People are pretty good at coming up with reasons why it's better to wait before becoming a parent.
Some of these are valid concerns. Younger parents are - in general - less likely to have the financial security, relationship stability and emotional maturity that "average" parents benefit from. It's a little nosy coming from a stranger, but if the concerns are voiced politely, it gives the young parent an opportunity to either ask for support, or say that they're confident in their abilities.
So why, with this arsenal of decent, valid concerns at their disposal, are people only capable of coming up with the most ridiculous concern ever?
"But what about travelling?".
Since becoming a mum at 19, I have realised that my life is meaningless. Utterly meaningless. It doesn't matter what I achieve; it counts for nothing, because I haven't spent six weeks backpacking through a jungle somewhere.
Apparently, every under-25 in the history of - well, forever - wants to go travelling. Life is somehow empty without it. If you haven't gone travelling, you haven't lived.
This is, of course, according to people who found themselves while on safari in Tanzania. Look, if I need to drive through a field full of animals to find spiritual fulfilment, I'll go to West Midlands Safari Park. I don't need to risk malaria to "find myself".
People can't understand why someone wouldn't want to go travelling. I can only answer for myself here, but I hate all of the following: heat, flying, bugs and spending lots of money. There's four reasons right there why I didn't want to travel, and none of them have anything to do with having a baby at a young age.
Of course, having a baby at a young age did put an extra kibosh on any travelling plans, but only for now - and only because I'm a homebody who couldn't imagine trekking across the desert with a baby in a carrier. There are people who are travelling the world right now with a baby in tow.
Even worse than the people who believe that life is empty without getting drunk on a Thai beach at twenty-one, are the people who - when I tell them I have no interest in travelling - tell me that it's "only because I'm bitter that I can't because I'm a young mum". Sorry, I didn't realise your spiritual enlightenment safari meant you could now read minds!
Why isn't it said to people who are about to do a PhD? "Oh no, don't tie yourself down with learning, go and build a school in Kenya!". Or someone who's just secured a graduate placement at Ernst & Young? "Who needs money, go to Australia!". Nope, it's just young parents, who couldn't possibly be learning and working at the same time. If they don't go travelling, it's purely because of their parenting commitments.
Oh, and don't suggest that parenting is an adventure in itself. They don't like that at all. No, parenting - and more specifically, motherhood - is a menial task. It's a dreary, day-in, day-out drudgery that you cannot possibly see as anything "fun". A lot of the "you must travel" attitude reflects how society sees motherhood.
It also reflects how society sees young people. The freedom of youth is a fallacy. If a teenager or young person is a parent, or focused on study or work, they're "wasting their childhood". If they spend their time gaming or blogging, they're "immature" and "need to grow up". They only fall into the "acceptable" bracket if they indulge in the nice, middle-class youth pursuits - travelling to third-world countries or backpacking through Eastern European hills.
Travelling isn't a bad thing, and if people enjoy it, more power to them. When people go travelling, they have fantastic experiences, meet incredible people and do brilliant things - but is it the be-all and end-all? Of course not. The thing that irritates me is the continued refusal to believe that I could find parenting as fulfilling as they find travelling. It's the biggest adventure I've ever been on.
Maybe I'll go travelling in my thirties - maybe to somewhere like the Arctic, where heat and mosquitos won't bother me - and I'll take my then-teenage daughter with me, if she wants to come. Or maybe I won't. Just as some people find the idea of parenting utterly mind-numbing, I'd rather staple my ears to my head than jet off somewhere equatorial.
So don't feel sorry for me when you think of my almost-empty passport and my poor, unenlightened life. Being a young parent is my adventure, and I don't need your validation to enjoy it.