If I would have come across this headline four years ago — whew. That would've been a relief. Because if you spiral down the rabbit hole of Google, you'll see blurred images of wagging fingers and dancing statistics shaming and defining who and what you are. You'll see images of dollar signs with big red "no" symbols on top. No you won't have money! No you won't be successful! Everyone knows that if you have a baby before graduating college and before getting married, you have shockingly little chance at the same life of a post-college, post-marriage, post-executive parent.
Take Mitt Romney, for example, who told a group of college graduates in 2012:
"For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2 percent. But if those things are absent, 76 percent will be poor."
76 PERCENT! Let's see, I graduated from high school and college, but I was pregnant when I got my first full-time job and legally got hitched. So where does that put me, Mr. Romney? Maybe a solid 65 percent guarantee that I'll be living in poverty?
2 percent vs. 76 percent — all hinging on when you decide to have a baby.
I call bull, sir. BULL.
Here's something that might make you feel a little better, and might put those statistical analysis into proper perspective (according to Slate.com):
"When it comes to early pregnancy, surprising new evidence indicates that Romney and most everyone else have it backward: Having a baby early does not hamper a young woman's economic prospects, as Romney implies. Rather, young women choose to become mothers because their economic outlook is objectively bleak."
So it's cause and effect — which actually makes a huge difference. The statistics show young mothers as disproportionally poor because many were poor to begin with, and it's not the young pregnancy that caused them a lifetime of poverty.
We all know the word-of-mouth anecdotes, fictional caricatures, and real-life young women who believe having a baby will fill some kind of a hole, a void, that they never had growing up. A baby will provide a sense of family and love — unconditional and unwavering. A baby is cute and cuddly and it's all that she wants! (And I think we can all agree that's a terrible reason to have a child at a young age — especially with the wrong guy.)
But that's not all of us.
Listen: Having a child can be expensive, for sure, but so is life. So is grad school and vacations and professional wardrobes and eating out and rent and anything else the typical 20-something has to pay for. And the truth is that the more you have, the more you spend. You'll find places to cut down — you don't need the fanciest baby gear or a brand new wardrobe every season. Having a baby is not the end-all be-all of your financial future; it's just not.
And even if you're one of the young moms who grew up in poverty and got pregnant because your economic future never looked promising to begin with, please know that you're strong enough to break that cycle. That having a baby doesn't and shouldn't define who you are, and the same goes for statistics and politicians and talking robots who want to stick a label on your forehead.
You're better than that.
You're more than a statistic.