I wish that people understood that it’s never OK to comment on a mother’s age — young or old. Because the judgmental connotation is always there, no matter how innocent the intent.
I've always looked fairly young for my age, which didn't bode well for me when I decided to become a young mother. At 22, I often got mistaken for a highschooler, and adding a baby to the mix didn’t help my frustration over constantly being told how young I looked.
“Are you even old enough to have kids?”
No, I am definitely still prepubescent. This kid just decided to start following me around and calling me “mom.” It’s freaking me out, TBH.
“Are you sure you can buy this alcohol, young lady?”
I have three kids whining and crawling on me, dude. Even if I were underage, you should look the other way and give me the wine because I obviously need it.
Seriously, what am I even supposed to say to these comments? Deadpan with a "yes"? Awkward laughter? (This is my normal response). A disappointed head shake while muttering "I thought you were better than this" to a stranger?
As I went through postpartum depression, those comments made me wonder if maybe I was too young to have a kid. What if everything that was going wrong in my brain was my fault, because I made an impulsive, teenage-like decision to have a child before I was ready?
Even just this last week, while taking my 4-year-old daughter out for her birthday, I was met with the familiar remark: "You're her mom? You look like a teenager." I smiled politely, laughed awkwardly, then told the woman my daughter wasn't even my oldest child.
While I know these comments are made as compliments, it makes me wonder why people think it's acceptable to ever comment on a mother's age. Imagine if I had turned the tables on that woman who was also with her 4-year-old.
"You're her mom? I thought you were her grandmother."
Of course, everyone sees the problem with that, because harmful ageism skews in that direction. But as a new mom, with insecurities about my age, those comments about looking "too young" to have a kid were every bit as damaging.
As I went through postpartum depression, those comments made me wonder if maybe I was too young to have a kid. What if everything that was going wrong in my brain was my fault, because I made an impulsive, teenage-like decision to have a child before I was ready? What if I wasn’t really old enough to be a good mother?
Those comments also made me hellbent on proving myself as a young mom. I felt like I needed to go above and beyond to show all the naysayers that I was every bit as responsible as a mother in her 30s or 40s. That I had what it took to give my children a good mom.
I exhausted myself trying to be Pinterest perfect — to craft with them and read with them and cook them wholesome, from-scratch meals and get them on good sleep schedules and provide them with every conceivable opportunity. Of course, I would have wanted the best for them no matter what. But the insecurities about my age pushed me over the edge, making me work myself to the bone trying to be what I thought society would deem as a “good mom.”
Now, the comments are not quite as harmful as they were when I first became a mother. I’m six-and-a-half years into motherhood, and rounding the corner towards 30. I’m starting to get crows feet and other wrinkles that make it harder for others to play the “teenage” card on me. But mostly, I’ve realized that other people’s opinions of me do not define me or determine what sort of mother I am.
Still, I wish that people understood that it’s never OK to comment on a mother’s age — young or old. Because the judgmental connotation is always there, no matter how innocent the intent.
Motherhood is hard enough as is, so maybe instead of saying that you couldn’t imagine having a baby so young, or wouldn’t have the energy if you had a baby that old, just tell mothers that they’re doing a good job. That’s one compliment I’ll take any day.