Received an email from someone tonight. It wasn’t rude or mean. It asked some questions, which undoubtedly were meant well. I was just seriously gobsmacked and bewildered to be reading the opinions contained therein. I know some people think that way – but when faced with it, my flabbers are unfailingly gasted.
The person in question detailed some stories about people she knew who’s lives had been ruined by teenage pregnancy and then subsequent ill-advised marriages which ended badly. She wrote about young moms she sees today who smoke and otherwise neglect their children.
She asks: “It it dangerous what you are doing? Aren’t you helping kids to keep their babies? Can there really come any good from this?”
Here is my reply.
Hi xxx Thanks for contacting us.
To be honest, I’m not sure how to respond to this. I am quite upset.
It is true that you have seen and had experiences of teen pregnancy that haven’t had ideal outcomes. Does that mean it’s the same for everyone? No. The choices made by the mothers you mentioned were exactly that: personal choices made by people with their own life experiences, own personalities, own family structures.
EVERY SINGLE SITUATION IS DIFFERENT.
Our group is about young women who are already mothers. The babies are THERE. There is no getting away from that.
1. A girl who already has a child, and actively seeks out a group like ours to help her, is already being a good mother. Women who do not want to be good mothers, would not come along and find us. That is why the moms we have are all doing fine – and would be doing fine – even on their own. We can’t reach those who choose not to make right choices. Nobody can. The decision to put your child ahead of yourself, is something that you have to decide for yourself. Nobody can make it for you. Our mothers have.
2. If there were more groups like ours in all areas – a safe place to go and learn, feel valued as a mother, and NOT be made to feel like you are a failure or a DANGER TO SOCIETY – can sometimes make the difference between a child dumped in a toilet and child who’s mother feels able to take on the challenge.
3. The mothers you mentioned: their bad choices to marry unwisely, their choice to smoke and otherwise be a bad mother – do you really think those people would be any different if they were 10 years older? Good parenting comes from unselfishness, from understanding that your life will change and being willing to take it on. You need empathy and an understanding of someone besides yourself. If you are not capable of that at 15, you won’t be any different at 30.
Indeed, some people should not be parents. They are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary, and their children suffer for it. Can you put an age on that? NO. I can think of at least 10 mothers in their 30’s right now who are less capable, and more damaging to their children than mothers in our group.
Also, while it can definitely affect education and job opportunities, it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. It takes work and effort, creativity and perseverence, but it can be done.
So to answer your 2 questions:
Do I think what we’re doing is dangerous? I think that to NOT do it is dangerous. The mothers are there, the children are there. Abandon them to feel alone? Punish them for having sex? Tell them they’ll never amount to anything? What will that do to their ability to mother effectively?
Do I think any good will come of it?
I have seen the good, every single day of my life. i have seen mothers open up, feel brave, believe that they are worthy and good enough for their children, despite hearing opinions like yours every single day, and feel motivated to do even better. Do you really think, seriously now, that this can be a bad thing?
And lastly, as a once teenage mom myself – your words hurt and anger me so. They take a woman who KNOWS she has always been a good mother, from the age of 14 – and tells me that no, because I was that young – there’s NO WAY I could be good for my child. You’re invalidating every single day of the last 18 years of my motherhood – by telling me that me being a mother is dangerous. What must I tell my son about that?
That he should have never been born? That I wish he never had?
Shall I go along to his bedroom right now and tell him that everything he thought was right in his life, is in fact wrong?
Shall I go to our next group meeting and say we’re shutting this down, it’s dangerous? Take your children – who I have to come to love – and go away? Leave those moms and their children to face opinions like yours on their own?
I won’t do it.
I apologise for my stridence. It is something about which I feel strongly and I will fight for the right of our moms to be recognised and valued for the good work they do.
Lastly, let me say this. Should your 17 year old daughter ever find herself pregnant – she is welcome to join us. We will welcome her with open arms, and help her to become the best mother she can be.
Again, thanks for taking the time to write and i’m sorry my reply is so long. You have helped me realise why I do what I do.