I flick through the world of television, and see teen mothers portrayed in different formats - news reports, reality shows, comedy sketches. And you know what? I don’t recognise myself in one single portrayal. You see, I’m not part of an “epidemic”, I’m not a statistic to be waved around to support abstinence only education or to be used as a headline on a piece about how teenagers have no ambition or sexual awareness or responsibility. I’m also too normal to have a whole MTV show devoted to the antics of my life. And a comedian would be hard pressed to find something about me to caricature to fill a sketch.
I have two degrees and a good job. I own a modest little house with my partner. I’m planning my wedding. I like indie music, making lists and painting my nails cute colours. I have a crazy little dog. I am a feminist, trained as a midwife and am passionate about finding little ways to love life. I am also a mother to two sons. And one of those sons just happens to have been born when I was still in my teens.
Does that last fact make me a bad or lesser person? Sometimes I think the media would like you to think so, and I have spent the eleven years since I became a teenage mother watching people make an assessment of me when we meet. It is clear when someone is mentally trying to figure out my age when I tell them I have a tween son. And it is also clear when they are struggling to reconcile the woman in front of them with what they expect of someone who had a kid while her friends were still in school. This used to make me feel uncomfortable. But more often now I like to think that by simply not fitting into the awful stereotype coined by the media, I am doing my bit to break down the barriers to people really seeing women and girls like me. And seeing us for what we are - individuals, just raising our kids.