Newsflash: television doesn’t properly depict the life of a teen mom. I know, shocking, right? If you’ve watched any reality television, you’re aware that episodes only give us a glimpse into the heavily edited “real” reality. Teen Mom, a spin-off of MTV’s 16 & Pregnant follows original “cast member” moms through their babies’ first year. It’s kind of train-wreck-y, kind of interesting and a world away from most young moms’ experiences with parenting.
The truth is that the teen mom journey is not easily depicted, even by multiple moms, on a television show, reality or fictional. Despite what supporters of reality television will tell you, cameras change things. So do editors. And prospects of fame. Even with the currently famous teen moms on MTV, we also don’t get to see what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling -- or what was deemed “too boring” for viewers. The eighth diaper change of the morning is not all that interesting.
Neither is a teen mom who gets her act together, strives to build a future for herself and her child and generally succeeds in life. Where’s the drama in that? Despite what television producers might think, those moms are immensely interesting and extremely important to our society.
Luckily, there are some great young moms (and some who have grown up but started as young moms) on the Internet who have chosen to blog their experiences with us. Sometimes they do it for themselves, as we all know blogging can be a form of therapy. Sometimes they share their experiences to debunk all of the myths and stereotypes that surround them, to hush the judgments and stop the nasty looks. Like most moms who blog, sometimes they simply want to share their experiences, pictures and life with other like-minded people.
Whatever their reasons for blogging, we are lucky that they’ve chosen to keyboard up and put their lives -- and hearts -- on the line. We can learn so much.
Recently, Cassie Boorn blogged her thoughts about the Teen Mom show, which she has not watched nor does she plan to do so. In her heartfelt post, she talked about avoiding the subject of how old she was when her son was born. She attempts to appear, talk and act older than she is to avoid the inevitable questions. She brings up an important point about young mothers and society.
As a society. As women. As humans capable of making mistakes. We have to stop focusing on the tragedy of having babies too young and start focusing on supporting and building up the young girls that had a baby too young.
Trust me, young girls know all of the reasons why they shouldn’t have babies. Very few sixteen year old girls want to give up prom for dirty diapers. They understand that motherhood is alot of work and can wait.
But the young girls that have found themselves in this struggle that is being a young mother? They are met with shameful looks. They are told how to parent not asked how they want to parent. They are encouraged to take the low paying job and to not shoot too high. They are put on reality television shows and giggled at as they fumble through what has to be the hardest time in their lives.
Cassie also has a great series of reader-submitted ""20something Letters", written to our younger selves. Some deal with pregnancy, others don't. But read them. They're fascinating.
Last month, Kim chose to combat comments on a previous post by another blogger at Momaroo with her own, entitled “I Got Pregnant at 18, and I AM Proud.” She takes on the idea that “no one who got pregnant at 18 should be proud” by describing all of the things that she did before and after her son arrived and just why she is proud.
No one should be proud of being 18 and pregnant? I'm really proud of the pregnant-18-year-old-me. Before my son was born, I graduated high school, got married, got my cosmetology license, and a job. I moved out of my parents' house, and my husband and I were paying our own bills.
It’s not all fun and games, of course. Just as we know well-aged adults who make poor parenting decisions, other teen moms have noticed that not all of their young mom sisters are handling motherhood all that well. Sierra, who found out she was pregnant shortly after she graduated high school, has some strong words in a post titled, “If You Can’t Take Care of Your Child, Please Don’t Have One.” (Which is probably good advice whatever your age.) She gives a shout out to those, like her, who are getting the job done before taking others to task.
I was 17 when I got pregnant, and 18 when I had my beautiful boy.. And I’ve never looked at him and thought, “well because of you I cant do anything, nothing that I want to do, because I haven’t grown up enough to maturely love my child.” Having a child is not like having a pet that you feed and play with for a minute then just leave alone the rest of the day. They are not a novelty- they need constant nurturing and love, so they can learn and become independent one day.
One very successful teen mom (all grown up) recently learned that one of her young mom friends from high school died. She compared and contrasted their decisions over the years. You want to cheer for Tiffany and the success she found in her life despite starting out on a difficult path. The post takes a turn you don’t quite expect though, when she admits that Mandie had the right idea.
You were so right, girl. And I was so wrong.
What did all that chasing get me? I lost out on so many years with my daughter that I'll never get back. Those stupid degrees and fancy schmancy titles weren't worth it. But you know that. You knew it then, but I was certain I was going to prove you wrong.
That makes me reassess some of my goals, the time I’m spending with and away from my children and a whole host of other introspective parenting questions.
All of these moms also make me smile. I walked a little in their shoes, though I ended up traveling a different path. I do know how it feels to be judged based on the age you were when two lines showed up on a pregnancy test. I applaud them for giving voice to the experience, for reminding others that judging books by covers -- or mothers by ages -- is not only unfair, it’s just plain silly.
As far as reviews of Teen Mom, feelings are mixed. MommyBurgh originally liked the idea but has been put off by recent antics on the show.
What happened to the show? It went from being educational to a disaster! These girls must know that they are now famous and just want to be drama queens. It is no longer about the babies, or being a mom, but the drama surrounding them. It is almost like they saw the success of Jersey Shore and decided to bank on that concept.
She finishes her post with the thought that maybe MTV should just go back to worrying about 16 & Pregnant and leave these girls alone. However, with an adoption facilitator helping with the casting of the up-coming season, I question the ethical basis of the original show.
The mom behind 3 Little Dutch Girls + A Boy has chosen to use Teen Mom as a subject-starter with her daughters. She poses some good points.
I have been on the receiving end of those looks that say "You are an awful mother" when I mention that I allow my daughter to watch such trash. I have watched every episode with Caroline and it has brought up all kinds of discussions. I am under no illusion that my daughters are immune to pre-marital sex and the risks that go with sexual activity. Yes, we teach them abstinence. Yes, they go to a Christian school. Do Christian school kids have sex? Um, yeah. I will use everything in my parental arsenal to help them make the right choices.
As our world becomes more and more tech-inclined, I imagine more young, expectant mothers will turn to the Internet, and more specifically, blogs to help them figure out how to manage their new life path. I am so glad that there are great blogging moms recounting their experiences so that those yet to come don’t feel so alone ... especially when television shows offer such a skewed view.
Here are some great resource sites for young moms:
- 8 Tips for Pregnant Teens at All Women Stalk. It includes great advice like telling your parents (a must) and not being depressed.
- Various “young moms clubs” like Teen Moms Club, Inc. and the Young Mothers Club at CafeMom.
- The book Rockabye: From Wild to Child by the blogger Rebecca Woolf at Girl’s Gone Child.
- The blog The Young Mommy Life which was created in 2008 to make 20something moms more visible and give us a place where we feel like we belong.
Do you know or were you a teen mom who broke through stereotypes, judgments and nasty looks? Do you have any words of advice for those struggling to make their way through motherhood with the additional weight of society’s disgruntled brow? Share your stories here. (Reviews and/or thoughts of Teen Mom are welcome!)
Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) is a Moms & Family Contributing Editor for BlogHer. She blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.
More from parenting