I will admit that some of these are statistically accurate. However that does not mean you should be assuming them when you see a young mother.
1. They are promiscuous.
A vast majority of us have had very few partners, had been in a relationship for a long time before we got pregnant, or in my case have only had one partner. Assuming that we sleep around because we had a child at a young age is wrong.
How about my situation. My husband is the only man I have ever dated, kissed, or been with. We had been dating since my freshmen year of high school when I found out in my last semester of my senior year that I was pregnant. I decided not to hide it, even though some of my teachers urged me to. I had nothing to be ashamed of and I was about to graduate anyway. A few weeks after I had told my friends (and of course it got around the school fast) I found out from a friend that people were talking about me. Girls who had never met me and did not know anything about me were calling me a whore and a slut. Excuse me?! Last time I checked I was the opposite of those words. Even being a National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society member, Speech Team Captain, and being in a long-term committed relationship, I was still being labeled as being promiscuous just because I was pregnant with my fiance’s child.
2. They are single mothers.
Statistically many of us are single mothers. But for those of us that aren’t, we don’t like the assumption that just because we had a child at a young age the father ran off, or the child has no father figure. I don’t think the fathers appreciate this assumption either. Whether we are with the child’s father or a man who has stepped up to be a father figure, we don’t need people pitying us because they think we are doing it on our own.
I don’t think single mothers care for the pity much either. I admire them for raising a child on their own. They have to do the job of two parents. They don’t need pity, they need to be congratulated and told that they are doing a good job. Pity is demeaning. They are proud that they can handle this on their own. Yes it is hard, but it is worth it and they don’t need to be reminded about how hard it is. They know that without you saying, “Oh it must be so hard to raise them on your own.”
3. They live with or depend on their parents/family.
Some of us may. A lot of mothers still in high school live with their parents until they finish school. This is not irresponsible necessarily. Often they buy everything that the baby needs and take care of the child the majority of the time. A lot of us do not live with our parents. If you do see a young mom receiving a lot of things from family, don’t assume that she asked for them. Both my husbands family and mine were very generous when we had our first and we did not expect anything from them. Everything they gave us was because they cared about us and wanted to help us.
4. Their parents are always taking care of the baby.
Ask before leaping to assumptions. If you do notice that a young mother’s parents are taking care of the child a lot there may be a good reason. Maybe she is going to school and they offered. Maybe she is working an extra job and helping with expenses and they offered. In most cases it is one of those two reasons and the parents are very willing to watch their grandchild. Don’t jump to conclusions, find out the whole story.
5. They are not finishing school/continuing their education.
A large amount of us have either finished at least high school or gone through college. Another large amount of us are going through college or finishing high school. With the availability of online classes through accredited institutions we are able to achieve a lot more then a young mother would have been able to 20 years ago. All the young mothers I know personally have either finished high school or are in the process of finishing high school.
Here is the other side of it. Maybe they don’t want to go to college. Maybe they never ever had plans for college even before having a child. That is ok. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If they want to place being a mother (and possibly a wife) over a career that is great as well. The whole women’s right movement has made us think that ALL women need to have college educations and be working. That just isn’t what some women want and they shouldn’t be pushed into doing that.
6. Their lives are “ruined.”
If this was ever said to me I would be livid. A child does not ruin our lives. Maybe your children “ruined” yours and that is why you feel it is necessary to tell us this. But the majority of us would not trade a thing. Yes we likely lost a lot of our friends who did not know how to handle us when we became mothers. We don’t get to go out as much. Like any parent we have our days where we wonder how we will ever survive this. But we also love our children and our children enhance our lives.
7. They don’t know how to take care of their child. – They don’t have any parenting skills.
There are middle-aged women who have absolutely no parenting skills. Every age group of parents has some who are terrible parents. Just because we are young does not mean we have no clue what we are doing. We do not know it all, no parent does. Every parent, regardless of age, is going to make mistakes. This is especially true with the first child. Most of us have had our share of babysitting or taking care of younger siblings and we can handle the basics. If we need help we will ask someone we trust or do research and find out what we need to know.
8. They are on welfare unnecessarily. – They are on welfare.
Again, statistically a lot of us do have some help from welfare. The majority of us hate this and want to get off of it. That does take some time and with the currently flawed system is very hard to do. At least from what I have seen around me, when a family begins to make just enough to break even and pay off the bills they cut off all help so that the family uses the little extra money they were saving to pay bills. This usually puts them into the red and they are back on welfare a few months later. The system does need some major work.
That being said, don’t assume a young mother is on welfare or that they are abusing the system. Those of us that are not on welfare are highly offended when you make this assumption. Those of us that are on welfare are usually not abusing the system. We are just trying to get by and make sure our children have what they need. Personally the only reason I asked for help is because my son needs medical insurance. I have looked into getting insurance for him and until I finish college and get a permanent position with the park service, there is no way I could ever afford it. I hate having to be on welfare, but I have to do what is best for my son. As for food stamps, we have already decided that we are not going to ask for them again and we are going to try to get through the winter without them. I personally am tired of the guilt I feel everytime I pull out the EBT card and have people watching me. It was nice to have the help and be able to buy good food for my son without worrying, but I am tired of dealing with the judgement.
9. They get everything for free.
This is such an absurd assumption I almost want to just ignore it. But the problem is people do assume this about young mothers. Maybe we do have a little better support system then you did and our family got things for us. Sometimes we do have to ask for help from the government. But we do not get everything for free. We work just like you do. We have to budget and go without and make do.
10. They party all the time.
The majority of us don’t. We have jobs to go to, children to take care off and school to attend. We don’t have time to go out and party. Yes once in a while we may go out with friends, if we are lucky to get the time or money. Almost everyone tries to go out once in a while to relax. But for the few of us that even get that chance, it is not a regular thing. We understand that we have responsibilities and we work to meet those.
11. They spend all their money on themselves and their children go without.
You see a young mother with a baby buying a case of soda, or some new clothing, or maybe even a new electronic. Do you know their financial situation? No? Then you should not be assuming anything. They know what money they have to spend and they will budget it appropriately to be able to get what their children need. Maybe they received some money as a birthday gift and since their child was all set they could spend it on themselves for some much needed clothing. Maybe that soda is their one splurge item for the month. Young mothers have their splurges, need new clothing once in a while, and yes even sometimes save up for a new electronic. Just like everyone else.
I for one am tired of feeling guilty for picking up a $5 DVD or getting myself new clothing after finding out that almost none of my pre-pregnancy clothing fit correctly anymore. My son always comes first of course. But at the end of the week if we have paid all the bills and the fridge is stocked and my son has everything he needs, we will sometimes buy something for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that.
So next time you see a young mother, don’t assume. Society has this stereotypical view of a young mother who sleeps around, doesn’t take care of their kids, doesn’t work and gets everything free by abusing the system. I can guarantee you that yes, there are some young mothers like that. Then again there are some middle-aged mothers, old women, young men, middle-aged men, and old men who are also like that. Every group has some people who can give it a bad name. Why let those few define young mothers?
Special thank you to Teen Moms Can Be The Best Mothers on Facebook, whose fans helped me write this blog post.