I've come to realize that everyone has their own way and the right time for things is different for everyone.

Anyway, that was a really long and boring way to say I really loved this post.

chetandbobisue said...

Oh Sarah I love your blog- it makes me happy! Don't worry I get it all time especially when we lived in Virginia but I get it in Utah too, and I am 25 and it doesn't seem to make a difference. I hope your pregnancy is going well and I am jealous how cute you look pregnant.

Natalie said...

You are my hero. Oh Sarah, how are you so wise? You're so young!

OH I know, because you're an LDS mother of 1 and a half!

Katie said...

I just found this post on a friend's Facebook page and it made me laugh. So true! I'm a 23, soon to be 24-year-old mom of 1. Doesn't help at all that I look younger than my age (a little boy once came to our door selling newspaper subscriptions and asked for my mom...yah). We're still in the Rexburg bubble, so I'm not too strange here, but we'll be moving soon and I'm not excited for rude strangers. Yes, I chose to get married at 19. Yes, I chose to have a baby at 22. I'm also a college graduate, choosing to be a stay at home mom. It's my life and I love it! I also find it really ironic that women in their 30s get criticized about NOT having babies, biological clock running out of time, etc, etc. If 20 is too young and 30 is too old, when are we SUPPOSED to have kids?? lol. Your 20s are a naturally healthy time to have babies, I don't get why people freak out about it.

Rhonda said...

I'm Valerie's mom and she reads your blog to me whenever we are together. Now I just look you up myself. I have thought a lot about this blog post - not so much about the age thing but more about how I should not dismiss young people as not knowing too much. Age has nothing to do with wisdom. You can find it anywhere. Thank you!