“Write about a time you followed the road less traveled and it made all the difference.” That's my assignment for tonight's blogapalooza, a monthly exercise where ChicagoNow bloggers come together to tackle the same topic, all within exactly one hour.
This topic has made me realize that I really do enjoy a clearly demarcated, well-trodden path. (And also that looking at road images on the Unsplash website can be strangely soothing.)
I thought for a good long while (okay, 15 minutes, but in a one hour exercise, it's a decent chunk of time). I decided that if I really had to pick a time that I followed the road less traveled, it would have to be having a baby at the age of 25. I was cradling my baby girl in my arms less than a year after I had passed the bar exam and started my career as an attorney.
I was the very first one of my friends, comprised primarily of college and law school friends, to have a baby.
A college friend who was a resident at the hospital where I gave birth came to visit me during my first full day of parenthood. He kept repeating, "It's so weird. So. Weird. I cannot believe you had a baby." I thought they would have covered that in med school, and I'm pretty sure they did. It was just apparently the first time he thought about it happening to someone he knew.
I remained the only mom in the group for years to come. My friends zoomed along the career track, repeatedly lapping me as I focused on a wobbly little one.
I felt incredibly alone as I traveled the path of the first few years of parenthood.
Sometimes people still express surprise at my timing. On a walk with a friend earlier this week, she expressed shock at the fact that I'm not yet forty. "I had no idea you were still a baby!" she exclaimed. (Note to self: Find better face cream.) "We're all much older than you!"
I'm certainly good and close to the big 4-0, but her response and similar reactions from other friends of my daughter's classmates over the years serve as reminders that I'm a bit of an outlier when it comes to my age.
But here's the thing - I'm wrong. I'm not an outlier at all.
While having my daughter has certainly made all the difference in the world, and has changed and continues to change my life in ways I never imagined, I was not doing anything out of the ordinary. In fact, having a baby at that age makes me ridiculously average.
According to the CDC, "[t]he average age of mothers at first birth increased steadily during the preceding 30 years, to 25.1 years in 2002, an all-time high for the nation."
Just because people in my friend group weren't traveling the road I opted to take doesn't mean that the road was less traveled. It just felt less traveled. And while feelings certainly matter, I think it can be a good reality check to realize that we're often not as alone as we think we are.
It's not all that different than the time I got frustrated at not being able to find much online about parenting tweens and decided to start blogging about the topic in hope of finding others in the same parenting boat.
I found that there are a lot of parents of tweens online, and I'm so very grateful that there are more than 6,000 people on the Between Us Parents Facebook page. That may be a lot, but it's certainly enough people to know that we are not solitary travelers on this road. And they are fantastic traveling companions.
It seems that lately there is more and more shared about parenting adolescents, and the Internet is a far less lonely place than it felt four years ago. (Side note: I cannot believe this blog is a few weeks shy of it's fourth birthday!)
So, while the paths I've taken have seemed less traveled at the time, it's a reminder that perception isn't always reality, and that while there are certainly very lonely times, we're often not nearly as alone as we think we are. May we all have good company with us on our journeys.
To see how other ChicagoNow writers responded to the topic, click here.
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