Thursday, April 4, 2013

Domestic Enemies of Teenage Mom

Ever since we started this series, we've been getting requests for this post. There are a lot of young moms out there who deal with a lot of Judgey McJudgersons. Please remember to keep your comments respectful, even if you don't agree with the author.


People often say to me, upon finding out that I have a teenager, “You look too young to have a teenager.”  And they are right, I am.  I had my daughter when I was 16.  However, even after all these years (my daughter is 16 now), I still feel a bit of shame when I see the reactions of strangers finding out I was/am a teen mom.  

And I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have raised a beautiful, responsible, funny, intelligent, compassionate daughter. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.  What I would change though, are people’s perception of what a Teen Mom is really like.  

Below are some of the most common things I’ve heard over the years.

“You threw your life away!”
I did miss some typical teenage moments by having my daughter so young, like my high-school prom, senior week, and teenage parties.  But I also escaped the drama of my high-school prom, senior week, and teenage parties!  Yes, while my friends were packing for senior week, I was packing a diaper bag for a trip to the store.  

And it may have been harder to me than my classmates to finish my education, but she made that hard work all the more worthwhile…because I wasn’t just doing it for me, I was doing it for her too. So, looking at my daughter, I know I didn’t actually missed a thing. Instead, I gained so much.  

Do you know who the father is?
After careful calculations I narrowed it down to only five guys.  Then, we all went on
Jerry Springer and Jerry told me who the Baby Daddy was!  

Seriously though.  I was with one boy (he will never qualify as a man) in high school, and we just happened to get pregnant. And as for the typical follow-up question, we tried to make it work, but it didn’t--just like married couples try to make it work but sometimes still end up divorced.  It wasn’t the easiest thing to share custody, but I doubt it is at any age.

Are you on welfare/state assistance?
Yes, before I turned 18, my daughter was on state-funded medical insurance. We also received the help of WIC. However, the first day I was able to, I got a full-time job with benefits and cancelled the WIC and insurance. People seem to look down on others who receive state assistance, and I’ve never understood why. Everyone has hard times and need help getting back on their feet - that is why the state programs are there. 

The question implies more than that, though. Maybe that I'm not capable of taking care of myself or that I'm lazy or dependent. That I'm somehow taking advantage of the system or a burden on you, the taxpayer. All of those assumptions are insulting. None of them are true. I was 16 and I needed help. I accepted the help that was offered to me so that I could finish my education. 

And honestly, it's bad manners to go around asking people how they provide for themselves and their kids. Did you ask that lady over there if she's having trouble paying her mortgage? Did you ask that random dude over there if his parents helped him buy his car? No. Because it's really not your business and it's kind of rude and disrespectful. But you'll ask me if I'm on welfare. Here's the thing - I deserve the same basic courtesy you would show anyone else. Anyone who can't see that is a domestic enemy.  

It was really irresponsible of you to get pregnant
Yes, I suppose it was irresponsible. I took birth control every day. I’m not trying to dismiss the way this changed my life; I’m just trying to make the point that unplanned pregnancies don’t happen only to teenagers. And while it may have been irresponsible for me to become pregnant – that was the last irresponsible thing I did regarding my daughter.  From the moment she was born my world has revolved around her.  I didn’t “pawn her off” on anyone else – yes I had help from my parents – but at the end of the day, she was and still is my responsibility.  

(Quick note: Because I'm a huge public health nerd, I thought I'd add that according to a 2011 CDC report, 49% of all pregnancies in the US were unintended. That's a lot, right? - Lydia)

Wasn’t it hard taking care of her as a baby, when you were so young yourself?
This question has always bothered me. Of course it was hard at times. However, I don’t think at any age you want to get up with a screaming baby three times a night. What I’m saying is that for a parent of any age there are challenging moments to being a parent.  The hardest part though, if you really think about it, is that because I was 16, there was no T-Box for me. Keep that in mind when you look down on a teen mom, at least after a long stressful day, you can curl up with a glass of wine… She can’t!

And one last note/dedication to my “Peanut”
As my daughter has grown, I’ve decided that I am grateful for having her as young as I did. I certainly had more energy when she was a baby than I do now; we have a friend with a toddler and he exhausts me after just a few hours. Also, I can remember and relate a bit more to what she is going through in life now. 

But the best part?  Overhearing her tell her friends that I am her best friend and that, in fact, she believes we are soul mates and were meant to be brought together. I am her friend, but I'm her mom first and I know for certain we were meant to be together and don't regret for a second bringing her into the world. 

I’d say, overall, that even though I had her “when I was a baby myself”, we’re doing alright.

(c)Herding Turtles 2009 - 2013

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