1. Tell us about your "early mama" experience. What age did you have your first child?
I was 22 when I learned I was expecting my first son — he was born when I was 23. I had moved far from the city where I grew up a few years before with my partner (Jay) and was working full time at a pharmacy while he worked at a bank. We owned a home and car and lived a life traditionally reserved for later in your 20s or even 30s today.
2. Was it expected? Planned? And how was it received?
My first pregnancy was planned. I really felt that I wanted to welcome a little soul into our family. Our families were both excited (if there were any doubts they kept them to themselves!), but again, I wasn't in University or anything at that point. We were settled and Jay is nine years older than me, so the timing was just right for him as well.
3. What's the young motherhood culture like in Canada? Did you feel like an outcast?
I think that as it is in many other countries, young motherhood in Canada is typically viewed as a blue collar/white collar socioeconomic "issue" for lack of a better term. And as such, young mothers are judged.
There is just as much a stigma over here as there is in the States. Personally, I have felt judged but more because I am an UNWED mother than a young mother. When people ask why we aren't married I like to use this response that someone gave me once, "We're still getting to know each other." That usually removes the judgment from the conversation and replaces it with either shock if they don't know if I'm serious, or a laugh or two.
4. Was it an easy decision to expand your family? I know it's something I struggle with. (And did Canada's government programs help in your decisions?)
Baby number two happened quickly and I didn't really have a chance to think about it. But there is a 4.5 year age gap between 2 and 3, and THAT was a very difficult decision.
I went back and forth but ultimately, as cliche as it sounds, Archer brought a new and missing element to our family. When I watch him interact with his brothers I can just tell that he needed to be in this family. He is home.
We do have amazing programs here in Canada. Our healthcare system isn't perfect, but I won't complain. I had my first son at 34 weeks and he spent 2 weeks in the NICU with assistance from one of the best children's hospitals in the world (SickKids in Toronto), and we didn't pay a dime. If I had to worry about deductibles and whatnot, I believe it would have made the decision more difficult.
Our Maternity Leave is also pretty great — 55% of your wages for a year (up to a max of $400+ a week). If you return sooner, many corporations will top you up as well, which made it possible for Jay to be home for 8 weeks for both our second and third babies since I was already home. (You can also share the leave between parents however you choose!)
I am grateful for our government programs here, and wish that more countries would get on board with longer maternity leaves! I feel for those of you who have a much more difficult time making decisions because of the financial implications.
5. What's been the biggest struggle for you, as a 20-something mom?
Without a doubt, confidence. I've always felt like I didn't quite fit in to the modern motherhood box that the media including blogs have created. In the past I've felt that moms and other women in general had a "Isn't she cute" pat-her-on-the-head view of me because of my age, and of course this had made me insecure.
In fact, until I found Early Mama I didn't really know that there were other moms like me out there! I now know that many 20-something moms have the same struggle and that I'm not alone.
I had always heard the term "find your tribe" and knew I hadn't yet, so I'm grateful to you for the amazing community of young mamas that you've brought together here! [Ed: aw shucks.]
6. And what's been the biggest advantage for choosing motherhood earlier rather than later?
I'll be 30 in a few days and I'm happy to be able to focus on creating healthy habits now rather than later. And I say this because pregnancy always throws me off for a couple of years and I've had many small but frustrating health issues my whole life.
Knowing that my family is complete and that I can feel good physically is a good feeling after feeling like my body is falling apart. I was in a car accident at 18 that left some minor but permanent injuries and I've always known that I need to be very diligent about taking care of my body now or I will truly suffer later. Having kids has made this difficult so I'm happy to be done with that more physically challenging part of my life.
7. Tell us about your blog. How would you define a "conscious perspective"?
I started my blog because I couldn't find what I was looking for already out there. Blogs were just filled with so much snark and judgment, so it was hard to accept that everyone felt the same. So I began blogging about what mattered to me: spirituality, personal growth, and humanitarianism.
The term "Conscious Perspective" was exactly the combination of words I was looking for. I define a "conscious perspective" as this: the ability to asses a situation, person, or experience with non-judgment, compassion, and tolerance.
I've created this little home online that I hope challenges readers' thoughts, brings comfort to let them know they are not alone, and provides a little inspiration when they are feeling down.
8. How has your way of thinking — your self — evolved throughout your 20s?
I don't think words can't properly describe how much shifting and evolving we are capable of in our 20s. I didn't change much from 20 to 25, but 25 onward were major years for me; and it wasn't a natural, or should I say effortless, evolution for me. It was forced and it was painful.
9. What forced you to change?
The root of all of my growth was recognizing that I lived my life in fear, and having kids really brought those fears to the surface. I worried about them, their health, our health. I suffered from anxiety for the first time in my life, though I had always struggled with depression.
I hit rock bottom and slowly built my way back up. I had to go back to square one and change my thought patterns completely. I had to remind myself that my gut reactions were telling me lies, and to run the other way.
This five-year progression has given me a new lease on life and has allowed me to become more compassionate, open, and accepting. I still falter. I still judge sometimes. Get angry or jealous or resentful, but at the core I have a sense of peace that I always go back to.
10. If you could go back to your 20-year-old self and tell her something, what would it be?
Drop everything and start exploring what is happening inside of you. Stop looking outside of yourself for happiness. You will save yourself years of heartache, depression and confusion!