It seems not a week passes by without another one of my high school alumni announcing their impending childbirth on Facebook, be it a photo of a cradle, a video of an ultrasound or simply a status update. And what is everyone’s stock response to this thrilling news?
“Congratulations!”, or the slightly more involved, “I’m so happy for you!”
What, exactly, are we congratulating them for? Disregarding that it’s not an accomplishment to get pregnant, which part of the daunting struggle of raising a child with the resources of a 22-year-old are we so jazzed about?
According to a USA Today report, researchers at the University of Maryland in College Park and the University of California at Los Angeles reviewed 35 years of data from 2,200 women and found that women having kids in their early- to mid-20s suffered lifetime economic setbacks compared to those who waited until after 26.
Co-author of the study Joan Kahn explained that younger mothers tend not to have the same education and training that those who delayed motherhood benefit from so much that they end up as successful economically as women who don’t have children at all.
My own mother was 20 when I was born, and she can attest to how difficult it was to raise any child at that age, let alone me.
This isn’t talking down the experience of motherhood. I’m sure most mothers would not trade their children in after the fact to get back the years of struggle, I simply think we should be more realistic at the outset.
When we all tell each other something is awesome, it makes it harder for people actually struggling with it to cope. When you’re going through severely trying times, it doesn’t help to feel like you’re the only one who isn’t having a complete blast.
So instead of putting on a fake sense of excitement next time you see your 20 year old friend upload their ultrasound, how about expressing a little sympathy?
Instead of empty congratulations, try something like, “Holy —-! You’re having a kid!? Good luck! I’m here if you need someone to talk to.”