What It's Really Like To Have A Kid In Your 20s

Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
The average age of new mothers in the U.S. has been steadily rising since the 1970s, when the number was just 21.4 — by the late ‘90s, it had increased to 24.9, and in 2014, the mean age was 26.3. Experts say the trend is mostly because of a decrease in teen pregnancy, and partly because many professional, educated women are delaying motherhood.

As a result of this shift — and maybe because I'm personally surrounded by so few young mothers — I feel disconnected from the (still sizeable!) portion of women who have children starting in their early or mid-20s. I wonder: How did they decide to become a mom (or if it wasn’t exactly planned, how did they grow into their role as a parent in just nine months)? Are they treated differently as mothers because of their age? What’s it all like?

To dig deeper into what it means to be a younger mom, I talked to seven mothers who had children at or before their 25th birthdays, and two who had children at 27. Some of these women had unplanned pregnancies, while others had always been attracted to the idea of being a young mom. Read on to see what they had to say.

1 of 9
Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
“I had my first son when I was 20 years old, and my second at 22. My husband and I were just starting out in life and weren't financially able to give our kids the sun and moon, but we had a lot more patience and fearlessness. Life wasn't always easy, and I remember feeling constantly judged as a young parent, but now we're both in our early 30s with tweens while others our age are just having children. I don't know if I could start over again, and the older I get, the more clear it is to me that I made the right choice.”
Amanda, 31
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2 of 9
Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
“My husband and I were married as soon as we finished undergrad. We traveled the world, built our home, and then decided it was the right time to start a family. We both had successful careers, but knew we wanted to go further in our respective positions. Having a child at the age of 27 seemed to be perfect timing to allow me temporarily step away from my career without letting too much pass me by. We also felt that it would give us the opportunity to be youngish parents (as both of our sets of parents were).”
LaNeale, 35
3 of 9
Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
“I had my first child at 21, and the hardest part about the entire experience was often feeling isolated from my peers and frustrated that I could no longer share in the feeling of being ‘young and free.’ However, now that my son is three and a half, I can look back on those first two years and understand exactly what he did for me and my life. Having a person that you prioritize as much as yourself, who completely relies on you for everything, who is simultaneously a source of constant joy, pride, laughter (but also, sometimes, serious frustration) is a relationship that is hard to put into words. But somehow, it is satisfying above all others. Being a mother, and overcoming challenges together, has made me a much stronger, more secure, and confident person, which is something that I was sorely lacking at 21.”
Jamie, 24
4 of 9
Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
“I had my first child at 25, and it was an unplanned pregnancy. I knew I wanted children relatively young, but I always thought I'd be a bit more established in my career. However, having a child young actually improved my career in a way; I am much more organized, can manage multiple projects, and I know how to prioritize. Having a child young means I didn't get to travel the world or enjoy as many late nights at the bar with friends, but seeing my two-year-old run into my arms yelling ‘Mommy!’ after a long day at work? And looking into my newborn’s eyes as she nurses? Nothing tops that, and I have zero regrets for having my girls when I did!”
Kaela, 27
5 of 9
Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
“I always knew I wanted to have children at an early age. I wanted to be a ‘young mom’ who could keep up, and then a ‘young grandma.’ I had my daughter at 27, which was later than I would have liked, because my husband and I were not where we wanted to be in life to bring a child into the world before that. We needed to be closer to our parents, have careers we felt were secure, and have a home of our own before we factored children into the equation.”
Jemma, 29
6 of 9
Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
“I had my first child at 24. I really wanted to have the time and energy to keep up with my kids. Also, by the time they are in their 20s, I will only be in my early 40s, which is still plenty of time to focus on a career if I wanted to.”
Chelsea, 33
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7 of 9
Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
“I had my first child at 22, and I am pregnant with my third at 26. We didn't really feel young at the time, because most of our friends were having kids, too. My husband and I had kids because we wanted to; we didn't really feel like we had much left we wanted to accomplish or experience before becoming parents, so we went for it. I'm glad; I enjoy being a young mom and look forward to having more time with my husband as our children grow older.”
— Mary, 26
8 of 9
Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
“I had my son during my senior year of college, at 21 years old. While the experience has been challenging, both physically and emotionally, (seriously — you’d never guess how much energy it takes to raise something so small), it has also become a source of strength, pride, and confidence that I could not have predicted. When I made my decision to see out my pregnancy, I understood (or at least thought I did) the obstacles that I would be facing. I knew that it would be extremely trying, but I also felt that while I was young, I was also in a stable and secure place with solid prospects to see me through. I had three great internships under my belt, was about to receive my degree, and had a vast support network of friends and family. I knew that we would be okay.

"What I was not prepared for was what the transition into motherhood entails. Becoming not only a mom, but a single mom, was a very harsh change from the life I was used to at 21. I was forced to mature much more quickly than most of my peers, and I had many more responsibilities, aside from just caring for myself, at an age when you’re really just starting to figure who you are. Since graduation, I have moved to D.C., started a graduate program (only one year left!), and began a career that I truly love. I have found that being a single mother, while constantly challenging, is also a unique source of strength and perseverance. It has helped me focus and prioritize my goals, and to constantly grow and improve myself for both of us. I hope to be an example for my son, and show him the rewards of hard work in the face of challenging obstacles.”
Lindsay, 25
9 of 9
Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
“By the time my husband and I had our first child when I was 24, we had already been married for four years. We had lots of fun experiences as just the two of us, felt stable, and were ready for the next big adventure of parenthood. Besides, I always liked the idea of being a younger mom, because I have lots of energy, can potentially have a larger family, and will be a relatively young empty-nester.”
Emily, 25
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