This is not something that I share with a lot of people, but well, here I am on the damn internet typing it all out. I mean, it is pretty obvious if you know how to do math--I am 27 and my daughter is 11, so that means....
I was a teen mom.
Yup, I was once 16 and Pregnant. I was one of those girls that you have probably seen and shook your head at, one of those girls buying a prom dress with a baby in tow. One of those girls at Wal-Mart looking forlorn while her mom tucks the diapers in the cart, the formula, the little onesies, all the stuff that she can't afford on her own with her hostess job. You've probably seen her 100 times, riding the Bart train with a cell phone, ignoring the tiny being in the stroller beside her while she catches up on the latest dramas, fluffs her hair. You've seen her holding the baby and wondered what her life is like, will be like, if the baby knows what a shit situation this all is, if its wise little face is cognizant of the odds stacked against it. I was her, and that baby was mine. Is mine.
I say this because I am seeing a bunch of magazine articles about teen moms lately. If they will find love, if they are pregnant again, if they are broke. And yes, I know it comes from that MTV show. I will be honest--I watched selected episodes of 16 and Pregnant, but hopped ship when they started the Teen Mom thing because I didn't like that it made celebrities out of something as serious as teenage pregnancy. Really, these kids need to be worried about getting educations and developing relationships with their children--not looking pretty for MTV. Further, it bothers me that people think all teenage parents are like that--hitting their significant others, crying about missed opportunities, constantly embroiled in some sort of made for TV drama.
It is not like that. Teenage moms are moms. They are just like you--they feel the same things, they are overwhelmed, they are joyous, they love their children. Yes, things may be harder for them and they may not have the same life that you have or want. But the thing that bothered me when I was a teenage mom was feeling so different from other moms when I knew deep down that I was experiencing much the same things. I was so lucky in that I had a wonderful mother and a boyfriend (now husband) to support me. Unfortunately, a lot of girls do not have that. And it bothers me that we as mothers and women look at these women and feel revulsion and pity and sadness. We feel like we know them because we have seen them on TV or because we think we know what they are like. But we do not. And that is sad. Just as you shouldn't judge someone for their shoes or their skin color or their religion, you shouldn't judge them for having a child early.
I recently became aware of a program in my community that provides mentoring services to teenage moms. I am getting involved with it (obviously!), but I would encourage you to look for similar programs in your area. I'm not saying devote your whole life to curing this or any other societal ill you hear someone bitching about on the internet--just see if there is a place to donate used clothing or see if they need anything. Or next time you see a girl in Target, trying to make sense of the diapers, smile at her. Smile at her baby. Ask her if she needs anything. She might tell you no, and that will be fine. But she might have a legitimate question. And she might just want someone to talk to who won't judge her. Who knows? Just be that person for a few minutes and see what happens. You could be very surprised.