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#ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear | The PushBack

#ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear

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:

NatashaVianna
 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

Scarleteen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been 24 hours and the conversation has not ended! Read what young moms have to say:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

I get the exact same comments

I get the exact same comments here in the UK. constantly people accuse me of promoting teen pregnancy because i have started my degree and my son goes to a private school funded by me and my partner who work our backsides off for him. the constant look of disapproval and more irritatingly, pity and sympathy do my head in. my son will be 4 in december, i was 15 when i fell pregnant, left school with 10 GCSEs and then went on to get 3 alevels. i am 20 now and still people think i am his big sister or babysitter. i look after my 5 year old niece quite often as well and the looks get even worse when i have the 2 of them together. but i just hold my head high, and show people that i am above all of their comments. i am proud of what i have achieved and although i was a young mum, and my sons father isnt around (his own choice not mine), my fiance is a better dad than anyone else could ever be. so to all young mummies out there, i know it is tough, but do your best to hold your head up high, you are a fantastic mum and dont let bigoted ignorant people tell you otherwise. as long as you do whats best for your child, and what is best for you, (you cant forget yourself in the whole thing, we need some 'me' time once in a while, but that is okay. parents of all ages need that) then there is no problem and these people are just trying to create drama because theyre lives must be so dull and boring they feel the need to have cause upset where it isnt needed. i might be a young mum, i might not be the best, but i try my hardest and that is all that matters.

Natasha's picture

Thank you Sophie!

I appreciate your kind words and know many young mothers feel touched by your experience. The fact that you are in the UK and I am in the US and we both face the same issues shows how far we feel this discrimination. Society has a lot of brainwashing to undo. I'm thankful for those who are sharing their voices and helping us spread awareness.

 

A different perspective

I'm not a mom but I came across this post and felt the need to chime in. I'm 14 and did a lot of babysitting this summer for a family with a 5 year old, and 4 year old, and a 1 year old. I often took the kids to the park. I could not believe the amount of stares and "looks" that I got from people. I was asked several times if I was their mother. I, of course, said no. I am so glad that I wan't really the mom, who would have had to endure all of the questions.
By the way, thank-you to all of the moms who kept their babies. I nearly went crazy babysitting this summer, I'm so glad that I don't have to be the full-time parent. I really respect the choice you made in keeping your baby, even if society doesn't.

A socially acceptable prejudice

Thank you Natasha - I had my daughter at 19 and experienced the prejudice and discrimination you highlighted. In my humble opinion it is unacceptable to be racist, homophobic, sexist etc. at least explicitly and in public!
But the prejudice young parent’s face is completely acceptable in public, explicit, and out loud for all to hear. In the 13 years since I have had my daughter I have experienced this from family, friends, my former GP, midwives, health visitors right up to elected representatives of my country to complete strangers in the street. Among the things I have heard – ‘it will either make or break you and I am betting on breaking’ (family), ‘can’t we just meet for coffee, it is embarrassing when you turn up with her’ (friend - friendship lasted for 3 seconds after this comment), ‘your daughter does not have a serious heart condition, you are overreacting which is typical of teenage mums’ (my family doctor – two weeks later my daughter joined the waiting list for open heart surgery for a very serious heart condition and I left his practice). As I am sure all young mums understand this list could go on and on and it is time to talk about this. Until I was made redundant 11 months I worked with young parents, providing advice, support and information on housing, benefits (US: welfare), family issues (basically anything that presented as a barrier to independence, education, employment or training). Over the 11 years I had the privilege to do my job, I have met hundreds if not thousands of other young parents and I can say that the majority are truly inspiring; they like me experience prejudice and rise above it and not to it, challenge people’s perceptions of young parents and above all work hard at being the best parent they can. It is heart-warming to know that even though there is a huge ocean between us, that young parents (and people that are not so young but once upon a time were young parents) are talking to each other and sharing their experiences.

This is a little late, but I

This is a little late, but I wanted to contribute. I became a mom at 17. I am now 32 years old and people still make rude comments and stare at me scornfully. At times I want to scream at them and ask them what are you staring at like that. Or tell them about my accomplishments and how I have overcome many challenges. I want to tell them not to worry I am not and have never touched anyones tax money, I have tried to be as productive as possible. I have been married for 12 years now and have two children with my husband. No my children are not from several fathers! No I don't have to say no to my husband when he wants to have sex with me! And just because I was a teen mother dose not mean I should spend the rest of my life alone, or give me the right to start a family within a stable relationship.

I meant or does not give me

I meant or does not give me the right to start a family within a stable relationship.

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