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Young Parents Narrow the Generation Gap : Families: Early parenthood has its pluses--consider the energy it takes to keep up with kids. But the responsibility can seem overwhelming.


"I found myself getting upset, stressed and impatient, because I'd see my friends going out on the weekends and buying new clothes, and there I was doing laundry and using my money for baby stuff. I do feel there are certain things I missed during that period of my life, such as going on my senior trip and traveling," she says.

Now that Tony is older and Nava has a full-time job as a medical assistant in Orange, her schedule is easier, and she does find a little time for herself.

Despite the struggles Nava lauds motherhood.

"Without Tony, I think I'd be off partying, and I wouldn't be as serious as I am now about life," she says. "I probably wouldn't have a career and I'd still be living at home. Tony and I live really comfortably, and we're happy."


Linda Dougherty had always planned on having kids young, so she was delighted to get pregnant when she was 20 and equally as thrilled to be expecting again when her first daughter was just 3 months old.

"I wanted to have my kids before I was 25, so that I could be a young parent," says Dougherty, now 40 and living in Tustin. "I wanted to have fun with them, versus there being a big generation gap."

When she got pregnant the first time, Dougherty had just gotten out of nursing school and was prepared to raise children.

"I didn't feel like my youth was interrupted," she says.

One thing Dougherty forgot to check on was how her 21-year-old husband felt about being a father. As it turned out, Walter Dougherty was not as pleased with having children that early. He had a much harder time adjusting to the rigors of parenthood.

"Walter was your typical 21-year-old guy," says Linda Dougherty. "He had no idea what to do with babies; they frightened him."

Walter Dougherty, now 41, agrees.

"Initially, I didn't take as much responsibility for the kids as I should have, but Linda was very responsible," he says.

For Walter, the task of making enough money to support his family was challenging and somewhat overwhelming.

"Although Linda had been to nursing school, I hadn't gotten any training and had no career to speak of," he says.

"I never really had an opportunity to attend school, because I felt that I needed a job to provide for the family. Financially, being a younger parent is probably harder than being an older parent," says Walter, who, like his wife, is now in sales and marketing.

In Linda's view, children of young parents tend to grow up more quickly because they are less sheltered and protected than kids born to older parents.

"Older parents tend to focus on the child's welfare and look at the long-term picture and the potentials for disaster. When (parents are) young, a certain percentage of ignorance and lack of maturity makes (them) do things--like bring a 6-week-old to the beach--that you wouldn't do if you were more mature."

Abigail Dougherty, 18, who is a senior at Tustin High School, agrees that kids with younger parents tend to grow up more quickly.

"In my opinion, younger parents make their kids more street-smart than older parents," she says. "If I fell down when I was younger and hurt my knee, my mom would say, 'It's going to happen.' But if one of my friends who had an older parent scraped her knee, her mom would rush for a Band-Aid. Older parents tend to baby their children more."

Abigail also feels that older parents seem to protect their children from unpleasant truths such as financial problems. "In my family we know everything--good or bad," she says.

But knowing everything can take its toll at times, says Abigail. "My parents have gone through tough times, like all parents do, and it's kind of hard sometimes when one of them asks me for advice about the other one," she says.

"After talking to me, they'll expect me to go on as if nothing has happened, but it's very confusing for me. I wonder, is my mom or dad a mom or dad, or a friend? Sometimes I don't want a buddy; I need a parent."

For Abigail's older sister, Breeanne, 19, having young parents has meant that she's been able to get on-target advice.

"My parents know what I'm going through because it wasn't so long ago that they were going through the same things," she says. Breeanne says the advice her parents give her is accurate for this day and age because they are more in tune with the times.

"I can be totally honest with my parents and tell them what I'll be doing when I go out," she says. "Even my friends confide in my mom and dad. For my 18th birthday my family threw a big party for me. It was probably the best time of my life, and I got to spend it with my family."

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