Parenting: The Great Equalizer

24 May

When I first got pregnant, I thought I would spend the rest of my life (or at least several more years) being shunned. I thought people would perceive me as an inexperienced kid masquerading as someone’s mother. While that view is something all teen moms are bound to run into now and then, it has been surprisingly irrelevant. Parenting makes us all equal. Equally confused and terrified, that is.

But, maybe you’re thinking, older moms have time to read a lot of books. They’ve probably watched other people’s kids. They know how things work.

God, I wish that were true, because then maybe some of the dozens of books I read as my belly swelled for nine months actually would have helped me. Unfortunately, none of them said what to do when your daughter screams if you even get her near her crib, and she won’t sleep unless you’re holding her in a semi-upright position. None of them told me what to do when your toddler won’t eat.

Wait, let me rephrase. They all told me what to do in such situations, and they all said something different, and they all ignored the little things that can make their advice completely useless. I’m not sure there’s a single one I didn’t end up chucking in the trash during a particularly difficult parenting fiasco.

And then there are the serious resolutions parents-to-be make in that magical period of time before the baby is born when they think they know everything and don’t yet have to put any of it into practice. This is just anecdotal, but 100% of my friends who said they would never co-sleep did end up co-sleeping at times. 100% of my friends who said they’d wear the baby everywhere at all times (after all, The Happiest Baby on the Block must be right!) ended up leaving the baby in the bouncer once or twice just so they could take a shower alone and without listening to ear-shattering shrieks.

I’m not just talking about teenage moms. I’m talking about moms who, after years of trying to get pregnant, had their first child in their forties. I’m talking about moms who’ve been reading parenting books for decades. I’m talking about moms who have worked as nannies and thought they knew everything.

Being a first-time parent is a lot like being a teenager: you think you know everything, until you don’t.

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8 Responses to “Parenting: The Great Equalizer”

  1. prymface May 24, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    I agree that parenting is about learning WHATEVER your age….Personally I think mums should follow their own instincts more rather than follow rules in books!

    Now does anyone have any good books on dealing with grumpy teenagers?

    • teenmamainc May 24, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

      Are you suggesting that cute little toddlers eventually turn into teenagers? I always heard that, but I thought it was a myth…

      It’s so true though. A mixture of instinct and patience will get you through things in a way no book can.

  2. Kelly Davio May 24, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

    What a fantastic resource you’re providing here! When I was researching a book in which my main characters are teen parents, I was stunned to see how little information and support was available for young parents out there. You’re providing a MUCH needed resource–on behalf of moms and non-moms and women of all descriptions, thank you!

    • teenmamainc May 24, 2010 at 8:14 pm #

      Thank you, and though I’d never thought of it before, it can only be a plus if this site is helpful to writers too. That would be awesome. Also, I will have to make sure to get my hands on your book! I looked at your blog, it’s still being pitched to publishers, right?

      I definitely feel like people have this idea that teen moms have it easy and that everyone just takes care of them, whereas the truth is usually far from that, and that idea itself makes their lives harder by creating a hostile environment.

      • Kelly Davio May 25, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

        >>”I definitely feel like people have this idea that teen moms have it easy and that everyone just takes care of them…”

        I’m so surprised that that’s what people reflect back to you! I’ve always imagined being a teen mom would be one of the hardest challenges a woman could face. And there’s so little material of use out there, though of course there’s plenty of propaganda on what choices a teen mother should make or should’ve made.

        Thanks for checking out my blog! Yes, the book is being pitched right now… (Every time I say/type that, I get a little flock of butterflies in the stomach!)

        • teenmamainc May 25, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

          You know, most people don’t reflect that back to me, but I see it a lot in editorials, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and so on. I have Google alerts set up for “teen mother” and various other forms of the phrase, and loads of the alerts are blog posts about how teen moms are lazy, stupid, and taking advantage of welfare.

  3. Susan @ 2KoP May 24, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    This is a great Website. I’m glad you stopped by Two Kinds of People and SheWrites so I could find you!

    I became a mom for the first time at 31. I had had lots of experience with children. I had read all the books. Nothing prepared me for my 24-week preemies. But then again, even raising my twins for five years (and two stepchildren) did not prepare me for the next two either. The fact is that learning to parent is the ultimate experience of learning on the job. Each child is different; each parent is different; you are a different parent to each child.

    I think being a teen parent must be difficult in a way that my babies premature birth was difficult. In many ways, teens are “premature” parents. That doesn’t make the experience any less profound, humbling, wonderful, awful, exhilarating or debilitating than it is for parents of any other age. It just makes it different.

    Your assessment that parenting is the great equalizer is completely true in my experience. I have felt that way many times over the course of my parenting years. Moms of any age are all sisters under the skin.

    • teenmamainc May 24, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

      “Each child is different; each parent is different; you are a different parent to each child.”

      That’s one of the best ways of summing this up. It makes me think of the parents who raise several kids, and they all turn out wildly different. It’s so unpredictable, and everyone is going to make mistakes. I had to resign myself to the fact that, even though I’ll do my best, my best isn’t perfect and will never be so.

      I remember wondering how they could possibly send me home with my daughter when I left the hospital. It was like, they just let anyone have one of these…? But I’m not sure I’ve met any moms who felt any less terrified, no matter their age.

      I agree about moms all feeling like one’s sisters. I have a lot of mom friends who are not even close to my age and are basically nothing like me at all, but we all love our babies, and we are all going through similar things with them. I’ve also felt that, if people see me behaving maturely and being a good mother, they judge me based on me rather than based on my age, and we really get along.

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