When all my friends were 18 and clubbing every night, I was getting married.
When they were 21 and starting their careers, I was having my first child.
A few generations ago, marrying young and having a family straight away was the done thing. For me, in this generation, it was the definition of exile. As my friends progressed in their careers and social lives, I gave birth to four babies in the space of six years. They got holiday pay and prestigious titles. I got stretch marks and an eight-seat car. While they dressed each morning in their corporate work gear, if I found the time to have a shower, that in itself was cause for celebration.
My twenties can be summed up by the words busy, exhausting and lonely. There was little time to hold together friendships when I could barely hold myself together. Social engagements became a thing of the past as animated movies on Friday nights took over.
When I hit my thirtieth birthday, I didn't just farewell my twenties, I grieved them. An entire decade had passed, what should have been the best decade of my life, and I felt like I'd been nothing more than a mere spectator to those who had actually lived it. I wanted those years back. I wanted to trade lives with someone who had independence and spontaneity, the two things I missed the most.
Then slowly, quietly, things began to shift. These little people that had initially taken so much from me were quickly becoming bigger people that now gave so much back. And suddenly, I began to see how the sacrifices could be worth the gain. How the perceived loss of my twenties was in fact a decade of my life that was working toward something more rewarding and fulfilling than I could have ever imagined.
Here's my list of reasons why I've decided having a family in your twenties is actually a pretty cool thing:
1. When you finally get around to your career, you actually know what you want to be when you grow up.
At 18, I had no idea who I was. I was dead set going to be a journalist. But the thing is, I'm not a fact-teller, I'm a story-teller. I didn't know that back then. I'd hate to think how much time and money I'd have wasted only to discover journalism wasn't for me. I love the fact that at 35, even though my career may be only just beginning, I know exactly who I am and what I want. My goals and dreams for my career are made with utter clarity, and my work is laced with life experience and wisdom that I would never have had at 18.
2. Physically, you can handle years of sleepless nights without feeling like you're going to die.
You're young enough to deal with the amount of energy required to raise a family, as well as being able to deal with no sleep. Like, ever again. You haven't had time to get set in your ways and so the transition to having to care for a whole new human being 24 hours a day is relatively painless.
3. You're just as savvy with technology as they are.
Your teenagers think they know how to slip under your technology radar? Think again. It's much easier to stay in touch with their world, because essentially you never lost touch with it. You're still up with the latest technology and social media trends. In fact, you could AMA about WTH all these internet acronyms mean, just ICYMI, and I could totally FTFY. Be warned my children, PAW. JSYK.
4. There's no problem helping with their homework because you pretty much only just graduated high school yourself.
Forget Google, it was only yesterday you were learning algorithms yourself. Okay, maybe you were failing algorithms yourself. But nonetheless.
5. You're too young to sit on the sidelines and watch.
You still enjoy thrashing them at a game of cricket, tackling them in a game of footy, bike riding with them, hiking, camping, surfing and shaking it off to Taylor Swift as much as they do.
6. As they grow up, you do too.
In many ways, you feel like you grow up with your children. You barely feel worthy to call yourself an adult, and yet here you are responsible for the lives of others who depend on you for everything. It's fast-tracking your way to adulthood. But the beauty is, you give birth to an infant, not a 14-year-old. Thankfully it's a slow and steady learning curve for all.
7. When they've grown up, you'll still be young.
Hang on to this thought with all you have. It's truly my all-time happy place to visit when I'm having a day from hell. To know that when my work is done here, I will have so much time ahead of me to write, travel, write, travel, write and travel. One day I'll be sending them postcards from exotic locations, cocktail in hand and sun on my back. Let's drink to that.
8. You have the potential to be a great-grandparent.
Yep, if it's not cool enough to imagine yourself spoiling your grandchildren with home-made cookies and an abundance of love and kisses, you may also one day get to do the same for your great-grandchildren.
For those in your twenties who are trudging through the daily grind of family life while you secretly envy the carefree life of your friends -- I know it feels tough right now. I know it feels like you're missing out on life. I know sometimes the sacrifice doesn't seem worth it. But I promise you, it is. Everything in life has its season. Sometimes we get stuck in a winter that we wonder if it will ever end. But one day soon, when the hardest work is done, you will celebrate the triumph of spring. Your life will feel as though it begins again. Only this time, it will be all the more rich and full with your children by your side.
You can find Kathy Parker on her website, This Girl Unraveled.