When all of my friends were 18 and clubbing every night, I was getting married. When they were 21 and starting their careers, I was having my first child.
A few generations ago, marrying young and having a family straight away was the done thing. For me, in this generation, it was the definition of exile.
As my friends progressed in their careers and social lives, I progressively birthed four babies in the space of six years. They got holiday pay and prestigious titles. I got stretch marks and an eight-seat car.
While they dressed each morning in their corporate work gear, if I found the time to have a shower, that in itself was cause for celebration.
My twenties can be summed up with the words busy, exhausting and lonely. There was little time to hold together friendships when I could barely hold myself together. Social engagements became a thing of the past as animated movies on Friday nights took over.
We rarely went on holidays that didn’t involve a tent in the backyard due to the cost of raising a family being equivalent to feeding an entire third world country. As for my dreams, my goals, my desires… no one can actually tell you the sacrifices you will be forced to make. The way you should feel that your sacrifices have been worth the gain. And yet you don’t. You just don’t.
When I hit my 30th birthday, I didn’t just farewell my twenties, I grieved them. An entire decade had passed, what should have been the best decade of my life, and I felt like I’d been nothing more than a mere spectator to those who had actually lived it. I wanted those years back. I wanted to trade lives with someone who had independence and spontaneity, the two things I missed the most.
Then slowly, quietly, things began to shift. I won’t say life got easier, because it didn’t. But these little people that had initially taken so much from me were quickly becoming bigger people that now gave so much back. And suddenly, I began to see how the sacrifices could be worth the gain. How the perceived loss of my twenties was in fact a decade of my life that was working toward something more rewarding and fulfilling than I could have ever imagined.
So here’s my list of reasons why having a family in your twenties is actually a pretty cool thing:
1. When you finally get around to your career, you actually know what you want to be when you grow up.
At eighteen, I had no idea who I was. I was dead set going to be a journalist. But the thing is, I’m not a fact-teller, I’m a story-teller. I didn’t know that back then. I’d hate to think how much time and money I’d have wasted only to discover journalism wasn’t for me. I love that at thirty-five, even though my career may be only just beginning, I know exactly who I am and what I want. My goals and dreams for my career are made with utter clarity, and my work is laced with life experience and wisdom that I would never have had at eighteen.
2. Physically, you can handle years of sleepless nights without feeling like you’re going to die.
You’re young enough to deal with the amount of energy required to raise a family, as well as being able to deal with no sleep. Like, ever again. You haven’t had time to get set in your ways and so the transition to having to care for a whole new human being 24 hours a day is relatively painless.