'Teen Mom' is an American show for MTV that follows a select number of girls through their early years as parents. We first met these girls in the original show '16 and Pregnant' where we saw their pregnancies and labor stories unfold. I've watched this show from the beginning. At first my son wasn't even a twinkle in my eye when I was watching and then I fell pregnant and had my son, and also only being a few years older than the girls in the cast meant I felt an affinity with them.
The show itself has drawn a huge amount of criticism. I think that's mostly because of the way everyone perceives teenager mothers to be. And perhaps not even just teenagers mothers, young mothers (like me) get it too. If you are a young mother, but mostly if you are a teenage mother than you are judged, stereotyped against and forced to face open criticisim about your ability to parent properly based only on your age-nothing about your personality or personal abilities, just your age. The cast of 'Teen Mom' chose to be part of a compelling series which means they are often heaped with an entire worlds worth of young parent criticisim when actually what they have done is shown the true and real picture that faces a teenage mother.
The picture of what it looks like to be a teen mum, isn't an easy one. The statistics are there, lets not ignore them-we known teen mum's are 22% more likely to live in poverty and 20% less likely to have any qualifications by the time they are 30 years old. However does this mean that they are all bad parents? Even if you base your 'bad parenting' assessment on the 20% more likely to live in poverty, that still means 80% of them AREN'T living in poverty and 78% of them WILL have qualifications by the time they are 30. I don't think that's too bad considering if you deal with sleepless nights, and everything else parenthood throws at you at the ages of 16 and 17 years old!
The cast of 'Teen Mom' have been accused of glamorizing teen pregnancy. I can only assume the people who make those accusations haven't even seen the show! I've watched these girls go through teenage trials and tribulations at the same time as the mummy trials and tribulations-it's a double whammy. I can't imagine going through my teenage angst years, facing all the confusion, discovery, heartache and wondering at the same time as all the stress, worry and adaption that occurs when you have a child. The cast of the show have shared their stories and this is what all of them have in common-the loss of their childhood at the same time as their arrival in to parenthood.
Some of the girls have taken to motherhood very well, they are dependable, financially secure on their own, sensible and great role models. Yes you read that correctly, great role models. I'm talking about Maci Bookout, the mother of Bentley who fell pregnant at 16 after having sex just once. She and Bentley's daddy separated very soon after Bentley was born and you watched her struggle with the relationship as the daddy couldn't adjust and she strived to provide the best for her child. She's worked hard, got herself through university, provided for her son and built a good foundation with her family and Bentley's father to ensure she's doing the very best that she possibly can. Then there is Catelynn and her long time partner Tyler, who fell pregnant at 16 and knew they couldn't provide any sense of a normal life for their daughter and made the painful decision to have her adopted in order for her to have the life she deserved. Their heartache over missing their daughters life is utterly poignant and yet they do it, they go through it, because it's what is truly best for their child.
|Catelynn and Tyler|
Don't get me wrong, they aren't perfect examples of parenthood. One of the girls, Farrah, has some very large emotional issues and a severe lack of respect for her parents despite their constant support, love and assistance in co-parenting her own daughter Sophia. Then there is Chelsea who's financially lucky enough to be kept by her dad, he got her a car, house etc and gives her plenty of money to live on. Sounds great but her daughters father is an absolute idiot who treats her and their daughter Aubree appallingly, flitting in and out of their lives constantly and providing heartache and disappointment that would be hard for a teenager to bare let along a mother, on behalf of her child.
|Farrah and baby Sophia|
There are also several girls who just can't cope with early motherhood. The actions of drug addicted Amber who eventually lost custody of her daughter Leah to her Father, but had so many deep emotional scars I couldn't see it going any other way. And the likes of Jenelle who's also a drug addict, in and out of jail and who's mother has custody of her son and has raised him pretty much herself since the beginning as Jenelle couldn't make the adaption from teenager to mother. Refusing to leave behind her days of drugs and partying despite having a son.
None of these girls have had it easy. They all go through pain, disappointment and resentment and have to deal with the physical, mental and relationship damage that having a child in your teens can cause with their partners, friends and families. They not only have to go through this themselves, but also for their children because as we all know-"a mother always has to think twice-once for herself and once for her child" and that applies no matter what age you are. It's also hard to imagine the difficulties they face being attached to an ex partner for life. When I think of my teenage boyfriends, I could shudder at the thought of having them in my life forever and yet these girls have to face a life time relationship with people they would rather have moved on from.
However in their stories I see girls who have matured immensely, taken on roles that older mother struggle with, and run with them. I think a positive for a teen mum is that they have had less time to get used to a life of their own and so it's easier to adapt to a new life as a mother-loosely speaking anyway. And although they all have to come to terms with loosing their childhood and leaving behind their teenage years, they all give it the best shot they can. Sometimes it's enough and sometimes it isn't, but hey isn't that parenthood in general, regardless of age?
Along with this show and the likes of the very lovely Cupcake Mumma, (who had her daughter in her late teens) I have really changed my personal perceptions of teenage mothers. I still wouldn't say I'm all for teenage pregnancy-who in their right mind would?! But what I do say is that I don't think the criticism and judgments a teenage mother will face are always correctly targeted. Some of them are good parents, some are great parents and some are better parents than most others-they aren't all bad.
As for glamorizing teenage pregnancy, it's laughable because the USA now has an all time low figure of teenage pregnancy and most people think shows like 'Teen Mom' are a part of that. These shows tell the story of girls who loose so much of themselves before they even know who they are or what they are loosing, their naivety and childhood is pulled from beneath them, barely any of their relationships work out (totally dispels those who think having a baby will make their boyfriend stay forever) they struggle financially (there goes a 'good' idea of living off the state) and they loose friendships and relationships as they battle the loneliness and isolation that normal parenthood directs. And that's without the added stereotypes going against you as a teen mum.
Parenthood means doing your best and if you lack on age, you are certainly coming at it from a different angle. But does that necessarily mean that your direction will cause you to fail? My opinion is that although I wish teenage pregnancy didn't happen, it does and it will but I don't think a persons age is paramount to their ability or inability to parent. We can all but do our best, like I said-sometimes it's enough and sometimes it isn't.
Love Chloe xx