I remember being visited by a distant relative when my son was a baby. I was 15, living with my parents and studying Grade 10 at home. Innocently, she asked my mom and I: “So who is his mommy?”
Confused at first, I didn’t understand what she was getting it – she knew he was my child. Confusion turned to irritation when I realised that she was assuming that my mother was raising him, and not me.
I guess this happens a lot with teenage moms – I know I’ve seen it with a number of girls I knew who fell pregnant at the same time as me. And maybe in some of those cases, having the grandparents take responsibility is the best option for baby, if the young mom is not willing to do it.
It wasn’t ever like that with us. From day one it was always just assumed, unspoken, natural, that I’d be raising him – the dirty day-to-day jobs of feeding, sleepless nights and so on, plus the bigger, less tangible issues of discipline and making decisions about his future. I was always His Person. My parents were always there – for financial support, for taking care of him during the mornings while I studied, for advice and extra arms to love him. They have given us so much of their time and their lives and for that I will always be grateful. In addition, they have never tried to be anything other than involved, special, hard-working grandparents. My mother never thought of him as her child, despite my young age. She never thought I couldn’t do it, or felt that she was ultimately responsible for him.
He was always Mine, and I was always Mommy. To him, there was no “higher authority” than me. If I made a decision, he couldn’t appeal to them and they would never go over my head when I’d had my say. Sure, we’ve had disagreements over the years about decisions I’ve made, and I’m sure my mom is an expert at biting her tongue – but that’s a skill that every grandparent of any age soon learns. 🙂
I made the sacrifices necessary – social life, friends, sleep and a life lived just for me – because I knew it was part of being a good parent. I knew what I was getting into and I was willing to do it.
Some aren’t. There are young moms who don’t want to change their lives,who are only to happy to hand over responsibility to their parents and continue as if nothing has changed. To me, that’s not fair on grandparents, not fair on the child who grows up knowing their mother as a stranger or a sister. Knowing that their mother wasn’t willing to do the work necessary to love them as they deserve to be loved. If you have a child, parenting is not something you can hand over to someone else until “you’re ready”. If mom is not up to the task, is slacking and not doing right, then it’s best if someone else takes over. Sad, unnecessary and selfish – but the lesser of two evils.
It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s so much less complicated if everybody sticks to their roles.
To young parents I want to say: don’t let anybody take control of your child. Stand up, take charge and be your child’s parent. Asking for help is not abdicating responsibility. Accept help and advice. Know that you don’t have all the answers. Know that others have more experience than you and learn from them.
But make sure you always have the final say over what happens to your child. Above all- never give anybody a reason to think they’d do a better job than you. Your child is yours for life, in easy times and hard and it won’t always be cuddles and cuteness, believe me. Know the job you’re taking on, and then go ahead and DO IT. If you aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary – then parenthood is not for you. It can’t be done in half measures. Appreciate the help you receive and don’t take it for granted. Don’t act in a way that forces your parents to see you as irresponsible and not a fit parent. This is your job, no-one else’s.
To the new grandparents: it might be hard to accept that your teenager is now a parent, responsible enough to care for a baby. After all, they were irresponsible enough not to prevent pregnancy, right? It doesn’t have to be that way. Give them the chance to be the parents they can be. Offer help, support and advice – but be prepared to step back and let them get on with it. Accept that you’re not in charge – that ultimately, this responsibility is not yours.
The new parents are going to make mistakes and bang their heads – all newbies do. Their parenting style might not be the same as yours. That’s going to be hard to accept, but try. They don’t have to raise their child the same way you did, but they do have to do it well.
So ja, mommies. Do it right. Don’t screw it up. If you think it’s too much and sounds too hard – the don’t do it. Make another choice, explore other options. Your child has only one mommy. YOU. Make sure you deserve the title.