I was 19 years old when my daughter was born and her father, now my husband, was just 17. Her conception was unplanned, although she was certainly not unwanted. I have never loved anyone as fiercely as I did (and do) this towheaded child. The adjustments brought about by her birth were difficult, scary and wonderful. Here are some of the ways my life changed after I became a young parent.
Friendships and Personal Time
The first ways my life changed after I became a young parent were my relationships and habits. There would be no more hanging out with friends at the drop of a hat. I lost touch with many of my high school girlfriends, who were going off to college or busy doing what teens that age typically do. Even the friends who did stick by me had to adjust to planning things around my work and the baby’s napping schedule. For me, it was easiest simply to hang out at home, which led to fewer visits and more isolation.
Another one of the major ways my life changed after I became a young parent was that I had to stop looking at my paycheck as money for new shoes, clothing and fast food. Every cent I earned began to go towards rent, food and diapers. Many months, I did not know how we would pay all of the bills, as minimal as they were. We had no telephone, no cable and no car, but living on two minimum wage jobs – which was just over three dollars an hour back then – was still no small feat.
My faith grew and my principles changed after I became a young parent. I had grown up in a Christian home. We attended church regularly and my parents held us to certain standards. When my parents split suddenly during my senior year of high school, I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. I began to live more recklessly and made unwise, ungodly choices. The realization that the care of this small life, this tiny little soul was in my hands woke me up and turned my feet back to the right path. Seeing God provide time and again when I did not know where we get our next meal or package of diapers strengthened my faith in Him.
Another of the ways my life changed after I became a young parent is that I began to set goals once more. In high school, I was the classic overachiever. Everyone assumed I would go to college and make something of my life. In fact, I was awarded a four-year scholarship to a university in our state. I was confused, though, and decided to take a year off to determine what I wanted to do with my life. Having a child gave me the focus I needed. At first, my goals were simple: pay the rent; buy a car; get a promotion. Eventually, though, they developed into loftier objectives: become a writer; quit my “day job”; be successful. Had I not had my daughter, I do not know where I would be today.
I learned about commitment. I could no longer quit a job because I didn’t like the schedule or the work involved. If I did not work, we did not eat. I was reluctant to break it off with my daughter’s father when things got rocky for us, because I wanted to provide a stable family for my child. These conditions taught me how to stick it out in tough situations and learn ways to resolve problems. I learned that dedication and loyalty produce rewards in life, and I discovered the blessings of being in a marriage that has overcome many hardships and spans many years.
It has been nearly 23 years since that baby girl was placed in my arms, and I would not change a moment. My husband and I have been married for 20 years, and our little girl is now expecting a child of her own. Perhaps one day I will write about the ways my life changed when I became a grandparent.