Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Being a Young Parent

by Christina VanGinkel

I met a young mother this week and it nearly broke my heart. She is both young and single, with a newborn and no real plan on where to head with her life. It brought back memories of my own leap into motherhood at nearly the same age. The difference between us was that I had a husband, who a quarter of a century later is still as much a part of my life as he was back then. This young woman currently has no idea what direction she is headed, no plans made, beyond a very vague idea of what it is going to be like to come home alone with a tiny infant once they are released from the hospital. She does have family and I can only hope that they continue to play an integral part in her and her daughter's life.

This same week, I also talked with another young mother of two toddlers. She is also single. She has a rocky relationship at best with the father of her two children. She has made the decision to go it alone with the children rather than stay in a bad relationship. She struggles with child are issues, as she works a full time schedule. She struggles with the discipline side of things, wanting to be a fair mom, but also recognizing that she needs to raise her kids in a way that they respect her. She struggles.

I came away from both of these introductions with an ache deep in my heart. These were both casual introductions, yet both girls ended up sharing what amounted to a major part of their lives with me in the short time we talked. We each have a mutual acquaintance, and this person recognized a need in these girls to talk to someone who had also entered motherhood young and survived. She thought that by talking to me, a quarter of a century after I had walked a similar path, they would at least see that life evolves, that it goes on.

Being a young mother is no easy task, whether you have a husband or significant other or not. Giving birth will alter a young woman's outlook on life like no other experience ever. Suddenly, another human being is the central part of their world, the whole world actually, at least through their eyes. From baby, to toddler, to elementary age, I am a testament to the fact that before you can blink, suddenly they are standing where you were, they are the parents, and you are a grandparent.

If you are a young parent, reach out to others for help; let others reach out to you. The old sayings always go that before you know it, your children will be grown. It is true. So try to take each day as it comes. Try to be as good a parent as you can, yet know that everyone makes mistakes. Any parent, young or old, will make them.

If you know of a young parent, lend them an ear. Listen, do not preach, and share your story if you have one. Maybe they can glean some truth from your experience that you, yourself were unable to use because you were once standing where they are now.

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