by Kristy Campbell
Teen pregnancy is a hot Hollywood storyline at the moment. Shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, ABC’s The Secret Life of An American Teenager, and Fox’s Glee all showcase the topic. Bristol Palin, the most recent celebrity teen mom, is also doing a great job of
making teen parenting seem glamorous. She is featured in the June issue of Harper’s Bazaar and was named Teen Abstinence Ambassador for the Candie’s Foundation. She asks $15-30,000 per speaking engagement to make speeches about abstinence and pro-life, and while she speaks about how hard it is to be a teen mom, she certainly makes it look like a lucrative goal.
I have an issue with giving teenage motherhood an air of intrigue. My issue isn’t based on moral or religious bias, it’s based on the fact that I’m the child of teenage parents
and I know the truth about having a teenage mom…it’s far from glamorous. We weren’t on MTV. There weren’t any wealthy family members to help us out nor did my mom
command thousands of dollars as a speaker. The most she ever received was an African violet for being the “youngest” mom at a church supper as I hid under the table horrified. As a child, I never knew how to interpret the “your mom seems too young to be a mom” comment.
My mom and dad were 17 when my mom got pregnant with me. She was kicked out of her house, moved in with my dad’s family, and saw her college dreams go down the
drain. My dad was released from his Varsity baseball team and lost a scholarship. My parents received their high school diplomas, were married the following week, and were then launched into the world on their own. For my mother, going from being someone’s daughter to wife to mother within a 3-month period was a tough transition, but it was only later that her stress fractures gave way.
My parents worked to get my dad through college. A few years later, my mom went to nursing school while working as a waitress in order to make ends meet. I remember many nights saying goodnight to my mom as she studied and then waking her up at the same table. I’d make her coffee, make lunches for her, my brother and me, and hug her goodbye as I we all left for school. She graduated at the top of her class, and I was so proud of my young mom. She started working at a hospital on the afternoon and evening shifts, often pulling double shifts in order to earn extra money.
When I was 12, my mom had a breakdown of sorts. She was exhausted, anemic, and thought she was going to die. When I saw the ambulance take her away, I cried. When she came home a couple of days later, I was mad and didn’t understand for a long time. As part of her healing, she began to experiment with who she is. She wrote poetry and
danced in the rain. She wore non-mom clothing. I was entering my teen years at the time and didn’t appreciate my free-spirited, push-the-boundaries mom, and so we often clashed over who was the parent. When I needed teen advice, she was never sure what to say about dating, sex, boyfriend or girlfriend problems. As I dealt with fears about leaving home or issues at college, I could never go to her since she had never experienced college life as a single woman…or life as a single woman on any level for that matter. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s, married, and had my first child that began to understand the sacrifices my mom made for me. My dad made compromises, but it was my mother’s
journey that affected me. Beyond Senior Prom, she gave up her ability to grow up and into herself at her pace and choosing. Her own emotions, fears, dreams, and hopes were replaced with feelings for me.
Today my mother and I have a strong bond and deep respect for each other. My mom has found her stride and has grown into an amazing woman with incredible wisdom. For what she didn’t know about dating, she is making up with her insight into life and spirituality. As my parents celebrate their 45th anniversary this month, I’m incredibly proud that they seem way too young to be grandparents.
My hope is that young girls watching shows highlighting teen pregnancy and thinking it looks manageable will pause. The baby part is easy. It’s the raising of the child, the
giving up of your self, and the inexperience with life that’s the difficult part. And, very often, your child will end up raising you. I think it’s important to round out this
perspective for teens, and I’d like to pitch a new reality series for the fall television lineup titled: “My Teenage Mom and Me”…just to show the other side of the story.