I’ve been a fan of hair-cut chit chat; I always find that my stylist asks questions that are a little too personal. Take last week’s haircut for instance. I dragged my brother into the salon, started my own haircut while my stylist began poking into my personal life, and asks me: “So you doing anything with your wife this Valentine’s Day?” Trying to recover from the heterosexist question, I managed to blurt “no,” to which she responded with “that’s your son over there, right?” Looking over at my 11 year old brother I saw where her train of assumption was coming from. After explaining that he’s just my brother and that I didn’t have any kids, she let out a loud “OH! Phew, that’s a relief.”
Let’s get real now. I’m 22 years old, and I don’t look anything over 26 (and that’s with exaggeration). Where is this “relief” coming from? For if I had a child at a young age would that make me a horrible person, or am I making the world a more horrible place if I had a child while young?
There’s nifty word that explains my stylist’s uneasy feelings. Chrononormativity, it’s a long word that suggests that there is a socially acceptable timeline of our life events that we must follow. Life events occur in a “normal” manner, and when a person breaks these norms the social outlook on this person is negative. That’s why there is much stigma towards:
- People who go to college at an older age (instead of being at college from ages 18-24)
- People who date outside of an “acceptable” age range (a 19 year old dating a 30 year old)
- People who have children at a young age (instead of the desired 28-38 age range)
And being real again, yes there are a lot of health concerns connected to having children at this age, but if two people at a young age are physically healthy, knowledgeable about pregnancy, or if they had an accident and want to go through this together, then why vilify them for having a child?
A lot of this is socially reinforced through shows like Teen Mom that capitalize on the stories of teenagers who are clearly not prepared for parenthood. Realize that these instances are not the norm, and are produced by television companies that feed the fame-hungry teens (because who really wants their life documented on MTV?), and the chrononormativeaudience that we are. Also important to point out, most of these pregnancies are accidental, and could have EASILY been avoided with sex-education and contraception availability, but that’s a whole other blog.
When my hairstylist was relieved that I didn’t have a child at my age, she didn’t know if I was actually qualified to be a parent or not; she only judged my age. She didn’t know that I took a very active part in raising my little brother because of our neglectful parents, or that I’m extremely knowledgeable within the areas of Child Development and Family Studies, or that my parents, who did have children at an “acceptable age” were horribly unfit parents. Even if I did have a child right now, it’ll be stressful, it’ll be straining, but I think I would make an excellent parent.