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Here’s a comment I wrote on a feministing post about a woman who had a baby at 15 and dares to be proud of it at 22. Too many people, even in the feministing community, feel that having children is a right we should bestow only on monied people of the right age demographic: http://www.feministing.com/archives/014718.html#comments

She’s getting the attention because she’s smart and savvy. Had she done any other adult-like thing successfully at 15 that framed her life as she continued into college and gone on to talk about it in a campus newspaper, she would have been lauded in this forum…

But having a baby is different, it seems. And talking back to efforts to frame her as cheap are different it seems. Because she had a baby before our culture thinks she is ready to have a baby (forget whether she thinks she is ready… and hell, many people aren’t ready to have babies at 30, or 40, but we do, because that is what we do…) Also the crux is that teenage mothers = poverty.

Our culture hates those people that feed off the system, don’t we. Everybody should be self sufficient, and if you have babies in a situation where you can’t be then that is selfish. Which begs the question I brought up earlier – a woman leaves her husband, a woman’s husband dies, a woman loses her job and falls into poverty, should she be condemned for being selfish enough to still want to raise her own children and not give them up to someone with enough money… It’s not much farther along the continuum of ‘if she’s doesn’t have the money she selfish and irresponsible to have a child.

Seems to me it isn’t pregnant teens who are a drain on the system: it’s POOR pregnant teens who need help, teens from dysfunctional families, teens whose families aren’t there for them. Teens who have babies from well off families usually get the support they need from their parents, the same way teens from richer families get the support they need to go to college, to travel to Europe, to start a business to buy a house, all the things that make it easier for them to get the higher paying jobs, live a comfortable life…

Teens without that support weren’t necessarily headed for college (and not all people dream of college education), weren’t necessarily able to find their way out of poverty, out of difficult situations. This girl did and should be applauded. But most of these girls would end up in similar situations even if they waited to have babies, stuck in minimum wage jobs that would offer nothing for mat leave, struggling to pay off student loans if they got themselves to college.

There’s the assumption that, given a few years and a little hard work, these women could turn themselves into monied, middle class, college educated women who would be so valuable to the market place they would immediately land great jobs which they could then leave to have their babies… And that’s just not true.

As I said before, sure many teens aren’t great parents. Many monied, stable people aren’t great parents. Many people from many classes of society aren’t great parents, but they still have babies, and aren’t reviled for doing so. What we have to decide as a society is how much are we willing to support child-rearing in our society. Not just for teenage moms, but for all parents who need daycares, who need days off to be with a sick child, maternity leave and breastfeeding rooms. Yes, it’s tough being a teenage mother, but it doesn’t have to be that tough: it’s easy to adjust scholarships and schedules and our prejudices to accommodate and respect mothers whatever their situation.

Most women who have children in their 20’s and 30’s juggle all those things as they work, get more education etc. It’s tough for them too. But life goes on after kids, and it could be easier if we all had supports. When we blame teenage moms for the ‘reality’ that raising kids is tough, we forget that we should instead attack the ‘reality’ that refuses to support parenting and measures which would provide all mothers easier access to education, the workforce and a better standard of living.

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