In the past few months, there have been a few new anonymous apps and websites developed with the intention of providing a forum for people to ‘vent’ and anonymously and share their secrets with the world. While millennials have used apps like Whisper to seek advice or share their stories with strangers, so have millennial parents. We know that some parenthood isn’t always sunshine and giggles, and this rings true for teen parenthood too.
I can imagine which feelings young parents share on Whisper, often times feelings that are regretful and wishful of a different outcome for their lives. Unfortunately, some were eager to pick up on the reality that young moms can feel regretful and overwhelmed by parenthood. Instead of asking, “Why don’t young moms have safe spaces to share their honest feelings and find support?” some chose to perpetuate the stigma that young moms are fighting against every day. Truthfully, our society hasn’t done a good job of creating a safe space for moms to vent about parenthood and our society certainly doesn’t provide a safe space for young moms to share the reality of what their lives are like without exploiting them for an unrelated agenda.
Here’s my secret:
“Mom, Mom…MOM!” All yelled within two seconds of each other. “What!” I finally respond, with a voice elevated enough to answer my neighbor’s children. I know my name is “Mom” I got it, but is it just too much to ask if I don’t have it shouted for immediate attention three times consecutively? I get, and I’m sure all moms have realized more in the last year that they will only be shouting “Mom” with loving intention and I will get annoyed by it. Does that make me a bad mother? Does my age determine whether annoyance is a valid feeling?
Like all moms, I love being a mom and I love my children, but sometimes I just don’t want to hear my children scream my name. Like all moms, sometimes I feel overwhelmed. But like most moms, these feelings don’t overpower the other things I feel unless an entire society pushes that on me. We live in a culture that constantly reminds young moms that their lives are over, that their children are mistakes, and that they have futureless predetermined destinies. Why are we surprised when those feelings are internalized?
I too have experienced similar feelings over the years as both a mother and a woman; however I don’t think that these are feelings that all young mothers are feeling predominately. And if they are, we should work to respect and recognize their valid feelings and provide the support they need to thrive. I think mothers (and fathers) of all ages feel this way, and I actually believe they are less to do with the mothering or fathering roles themselves, but more our introspective feelings as men and women, as human beings. I’m sorry (actually I’m not) but it’s a complete mistake to take a young parent’s feelings of disappointment, fear or insecurity and spin them into regret and shame as if they are feeling that way because they are young. Let’s be real: They are feeling that way because they are HUMAN and those feelings are valid! If I were in a room with ten mothers and ten fathers (ages ranging from 16-45) I’d be hard pressed to believe that the feelings that they were experiencing throughout their different stages of life would be very different when it comes to their self-reflection as parents.
Have you ever woken up and though “What If”? I’ve for one have had many “what if” moments: “What if I had not stayed in that relationship that I knew wasn’t right for so long”, “What if I was older when I had my son”, “What if I had applied for that job”, “What if I did what I really wanted to do versus what people expect me to do” “What if I hadn’t flown off the handle about that broken glass”? Many times I associate those what if’s with selfishness, I mean what kind of mother am I if I’m even thinking of what my life would look like if I didn’t have my children when I did? Maybe if I hadn’t flown off the handle about that broken glass my son would have had a better start to his morning, (insert self-deprecating thought here) “It must be because I had him so young and I’m an ill-equip mother”. After long thought and contemplation (and a life-changing training with The Circle of Security Parenting DVD) I confidently come to the conclusion that I am okay with thinking about both my past and my future in a healthy way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having healthy internal dialog about my life, about giving myself the time I deserve and quite frankly have earned to listen to my own thoughts without feeling shame. If I feel like wondering what it would be like to lay on a beach with a good book and a margarita for a week instead of chauffeuring to school, work and soccer, then guess what? I will, and…get this: I’m NOT going to feel bad or like I’m a bad mother for it either!
When I think about my future and the future of my children, I think sometimes that I am sad that they don’t have a ‘traditional family’. They don’t have mom and dad to come home to together, we don’t sing songs around the campfire with our musical instruments, and I am aware that it is a possibility that they may not have those things with me. I, like too many women, unfortunately have also had the negative thoughts that “It must be something wrong with me, or maybe I would have those things if I had made different choices”. Enough already! I’m over people associating my position in life with my having been a teen mother. I am in the same position as so many people, regardless of their age, sex, marital and/or parenting status. I don’t get to think, dream or wonder any less than you do because of my age! Anyone who says they don’t do the same is lying to you…we all do it, some of us have just become better at hiding it. How dare we dream and wonder , “You made your bed now lie in it.” (anyone who ever said that to me, by the way, that wasn’t very nice).
I don’t feel guilty for having honest and open thoughts about my life, and find peace in that because I know that we all are, whether we choose to admit it or not. My being a teen mother has not provided the avenue for these thoughts, but my being alive has, just like all of you. For those sites who have made it their point and purpose to provide an outlet for ‘young mothers or fathers’ to share their regrets about being a teen parent, I would have to say it is a cruel and manipulative message you are sending. Choosing to takes a person’s position in life (whether by choice or not) and con them into thinking they are feeling those things because of their age, when in fact they are feeling what many parents whether 16, 26, 36 or 46 years old have been, are currently and will continue to feel is manipulative and provides a false sense of security for young people who would better benefit with positive forums, celebrating their success and sharing their fears and questions with all parents.
Young people who are reaching out for support, acknowledgement and reassurance are turning to these seemingly knowing ‘resources’ only to be further shamed and isolated. To all the moms and dads, young or old, I challenge you to be honest with who and where you are in life. There should be no shame associated with self-reflection, honest self-awareness and goal-setting to provide yourselves and your families with what you most desire. You are good enough, and dammit, don’t feel bad about dreaming of the beach!