If you are a reader, you know that we’re a young family. But you might not know just how young.
I’m 23 and Jake is 24. Eliza is 5. Jonas is 4 months.
And you just did some math.
Yup, we had Eliza when we were teenagers. True story. We aren’t embarrassed about how our family started and we’re not secretive about it. But we hate that moment when strangers or new acquaintances do the math in their heads and then make assumptions.
It goes a little something like this:
“You’re only 23?”
“Oh, I thought you were older.”
“Not that you look old, I didn’t mean you look old. You’re just mature.”
“And how old is Eliza?”
“Oh, so you got married really young then.”
That part of the conversation isn’t really what bothers us. It’s the awkward pause part. Because that’s when the person is thinking Oh, you got married because you got pregnant. Which, of course, is partially true. Jake and I would have waited a year or two before getting married if I hadn’t gotten pregnant with Eliza. We wanted to get married right after high school, it’s just not exactly socially acceptable. We had even decided to wait to move in together to appease our families. But then I found out about E the day before my high school graduation (which made graduation day super hard) and everything changed. Jake and I were so excited! We were scared to tell our parents, but we never had any moments of doubt. We knew we were ready for her. The way we look at it, E just made it so we could get a move on things earlier.
The assumption that we got married when we did because of E isn’t the problem. It’s the assumption that we wouldn’t have gotten married at all had it not been for Eliza. Jake said it best, “You can tell that they don’t think we really love each other. That we won’t last, or that we wouldn’t have ended up together.”
That hits the spot.
The same assumptions occurred when people we knew in high school found out that we got married. One of our good friends had to stick up for us in a situation like this. Someone busted out with a, “Oh, you remember Megan? She totally got knocked up and married that dude from Piper. Hah!” At which point our friend gave that person a talking to. Because our friend is awesome and loyal (we love you James). But we know that this sort of conversation had to have come up dozens of times. Our high school reunions should be interesting.
People would assume we were irresponsible when E was a baby because we looked so young. We would get ignored in furniture stores where the salesmen made commission; cashiers would look surprised when we passed a credit check for a store credit card.
We know what people think shouldn’t really bother us. We know that the statistics are against our marriage and people are just relying on stereotypes to make sense of their world. But the statistics were also against us finishing college and, hey, we did that with flying colors. So there.
Here’s the thing about starting our family early. We wouldn’t recommend it to most people (probably not a good idea to do it on purpose), but it worked for us.
Having Eliza allowed us to get amazing financial aid for college, without which we would be up to our ears in student loans right now. She also made us more responsible, so college was about learning and being active on campus instead of partying for us. We also would never have considered going to community college had it not been for Eliza, and doing so allowed us to rack up 18-20 credit hours a semester (plus summer) for free. We were afforded amazing opportunities like going to national conferences and running community events. Eliza was a familiar face on campus, she went to so many awesome cultural events. But I would have been too stuck up to even consider community college.
Having E also taught us lessons about marriage early on- we had to be excellent at teamwork to accomplish our goals. We had a switch-off schedule that allowed one of us to always be home with Eliza (she’s never been to day care). Our marriage had to be about helping each other and time management from the beginning. A lot of couples have trouble with that transition when they start having kids.
Note: we couldn’t have done it without help- a family member would always watch E for a few hours on Sunday so we could get our homework done. We also lived with my grandparents for the first year so that we could save our money and afford to go to school full time. (Which was amazing, I wish more families in the US did multi-generational living. We learned so much from my grandparents and Eliza was SO loved. She barely had a moment where she wasn’t being held until she started crawling.)
And, of course, if we hadn’t had Eliza so early, she wouldn’t be the person she is now. The sum of her experiences has been amazing. She thinks learning is so cool because school was ingrained from the very beginning. Her parents were always doing homework, she wanted to learn too. She got to see her parents deal with very stressful times in a positive way. She has great-great-grandparents (how many people can say that?). She is used to tagging along with our friends to restaurants and local events. Sometimes you forget that she’s five. We are so lucky to have her.
So that’s us. We wouldn’t have done it any differently if given the chance to change things. And we think we’ve done a pretty awesome job.
The moral? Next time you meet someone who didn’t quite do things the socially accepted way, think of them as a person and not as a statistic.
P.S. If you’d like to know the story of how Jake and I met, you can watch a vlog post of the story of our first date here.
Let’s Get Serious is a blog series where we share our opinions and put ourselves out there. We get that not everyone thinks the same way; the same things don’t work for everyone. These are our opinions. They don’t have to be your opinions. We’d like to hear about what you think, but please don’t be mean to us. Let’s respect each other and talk about it!