Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teen Mom

My oldest daughter, who is in school training to become a clinical psychologist, convinced me to watch Teen Mom with her. My initial perception was that the show glorifies teenage motherhood, and I was appalled. It really does not. In fact, I would go so far as to say that every pre-teen girl (and boy) should watch the show.
I had a friend in high school who became a mother at 16, and is one of the best mothers I've ever known. However, she did have to quit school. She worked part time while her aunt watched her daughter, and she got her GED. She had a lot of help from her family and so everything worked out.
This situation seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
I was not a teen mother. However, I did marry young. I married my high school sweetheart at 19. We did not have kids right away, but when we had them they came in fairly quick succession. I had my oldest daughter when I was 22. I learned the hard way that you can become pregnant while nursing. It was probably the first time that my (then) husband and I had sex after Andi's birth that I got pregnant with Olivia. My daughters are eleven months and 27 days apart. So I ended up raising two babies at the same time. I jokingly refer to them as the twins born elevenish months apart.
This did put a strain on my marriage, but to Rick's and my credit, we did try to work it out. We had something of a honeymoon period when I got pregnant with our son, probably on Valentine's day of 1989. Jason was born prematurely on October 11, 1989. Rick and I were 25 years old, and our finances were demolished by Jay's and my medical bills. Essentially, this was the death knell for our marriage as well, but we tried to make it work for another five years.
Rick's and my breakup was as amicable as possible and not unexpected. But I felt like I had failed my family. Rick handled it better than I did. I went into a severe depression and am forever grateful for the times that my brother helped with his nieces and nephew. My son particularly benefited from my brother's kindness and support. I feel glad that my kids always had positive male role models in their lives, including my brother, my current husband, my dad, my uncles, cousins, and yes, my ex-husband too! Some single moms are not so lucky.
Having children, particularly so many in succession, is difficult enough on young adults--or perhaps on any adults not in a secure financial situation. The effects of teen pregnancy cannot be trivialized. It is difficult for everyone involved, particularly for the children. Most teenage parents break up, often the father does not remain involved in the child's life. I'm not saying that this is always the case, but it seems fairly prevalent.
My first husband and I will always treasure our children and thankfully we remained friends in spite of what frustrations we may have had with each other. But we were not properly prepared to have children even though we were adults. How can teenagers be expected to take on such a responsibility?
Although the Teen Mom show does NOT in fact glorify teen pregnancy, other forms of media (i.e. magazines and tabloids) do give these girls "15 minutes of fame," which I do not see as a positive thing. This, not the show itself, is what might encourage vulnerable girls to believe that they can gain the adulation they crave by getting pregnant. 
15 minutes of fame is not worth a lifetime of struggle.
Children are precious. It is worth it to wait until one has one's own life in order to bring them into the world.