Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Teenage Mother Stigma (Is Bullshit)

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Safety, in 2014, there were 24.2 births for every 1,000 adolescent females ages 15-19, or 249,078 babies born to females in this a group - and not all of these births were the first for some females in this age group. One in six births were to females who already had one or more babies. 

Many people like to voice their opinions about these young girls. People judge them for being promiscuous. They judge them for making poor choices, for not using protection. They judge them for the choices they make once they find themselves pregnant. They choose to abort the pregnancy, not to abort it, put it up for adoption, or raise it, people are judging them no matter what they choose. In the predominantly Catholic community that I live in these girls are not only judged by family, friends, and strangers, they are also judged by a church that says birth control and abortion are not an option. 

I work with young mothers every day and I see the struggles first-hand. I understand because I had my daughter when I was eighteen years old. I see the exhaustion in their eyes and the need for someone to tell them that they can make it. That having a baby at a young age is not the end of the road for them. They need to hear that they can be a great mom and they can still be a strong successful woman. These are things that some of them have never heard from their own mothers. And many are looked at with shame by their own fathers.

I try to help the moms I work with to see their own self-worth and to take the word “can’t” out of their vocabulary. Many of these girls have been told they can’t their entire lives. Many have been told that they made a choice to be a mom, and that is all they can be now. Some of them try their best to stay in a relationship with the baby’s father who also tells her she can’t. Many will go from relationship to relationship looking for the love they are missing in their lives. By the time they are in their twenties, some of them have multiple children with many different fathers. 

These women are simply trying to find happiness, and no one ever stopped to tell them that happiness comes from inside yourself. No one has shared with them that it’s possible to take care of yourself and your own needs while still taking care of your child and their needs. No one has ever told them that they have a choice as to how they live their lives and whether or not they choose to continue having children. You see, I was lucky. I had a mom and a dad who, after my daughter was born, encouraged me to go to school and to be the best I could be as an example to my children. Many young girls are not that blessed.

Society needs to step up; strong successful women need to stand up and use their success, their stories of struggle, their tales of triumph, to encourage these young women to become the best that they can be. We need to destroy that mirror of shame and defeat that they look into every day and instead hold before them the mirror of hope, promise, beauty and strength.

I encourage everyone, if you have ever considered being a mentor to a young mom or a young dad, do it. The benefits are two -fold: Not only will you be enhancing the life of another, but you will be enhancing your own life as well.

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