Which is why I like how you put that — that “young moms are encouraged to accept failure.” To many, pregnancy and parenthood is the punishment teen moms should bear for becoming parents before it’s socially acceptable. We’re set up to fail, and when some of us do fail, we are used as object lessons to scare our peers into not getting pregnant.
To me, that’s a terrible way of looking at a parent-child relationship. A child is NEVER a punishment. Parenthood is NOT punitive. Our relationship with our children is one of the most important and sacred relationships we will ever have. To mar that relationship with a wish for emotional trauma or psychological punishment because the mom in this equation violated some social contract is really, truly messed up.
What helped me when I was down and I felt like the world was on my shoulders was understanding that all of this was happening in a particular context, where not only young mothers face judgement and derision, but mothers in general do as well. In other words, it wasn’t about me. This wasn’t *my* failure, or a failure at all. Women have children in less than ideal circumstances ALL THE TIME and everything turns out fine for all involved. ALL THE TIME. All the time.
You know, in Western cultures, we give a lot of lip service to motherhood. We call motherhood special, we valorize our own mothers, we say it the most important job on earth, but in practice there’s very little out there that supports mothers as a class of people. As a culture, we can barely come to an agreement on whether children, the most vulnerable population among us, have the right to food, clean water, safe homes, and access to health care. As teenage parents, we are on the receiving end of some particularly nasty judgement because we happen to hit a lot of these buttons: we’re young, we tend to have less wealth, we tend to have less education. And because the system is set up against us, a lot of folks as satisfied just shaking their heads and telling us we should have kept our legs closed.
That’s not good enough. You do have rights. You have the right to work, to attend college, to live in safe neighborhoods, to access quality health care and nutrition for your children. Some jerk’s false perception of you as a promiscuous loser — whether this jerk be your parent, your uncle, your freshman English teacher, or some stranger — is not a valid reason to prevent you from accessing these resources. In cases like this, knowledge is power. Know what your rights are and how exactly to exercise them when someone is putting up roadblocks to keep you from reaching your goals. What someone else thinks about you is none of your business. Forget their judgement.
The whole thing is excellent, and you should check it out.
I’d also recommend The PushBack’s blog. It’s really incredible — it’s a project of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, but it represents moms nation-wide. And it’s written by and for teen parents. It represents a variety of experiences and viewpoints, but is across the board well-edited and thoughtful. And because it’s designed to support teen parents and to share experiences, it’s not a finger-wagging lecture about Babies Having Babies; it’s actually nuanced and interesting.