When I was in high school, I was “diagnosed” with teen pregnancy a month after my 17th birthday. I say “diagnosed” because society promotes this idea that teen pregnancy is a disease - a contagious disease - and we must shun those infected to prevent it from reaching our own homes. Since then, I have been a witness to a condescending, disrespectful, and judgmental society that has pushed me to the edge… the edge of insanity. Contrary to popular belief, my teenage friends and peers weren’t very mean. But the adults in my life? The adults have scarred me in ways unimaginable. Recently, I have blogged on this topic… why do adults forget their manners and think it’s acceptable to tell me “You look too young to be a mom!” So I took my frustrations to the wonderful world of twitter yesterday for my 1800 followers to read:
Less than 2 hours later, I got a message telling me this hashtag has reached a dozen young moms. I read the timeline and rejoined the conversation. Shortly after, young mothers from all over the country, and as far as the UK, chimed in! For the first time ever, young mothers (who have never met each other before) joined this online community to share their frustrations and experiences. Many of us have heard the same comments and it just proves that stereotyping against young mothers is a national and international issue. Aside from the idea of pushing back the judgment we have endured, we have decided to talk about the issues that affect us personally. Some young parents have been raped, yet they are asked, “Where is this child’s father?” Some young parents are college grads, yet they are asked, “You went to college? Why? How?” Some young parents are married, yet they are asked, “Did he only marry you because you were pregnant?” There is something about a youthful appearance and a happy family that encourages adults to put on a bitter face and forget their manners.
Reading through the tweets, I felt touched, proud, and stronger than ever. As much as I find myself empowered to make change, it is genuinely inspiring to see how many young women are working on the same issue. Young moms, near and far, are speaking out against the terrible things we have heard and still hear today. Some mothers are pregnant and some are parenting college students today. Yet we all hear the same things! But this conversation is a positive one. We are reaching the eyes of many who looked the other way. What’s ever more exciting? Professionals, organizations, agencies, providers and adults who work with young parents were following the trend. They are witnessing this once in a lifetime conversation between young parents all over the world. No two young parents are the same, live in the same community, have the same story or family, or have the same life but we all hear the same exact things from the ignorant people around us. Who are these ignorant people? You would be surprised. In my case, some these comments came from my parents, my high school teachers, the guidance counselor, the school nurse, professionals working in government agencies, and even the parents I have interacted with on the playground. While I’m not specifically angry at the people who made these remarks, I am convinced we must do better as a whole society to eliminate the ignorance. Some of these comments seem almost too rude and offensive to be real, but I assure you we have all heard them - the conversation is proof.
I’m thankful, thankful for the ability to connect with young moms all over the world and be able to unite on a topic that we fight everyday. Aside from the stereotyping, we face judgment for the choices we make with our own body. We are asked for details about our sexual experience(s), relationship status, why we did or didn’t choose abortion or adoption, and about whether or not we regret having sex at an early age. Our privacy is constantly invaded by those who want to blame us for the “situation” we are in today. Because parenting young isn’t something people see as a positive life, it’s a sad, sad “situation.”
I understand the “young mom” conversation is a tough one to support. Hearing the success stories of young moms can sometimes anger people even more. If we’re not falling into the “stereotype” and have made something of our lives, we are told we are still a bad example! We are told we are promoting the concept of becoming a teen mom. When we fail, we get the “I told you so!” When we succeed, we get the “You are the exception but don’t promote teen pregnancy!” Many times, organizations (and adults in general) have a hard time supporting young parents because of their stance on teen pregnancy prevention, but Scarleteen tweeted it best:
It has been 24 hours and the conversation has not ended! Read what young moms have to say: