Ok, so I have completely stayed away from anything that could be remotely construed as controversial so far here at the table. I don’t like long fights in discussion boards, and well just wanted people to like me. But, as anybody who knows me would tell you, that was only bound to last so long. (I think a month was quite the superior show of restraint) So here we go…
Unless you are living under a rock, (with your laptop, which seems unlikely) you’ve heard of this show on MTV called Teen Mom. This show, amongst other things has really brought into mainstream everyday discussion being a teenage mother. I have watched several episodes of both Teen Mom and Teen Mom2, mostly because RedBird enjoys them and we can veg out on a Tuesday night for some trashy TV. Do I let GirlChild watch this show? Absolutely not. I let her watch the ABC Family’s Secret Life of the American Teenager, because I will (kinda) watch it with her and it’s a great way to induce a little practical & moral discussion/direction with my young teen daughter. But Teen Mom? No, these girls are a hot mess, and they make me way too angry almost every episode I see.
Here’s the thing, I was/am (not sure the semantics-someone feel free to correct me on this) a teenage mother. I was 17 when GirlChild was born, married her father, had BoyChild I at age 19, and was divorced by my 21st birthday. So I can look back at myself over a decade ago and see the teenage me in these girls right, actually no, no I can’t. Am I sitting here saying I had my life together at 17? Duh, no, I was pregnant at 17. However, these girls make the 17 year old me look like the most logical, pulled together, responsible, respectful, considerate, and mature 17 year old you’ve ever met. (by the way I wasn’t)These girls give teenage mothers a bad name. I’m not saying that it’s all roses and sunshine in reality, but these girls are so extremely bad at what they are portraying that reality is lost about 5 minutes into every episode.
So, no other reality TV show pisses me off like this one does. I don’t really watch them as a rule, I’m just not entertained by them. But I don’t get angry at the producers for airing those shows either. Why the hate? I have spent 14 years of my life living down a stigma. 14 years of “Are you baby-sitting your younger siblings? How Sweet.” and “Are you old enough to be her mother?” or “Haven’t you figured out what caused that yet?” or (in front of a toddler) “Why didn’t you just have an abortion? Wouldn’t that have been better?”. I deliberately dress only in certain clothes if I am going places with my kids, I jokingly call these clothes my mom wardrobe, for the purpose of looking older. I think every mother, to a certain extent wrestles with some self doubt, and some doubt of others. But the teenage mom gets this everyday, every minute of everyday in spades. At an age where most girls are trying to figure out where they are going for spring break we are trying to make real life impacting decisions that make adult women nervous to be making.
A few points I want to make clear. I do not regret having any of my children, I love them more than I could have ever imagined loving anyone. If I could go back would I change it? No, I wouldn’t be the mom, or the person, I am today without having lived through that experience. (and for the record I’ve discovered that after 30 you suddenly become a fan of yourself, which is totally cool) Would I recommend for anyone to have a baby/ get married before you graduate high school? No, no I would not. (BTW I did graduate, on time, but I worked my ass of to do it & my daughter attended at 6 weeks old my graduation) Am I writing any of this to make someone feel sorry for me? No, I made choices, stupid, childish choices, that affect me to this day. No one at 17 or younger (& quite frankly most 25 and younger) should be making adult decisions, they aren’t ready, they think they are but they aren’t. I wasn’t, I just knew I was ready and so in love. I can look back and say that both of those statements were as true as they could be when I was 16, 17, and 18 years old. Here’s the thing though, they were my choices to make, good, bad or indifferent. I had to make those choices, then I had to live with the consequences of those choices.
That’s why I can’t stand these shows, even the Secret Life dose it but it’s at least not claiming “reality”, these girls aren’t living as real teen moms. These girls go on job interviews dressed sloppy, and don’t follow the instructions of their interviewers and manage to get jobs. They work part time, or less but somehow have money for food clothes, etc. They attend college while other people watch their kids for free, which I get sometimes happens, but every time? No, I don’t think so. They rent apartments or houses. Where can you sign a lease at 17, or 18 with no job for that matter? These girls are treated like celebrities, but claim to be living as “real” teen moms. It’s an injustice to any real teen moms. Girls should know that being a mom is hard, being a teen mom is even harder.
This show also is perpetuating a nasty stereotype, one I’ve had to live with the last 14 years. My SIL is a young mom, she was 19 when her son was born, and my brother, her husband is her baby’s father. She feels similarly to me on this. (not as angry I think-but I’ll give her time lol) Just the other day she was at work and was randomly interrogated by a customer. (She works in food service, so in order to keep her job she was forced to stand there and be polite to the man asking her these questions) “Why didn’t you just have an abortion or give it up for adoption to someone who could be a good parent?” My nephew is 3 and quite healthy/happy/smart, thank you very much. “You’re married? But not to your baby’s father, right?” “Oh, he is your baby’s father? Did you get married just because you were pregnant?” “Why do you work here? Why don’t you work a real job?””Who takes care of your son?” It went on for quite a while. This is not an isolated incident. I’ve had strangers ask me these same questions and others. I once had a child in an emergency room do to the fact that each day for the 4 days prior I took him to the Pediatrician because I was afraid he was dehydrated only to be (literally) patted on the head and told, “he’ll eat and drink when he’s hungry or thirsty”. He was admitted to the ER with severe dehydration, and the first thing that was said to me?” This is why little girls shouldn’t have babies, yours almost died because you didn’t know how to take care of him.” A social worker was called. By the way I was 21 at the time, but looked like a teenager still, I was charged with neglect, and it was later dismissed in court, but its that attitude that I’ve fought as a mom. Shows like Teen Mom only encourage that attitude, which I can tell you can be dangerous to both the moms and those little babies.
Well, now that I ranted to you all, I’m curious, what is your position on teenage parents, shows like Teen Mom, and why?