I had been meaning to write a response about the different ads run by the Candies Foundation which were shaming teen parents. I have to admit, that while I wanted to sit down and blog about it, I was too busy – changing the world. You see, I am a 26-year old single mother of an 11 year-old and 9-year old. If you do the math, that means I was a teen mother. I was the statistic who had not ONE, but TWO children before the age of 20. So if I was changing diapers as a teenager, what am I doing writing now?
In a nutshell, this week I was working a Telethon with my organization, I was busy meeting the Baltimore Ravens (yes, the Super Bowl champs), and I was going to school – not for my GED, for my Master’s. Sometimes, you have to be assertive, not be confused with arrogant, I’m not the statistic, I’m not just another teen mom, I’m a person who happened to get pregnant but found support in people who were able to see beyond that and helped me succeed.
When I got pregnant at the age of 15, I found myself alone, ostracized, and humiliated. Society was quick to label me and seemed to think I had no future. Furthermore, they seemed to know what the future of my child would be like. What they didn’t know was why I had become pregnant. They had no background information on my trauma, nor did they care to ask. They had no idea I was in an abusive relationship, and that my childhood had set a precedent for the things I was enduring at the time. No one understood that my experiences had led me to make the choices I had made. When I see the cruel campaigns shaming teen parents, I get angry because 1. They’re condescending, and 2. They provide no background or research on the reasons that lead teens to the choices they make.
I’ve been very lucky to have connected with people who have encouraged me and supported my desire to be a better person. I’m not the exception – there are thousands of young parents in the nation who have the exact same desire but need a little help. Ads like these foster feelings of inferiority because the people who read them think young parents have no potential. The people behind these ads seem to forget that being a teen parent is just like being an “older” parent; it’s just part of who you are, not all of who you are. Having a child is not a disability so there is no reason why setting and achieving goals is impossible. Is it harder? Of course. Can it take longer? Maybe. With the right support, young parents can change diapers and be contributing members to society.
Today, I’m an advocate for young parents, for teen parents, and for young families. I have lobbied in Capitol Hill, written many articles, spoken at many events, and continue to pursue my goals. I enjoy motherhood more than I ever could have imagined, and I have learned to accept the role I walked into because I was finally able to understand I’m not a bad person for getting pregnant when I wasn’t supposed to. My children are wonderful kids, and not a day goes by that people don’t compliment their behavior and comment on their bubbly personalities. As I continue my journey, I never forget to thank those who always believed in me and hope that I too serve as an inspiration for other young parents.
I would love to meet with the people behind those ads and ask if they know any teen parents. I’d also love to ask them how they think they’ve changed the world. I already have my answer.
Please sign our petition. We are requesting a meeting with Mr. Neil Cole, Founder of the Candie’s Foundation. We’d like to discuss the impact of the Candie’s shaming campaign on young parents like us, and offer ways the Candie’s Foundation can shift its approaches to include: increasing comprehensive sexual education, putting a halt on shaming tactics, and using messaging that supports and empowers all young people to make the best decisions for themselves. Join the conversation on twitter using #NoTeenShame.