So many things going on in the head of a new mother, how much more a teen mom? Teen moms have to combat stereotypes, negativity and sometimes the stress of being a single parent. It is a lot to carry around for a teen. Many may find themselves isolated from peers and circles they used to belong to. Because they are now caring for their child, it can feel like they just don’t belong among former friends or other teens. I felt this way. I felt a strange sense that I was different. It was always with me. I still went to parties, I still went to prom and other social events, but the fact that I was now a parent never really left me. If I went out at night, I still had this lingering feeling in the back of my mind that when I got home, my son was waiting. In some ways it was good for me. I avoided heavy drinking and drugs thinking,
“What if my son needs me? I can’t be high unable to get sober. I can’t afford to end up in the hospital or worse.”
Although I sometimes benefited by default, being a teen parent isolated me from the majority of same aged peers. Unfortunately, adults and teachers can also cast a judgmental light on a young parent. Even within my own family there was such a high level of ignorance and apprehension. They didn’t see what I had faced at school and the pressure I was under. They simply judged and held the assumption that I was bad. I must be. I got pregnant at 15 – good girls don’t do that, right? Even though some people in my family and society never made a rude comment while managing to fake a smile at me and my child, their opinions were crystal clear. They lacked compassion and the ability to sincerely support me, a young lady, who had endured being victimized by her peers and culture. People on the outside did not know nor understand my story, yet they felt sure I was worthy of shame for the sake of tough love and being taught a lesson.
So there I was, feeling all this. Different. Isolated. Hurting in so many ways with no real loving wisdom to commune with. The reality of growing up was still on me. I still was experiencing the pressure to be successful and make something of myself. I still had competition in my family and fellow teens. They were all making plans to graduate and go onto college. They were getting jobs and talking about moving out on their own. I was thinking about my future also, but I was doing it as a young parent. It was a lot. Priceless how as human beings we have the ability to survive and find a way.
I distinctly remember one of the ways I stayed encouraged. It was going to visit my Grandfather on Sundays. Ever since I was very young, my mother’s family had gotten together on Sundays after church for lunch. It was a casual get together, you never had to call ahead. Every single Sunday, my Grandfather opened his home to all of us. There was always a simple lunch of sandwiches or hot dogs on the grill, and there was always coffee with cookies for dessert. We talked and visited. I was grateful for the familiar faces and to be fed, but that’s not really why I went.
At the end of every visit when we said goodbye, my Grandfather would give me a big hug and say, “You’re doing a great job!”
My Grandfather was known for his bear hugs. I had been receiving them as a parting right ever since I was a little girl. When we were small, we would all giggle in his arms after a giant squeeze and his “good-bye – I love you!”. But his message to me changed after I became a teen mom. I love you was still implied, but now he made sure to speak these words of power over me every time we met, “YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!”.
I do not know if I can convey in this post what that did for me. I am not sure if my skills as a writer are up for the task, because when he spoke it, I didn’t believe it. I was so broken and overwhelmed, so isolated and alone; I really could not accept that I was doing a good job. This is true even though I had never given up and was doing my best. If I was doing a good work, why didn’t it feel better, easier? I needed to hear his words. I went back again and again, Sunday after Sunday, just to hear that steady voice of optimism over my situation. I went just to hope he was right, just to be assured one more time. It was like a life line. It was like if someone in my world doesn’t believe in my chance to make it out, I won’t. Thank God for my Grandfather. Thank God for others like my Teen Mom mentor at school, who was another powerful voice I had to speak hope and confidence into our lives. This is what a Teen Mom needs to hear:
You’re doing a great job!
You can do anything you set your mind to!
There is hope for you and your child!
Keep going and keep chasing your dreams!
1 in 3 American girls will become pregnant by age 19, do you think you might come across a Teen Mom in your grocery store or at the local library? 1 of 10 babies born in the U.S. is born to a Teen Mom, do you think your children and grandchildren will have companionship with these kids as their peers in school? What about at your Church? If statistics tell us you will likely have a connection with a Teen Mom in society, can you make a conscious choice to support her with one word of encouragement? I hope so America – Together we can change the risks to these vulnerable families. #PleasingAbba