Once upon a time… I was a teen mom.
And not the MTV kind of teen mom. There were no cameras… in fact, I didn’t even have enough money to buy a camera before my baby was born.
I was 18 years young when, after 36hours of labour (and brutal ageist discrimination by medical personnel- something I will discuss in a later post), I delivered my baby girl… That was over 12 years ago now.
I once had a college professor who proclaimed “there is no such thing as a teen mom. Once a woman becomes a mother she is no longer a teenager.” I believed this wholeheartedly.
At age 20 I entered college as a mature student. I never got the chance to finish highschool, but managed to excel and graduate at the top of my class from my diploma program, giving me entrance to a bachelors degree program, which I also completed at the top of my class.
I spent almost 5 years in college and university – I graduated with an early childhoood education diploma, and a bachelors degree in child development. I fought for 5 years for teen mothers. I stood up to every professor who included “teenage parents” in the list of red flags for children. And I was convincing. More than once I had professors who had been teaching the same thing for 20years change their mind, and decide that being born to a teenage parent was not a risk factor; I personally convinced them that age was no factor. That a woman at 18, and a woman at 38 both are equally unaware of what motherhood truly is, what it takes to be a good mother, until she gives birth to her first child.
You see, as far as teen parents are concerned, I was as good as they come. I got pregnant by my highschool boyfriend. He didn’t leave. We got our own apartment, we supported ourselves and our baby independently with hard work a perseverance. We did not use the welfare system or any other government assistance, except for help with childcare costs. Something that I only received because I personally wrote a letter to our local government explaining who we were – and explaining that my only hope in the world was to do better for our daughter- I wanted to work full time until I was old enough to go to post secondary as a mature student. And I did just that.
When our daughter was 3, we were married, and when our daughter was 5 we had moved up enough in the world that we we no longer qualified for student loans, or childcare subsidy, and we had enough savings to purchase our first home.
I stood by my beliefs that age was no matter when it came to being decent parents. Rather, it was the choice of the individuals… and then, at age 27 I gave birth to our second child.
That’s when my thought process completely changed.
In raising our next two children I started recognizing the massive differences in being a mother in my late twenties/thirties and being a mother as a teenager.
What it comes down to, is that no matter how great a teen mother is doing, there is no denying the fact that she missed a massive part of her life. Her brain skipped an entire portion of development. She missed learning lessons. She missed taking risks.I learned more from my daughter in those early years than I think she will ever learn from me.
A woman who becomes a mother before she became an adult missed determining who she is as an Individual, and what her personal goals, desires and future prospects would be. This is fine for the first few years of motherhood, but eventually this will cause a mother to go one of two ways: 1) to get stuck in a job/town/relationship which she can do much better than, or, 2) she will get a several years into motherhood and become so determined to figure out what she needs as a person that she is overwhelmed, lost, and feels so far behind that it hurts.
A good teen mother dives into motherhood with every ounce of her being, and becomes “mom” before she ever gets the chance to become anything else. Without realizing it, she raises a child who views mothers as only mothers.
I was judged so harshly. Both by people who knew me, and by complete strangers who had the nerve to question me and my abilities as a mother. I refused to leave the house unless my daughter was dressed impeccably well… and always ensured that I was not dressed as well as her, because I wanted to make sure that all those staring and gawking full grown adults would be able to tell that I always put her needs above mine. Without even realizing it, I was teaching my child that appearance is everything. That we cared a lot about what everyone else thought about us. I taught her to be anxious and worried about other people’s opinions.
Being a teen mom meant that I was constantly on a mission to do one thing: figure out how to give my child the best life. This is an obvious thing for any parent to do, but when you’re a teen parent, you are being told by individuals, and society as a whole, that you can’t do a good job, and so it turns into a mission to prove to everyone else that not only can you do it, but that you can do it better than anyone could imagine. This meant that no matter what we had, I always needed more. No matter what I accomplished, it wasn’t enough. Without realizing it I taught my daughter to be unappreciative of what we had. I taught her that more was never enough, and I taught her that everything was a competition.
Being on such a constant kick to prove that I could do better also caused me to begin to develop extreme anxiety. Which became a normal emotion, a normal presence to my daughter, who also now has anxiety.
I was obsessed with ensuring that my child would not go without. And I couldn’t find a perfect medium, instead I worked my butt off to ensure that I could give her anything she asked for. I spoiled her with material things. Creating a child who thinks she is entitled, and should be able to have whatever she wants regardless of surrounding circumstances.
When you welcome your first child into your life before you are established in your life, you are constantly on the go to further yourself. You are rarely relaxing or taking in those precious moments. You are also so young that you don’t truly realize yet how fast life goes, and how precious those moments truly are. Forgetting to teach the child the value of treasuring the little things and moments, and failing to teach the child the true importance of relaxation, and being calm.
… and I was a “good teen mom”… I was that teen mom who beat all the teen mom statistics…
No matter how great of a teen mom a child has… there are definitely “risk factors”, simply because of the age of the mother. It’s truly hard to say who is at more risk in some regards; the mother, or the child…
At 12 years my child is doing incredibly well. She has a bright future undeterred by some personal setbacks, as well as the setbacks that came from me being her teen mother.
In reality though, she is doing so well despite what I have done for and provided her with thus far into life … but then again, maybe that’s the case with all children, regardless of the age of their mothers…?…