I have definitely felt that. That people look down on because we are ' young parents.' To some people young parents=irresponsible parents. I don't want to brag about how that isn't us, about how responsible we really are (because we totally are) but I do want to share something that people told us there was No Way we would be able to do because of our 'situation'.
Our situation being that we got pregnant in the middle of our Sophomore year in college.
We had always planned to study abroad. Just not together. I was planning on going to Italy Junior year and Drew (now my husband) planned on studying in Prague. We talked for months about all the places we would meet in Europe; Switzerland, Greece, England, Spain..but then we found out over Christmas that we would become parents in the summer. We were 20 years old.
Like everyone else, we thought those study abroad dreams were over. We pushed those dreams aside and focused on getting through the school year, getting jobs, and raising our beautiful baby boy. I switched to online college classes and became a stay at home mom slash part time nanny while Drew worked full time (50+hours/a week) while continuing to attend a private University 18 hours a week.
One night a couple of weeks before Jasper's first birthday, Drew and I were laying in bed at night, revisiting some of our old dreams. Mainly, the dream to study abroad. Drew was the one that brought up the ' what if....what if we could still do it? The three of us? What if we could spend a semester abroad as a family?'
Once those thoughts popped into our head we couldn't get them out. We decided to schedule a meeting with the study abroad coordinator- just to see if it was even an option.
To make a very long story short...6 months later we departed from Des Moines International Airport for Stockholm, Sweden.
It wasn't an easy journey to get us to Sweden, where we spent the best 7 months of our lives. Drew worked even more hours than he was working before, I started working part time in the evening at a jewelry store so we could save save save! We basically had no social life for months because any extra money we had- went into our Sweden fund.
It took a lot of meetings, tons of emails, paperwork and a lot of help. I was amazed at how many people were rooting for us, willing to help us out with any questions and paper work. A lady in Sweden worked hard to find us an apartment suitable for a family, since the average exchange student lived in the dorms.
But for every person rooting for us, there would be 10 people telling us there is no way to study abroad with a baby. That it was selfish of us. Irresponsible. That we just plain couldn't do it. Including some family members.
I'm proud to say we proved them wrong.
We spent the first 7 months of 2009 learning how to use public transportation with a 1 year old (became a pro at pushing the stroller up onto buses, the train and subway),
exploring in the dark (when we got there in January we only had daylight from about 9AM till 3PM)
falling in love with our most expensive Swedish purchase, our pram (most expensive baby purchase ever, to date),
figuring out the best parks in the city (hands down 99%of Swedish parks are better than any park I've been to in the US)
figuring out how to walk on ice..tricky at first but we all got good at it, including our 19 month old,
learning how to live by the Swedish saying ' there is no bad weather, only bad clothes',
figuring out that our own legs are the best mode of transportation (as long as you have a sweet stroller..our American stroller didn't stand a chance in a foot of snow),
And learning that we didn't need the entire suite case of toys we brought Jasper (window watching from our 4th floor apartment in downtown Karlstad was his favorite activity),
Jasper grew to love his pram ( 2 years later he asks to ride in it often),
We took many trips throughout Sweden, norway and Finland- and on bus, train or boat he was always content in the pram, even cozied up while it was raining out.
While we loved our 550 sq feet one bedroom apartment in the city, we spent the majority of our time outside..
And once summer hit, we were at the lovely beaches daily.
We made friends with a guy who had a boat (and no that's not the only reason why were were friends with him) and loved going out on the water.
We all became more independent, while somehow becoming even closer as a family. We had only each other to depend on, and every day was an adventure.
I can't say enough great things about our 7 months abroad. We experience so much, learned a lot, traveled, and brought back many Swedish traditions that we live out daily. We are currently trying to figure out how to get back to Sweden. To live more. Travel more. And if we had listened to everyone who doubted us? We wouldn't have had those best 7 months of our lives.