Archive | Judgment RSS feed for this section

Don’t Shut Up

26 May

We hear a lot from a few specific teen mothers: the cast of MTV’s docu-dramas “Sixteen and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom”; Bristol Palin; Jamie Lynn Spears. This is not a lot of representation. It is, in fact, very little representation. The cast of the MTV shows are the closest we get to hearing from teen moms who aren’t ridiculously privileged in every way, but even those mothers are only a small part of the spectrum of opinion, belief, and lifestyle in teen mothers. Yet some still think we hear from teen moms a little too much.

Take Jessica Shafer, who video blogs about her pregnancy on YouTube. Though she’s eighteen now and graduating from high school with straight As, people still want her to shut up. A writer of particularly modest intellect and impressive inability to Google basic facts, Mary Thatcher, has been especially insulting. In her article which I won’t link to for fear of giving her easy page views, she contributed such gems as:

“…girls who have sex with boys are not physically bonded to get married.”

I think she’s saying Jessica should switch teams? This sounds like a plea for more lesbianism. Unfortunately, I think it’s just slut-shaming. Once you give away your precious flower (I’m trying not to vomit, here), you’re no longer marriageable. I could write ten posts about this alone, but instead I’ll just ask — where is Mary’s problem with the boys? I guess “lady’s men” and “studs” are still fine for marriage.

“Neither do I think she should be commended for having sex at an unusually young age.”

Here’s where Mary’s poor skills in basic research come in. The average age of first intercourse in the United States is seventeen according to the Guttmacher Institute. I found that information in a total of two seconds by searching “first age intercourse united states”. In other words, it was so incredibly easy that Mary’s ignorance cannot possibly have any excuse that shouldn’t embarrass her horribly. Sadly, Mary doesn’t seem embarrassed about being lazy and bigoted.

“Secure females never look to males for self-esteem, and think that sex will make a woman ‘whole and perfect.'”

Does Mary believe that’s the only reason any unmarried female has sex? I think she needs to read The Multi-Orgasmic Woman.

“Her publicizing of her pregnancy will only encourage more girls to engage in high-risk behavior…”

Her publicizing of her pregnancy will show people that teen pregnancy does not need to be the end of a young woman’s life and accomplishments. Such a revelation can only be a good thing in a world where teen mothers struggle not just because teen motherhood is innately difficult, but because people like Mary don’t want them to have any visibility or community.

The only reason not to want a certain class of people — teen moms, in this case — silenced is because you find them unsavory. That is bigoted, and it’s a poor way to live. In the past, pregnant teens were sent away so as not to shame their family in a public manner. Now, they can share their stories and form meaningful narratives.

Jessica? Don’t shut up.


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.

Don’t Accept Me In Spite Of My Baby

21 Feb

I’ve been applying to colleges recently, and one of the issues that’s brought up a lot by everyone who knows that is my young motherhood. Will the admissions committees think I’m irresponsible or unreliable? Will they accept me in spite of my bad decisions? Will they see past…

Oh, shut it.

If schools see my pregnancy and my daughter as blind-side or a mistake, they are discriminating. A pregnancy is not comparable to disciplinary infractions or a drug problem. A pregnancy is a natural occurrence that shouldn’t be judged in anyone who proves themselves capable of handling it, which I’m pretty sure I have. If admissions people feel that it offends their sensibilities to see a bright, young girl get knocked up, that’s on them. Motherhood has, if anything, made me brighter, more responsible, and more passionate than I could possibly have been otherwise. Anyone who thinks I’m worse for wear because of it is bigoted and deluded.

Also… Harvard? Just so you know? Lots of your students have had abortions. So please don’t think my pregnancy shows anything particular about my character except the fact that I’m human.

Being Treated Badly, Teen Mom? Oh well.

21 Feb

In a recent article for The Dallas Morning News, writer Jacquielynn Floyd covers a decision by the Forth Worth school board to bench a pregnant high school volleyball player. While there are a lot of issues at play here — legal liability, medical concern, and on and on — Ms. Floyd wasn’t really concerned with those. Instead, she just wants to tell the volleyball player to shut up and sit down:

This unmarried high school girl is about to become the parent of an utterly dependent human baby, a responsibility that challenges women twice her age – and we’re all fighting about how much playing time she got on the volleyball court?”

Yes, Jacquielynn. Teen mothers, and people with major issues of every stripe, are still allowed and encouraged to assert their rights.

Ms. Floyd then goes on to explain to us all — because we’ve never heard any of this before — that teen mothers have a hard road ahead of them. We shouldn’t be celebrating them — though I’m still not sure how wanting a teen mother to be allowed to participate in an extracurricular constitutes a celebration of teen motherhood.

“Thank God, I’m not alone out here on this raft of consternation.

In an October editorial titled “Let’s Stop the New Teenage Mom Craze,” Glamour magazine said it’s time to stop celebrating teen mommies like Bristol Palin and Jamie Lynn Spears, to quit acting like a live baby is a cute, trendy accessory.”

Why does Ms. Floyd think her views are unusual? She is preaching to the choir — the only choir. Saying you don’t want to support teen moms or hear their voices is the status quo, and nobody should pretend otherwise.

Babies Aren’t Life Enders

20 Feb

Contrary to popular views, having a baby doesn’t mean your life is over. It doesn’t mean your life is all about your kid. If your life is all about your kid, you’ll turn into one of those crazy annoying moms who has no life outside of the PTA and doesn’t know how to function without at least ten kisses and hugs every day from Little Sweetums. Nobody wants to become that.

You still have your life — now there’s just a wonderful child there to share it with you. Going for and achieving your goals can only make you a better, more interesting and wise mother.

The solution is — keep dreaming your dreams, but edit them. Don’t stop yourself from thinking them, but start including your child in them. You can be the has-it-all mom with a cell phone in one hand a baby on your hip. It will be difficult, but it’s not even remotely impossible.