A couple of days ago a friend of mine said to me, “I was thinking about the first time I met you. You were 16, had just had your daughter and I felt for you. I had no idea what would become of you. I cannot tell you how incredibly proud I am of you now.”
I took those words to heart. You’re no strangers to the ads, the campaigns, the initiatives that shame teen parents and ostracize teen mothers for their “mistakes.” I get invited to speak at various events and my first thoughts before stepping to the podium is always “Who will defy me today? Who will question me and say I’m the exception?” The more events I attend and the more my writings and opinions are shared and published; I feel however that I am helping in making a difference about the image of young parents.
Many of the young mothers in my circle have become advocates for our children, for our issues, and for our peers. We work hard to show the rest of the world and the non-believers that teen mothers have a hidden potential that can only be unwrapped if given the support they need. I am amazed every day at how people I meet come in with a negative perspective about young moms, bad mouth them, only to then realize that the person they’re talking to was a former teen mother. Is it fun to see their jaws drop to the floor? You bet; it never gets old. But more than enjoying that, I love the opportunity to tell them I’m not the only young parent who has NOT become a statistic. Their interest in young parents and the services out there allows me to educate them on the factors of teen pregnancy, the lack of resources, and the importance of having adults who are non-judgmental.
When I left my previous job for a better position I was given a small surprise going away party. My boss, a very successful woman and a Chief in my department said the best thing a supervisor could say. She told my coworkers how amazing it was for her to have met me because I was truly making a difference in the world. I had a private conversation with her and she told me how she had never thought about all the repercussions teen parents face, and how she admired all the work we did to help others achieve true success. It felt great to hear such encouraging words, not because she was praising me, but because I had changed someone’s opinion about teen parents.
I am now the parent of a 6th grader in a wonderful magnet school. I am in the same room as many parents who are quite frankly, old enough to be my own parents. As I have become friends with them the conversation of how I’m a young mom has also become a favorite of theirs. My work is never done, and I always make sure they know I’m not the exception. One of them said to me the other day she read our blog and was proud to see the work of teen parents.
Pat yourself in the back, and continue to do the work you’re doing. You’re making a difference for the teen parents that are still finding out how powerful they can be.