Becoming a new mom at age 24 versus age 18 has some differences – and they are more than just the physical age difference of 6 years. For example, at age 24, instead of the glares and unapproving looks I used to get, I now get adoring looks and questions about my son’s age… instead of questions about my age.

Being 18 and a mom was so challenging. I had few friends, I was in an unhealthy relationship, and I had no skills to be self-sufficient. I pretty much thought I would be dependent on other people forever. I had dropped out of high school and didn’t think I would ever finish. Very few of my friends cared enough to check in and see how I was doing – let alone my son.

As a teen mom, when I would go to doctor appointments to address my concerns around my son, those concerns would be pushed aside. Instead I would be told I was too young and didn’t know what I was talking about.

One day when I was feeling especially down, a good friend of mine told me about Hope House of Colorado. Soon I earned my high school diploma, grew in parenting, lived in a highly-structured program, gained a new family, and took several classes to be the best version of myself.

Now I’m 24 and in all reality, I could be in the same place I was those six years ago –I’m not, but I could be. I could have two kids right now and be constantly stressed about how I’m failing.

Instead, fast forward almost six years and the reality is that I have two boys and I am in a different place.  One of my boys is almost 6 years old, and he prays every night before bed because we did that at Hope House. My other little boy is three months old and is literally a Hope House baby from birth because I now work full time at Hope House, and he gets to come with me for the first six months. Today I’m in a healthy relationship because I took what I learned in my Hope House classes and applied it. Now when I take my kids to the doctor’s office, they trust I know what I’m talking about. When I’m at the mall with my kids, I no longer get the looks of disgust from complete strangers.

Being six years older this time around is not what made me a better mom. What made me a better mom was the choice that I made to listen to the very little voice in my head that said I could make it — a conscious choice every day to listen to the small voice instead of the big voice saying I couldn’t. Eventually the negative voice was proven wrong by the facts that I was doing it!

The reality is being a good mom has nothing to do with age. Being a good mom has to do with a willingness to grow and change and become the best version of yourself. That is exactly what Hope House has taught me and so many other girls to do. I have learned the importance of not letting other people’s perceptions change your view of yourself or, more importantly, how God sees you!