The ink on my college degree was barely dry, and at 22 years
old, I was transitioning from overworked magazine intern to hopeful employee. I
didn’t own a lot of things—money, in particular—but one spring night I
gained another possession: a positive pregnancy test.
I had plenty of reasons to cry, of course, but there was a
main theme running through my anxieties: I’d never do the things I wanted to
do, or be the person I wanted to be.
Looking back with five years of perspective, I don’t think I
was crazy to have those fears. The message is everywhere, from marketing
ads to teen pregnancy PSAs: Accomplish your goals before having kids,
otherwise … (fade to black).
I remember reading through a “Pregnancy Bucket List” in the gynecologist's waiting room, feeling more deflated with every empty checkbox. I hadn’t
traveled beyond the East coast, or skydived, or even landed a full-time job, for
crying out loud. (And I did just that—cried out loud.) And, even now, I see my
20-something friends with their lists and their plans; determined to achieve
ALL THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS before settling down and succumbing to motherhood.
There’s something to be said for celebrating with dance parties and tiny high-fives.
It’s a myth—a well-constructed myth—and it makes me want
to climb on top of a soapbox with an oversize megaphone, yelling, “Your life is not over.”
Because your life is not over.
In fact, motherhood can be a pretty powerful catalyst for
personal growth. As soon as I had a little person looking up at me, absorbing
my behaviors, I had an urgent need to be better. I expected to turn into a
diluted version of my former self, when, in actuality, motherhood fueled the
And I’m not alone. Think about all of the inventions and
businesses and books that were inspired by parenthood. Think about the advocacy
groups and organizations born from a mother’s need to improve the world.
Then think about how lonely and boring it would be to
achieve all of the accomplishments, only
to settle into a stagnant existence. There’s something to be said for showing
kids the patience and perseverance it takes to accomplish a goal, despite the
roadblocks. There’s something to be said for celebrating with dance parties and
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my work with
EarlyMama.com, it’s that statistics and stereotypes don’t have to define our
experience, in spite of what society implies. We can still take risks, and study
abroad, and finish
our education, and build
businesses, and make a difference in the world.
We can continue to exist as individuals, apart from (and
because of) our children.
I’ve come a long way since I was holding that pregnancy
test, imagining my future circling the drain. And I’ve done it all with a
little person looking up at me, absorbing my behaviors and watching as I
develop into the person I’ve always wanted to be.