Originally published on Everyday Feminism.
The first time I met my daughter’s fourth grade teacher I said, “Hi, I am Atlantis’ mum.”
She said, “You are Atlantis’ mum! I thought you were a high school student!”
I laughed unnecessarily loud and sat down. What was I going to do? Tell her no? I’d rather her think I gave birth at eight. Makes for an interesting parent-teacher conference.
I have heard all sorts of things: “You are a mother!” “How old are you!” “You look like a teenager!” “What, did you have her when you were ten?!” “I thought you two were sisters!” “I thought you were her babysitter.”
Yes, I am young mother. I am thirty, and Atlantis is eleven. Which means I gave birth at 19.
In my early twenties, I felt like I had to guide people through the shock of finding out I was such a young mother. I felt an obligation to explain when I gave birth, where her father was, how long I had been a parent, how long I was in labour, and how long I breastfed. I had to make sure they were okay with it. I had to prove myself as a mother.
I finally realized it wasn’t my responsibility to help people when they learned the world didn’t look quite as they imagined. I was at a company party and I was talking to a doc filmmaker. I said something like, “Oh, my daughter loves…” and a woman I wasn’t even talking to interjected, “You are a mother! How old are you?!”
I turned to her without even blinking, “I am 26, and I gave birth when I was 19.” Boom. And I went back to my hobnobbing. No holding her hand. No defending myself. I just said what was and there was nothing that needed mulling over.
There is a difference when someone is genuinely intrigued and when someone’s comment is slightly serrated. And, in a way, there is something inherently backhanded in telling someone they don’t look like their idea of what a mother should look like – especially if they have to interrupt you to do so.
I discovered early on that if you don’t fit an idea of what a woman should be, people have no problem telling you that you don’t belong. And no one else will stand up for you. No one will interrupt them. The person with the barbed questions has the right of way and you, as the outsider, do not. From 19 to 23, I cannot tell you how many times people asked why I didn’t get an abortion.
Unfortunately, motherhood is a conversation that is all too often taken away from the people that the conversation belongs to – the mothers themselves.
My choice to become a mother is just that – mine. I am pro whatever choice a woman needs to make for herself. And that’s what I did. I made a choice that was best for me, and I couldn’t be happier.
Now, after some maturity and time, I don’t really mind when people make comments about my age. I usually laugh. Even if it is a little jagged, nothing is personal, and I am very happy with my decision.