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Monday, June 23, 2008

Teen Moms - Not a Hollywood Ending

On rare occasion I step away from the telling of tales on this blog and speak my mind on an issue. This is one of those times.

I read last week, as you may have, about a group of teenage girls in Massachusetts who could be minimally described as misguided. Out of their flippin’ minds might be more accurate.

Their high school encounters an average of four teen pregnancies per year. Teen pregnancy has always existed and always will. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. That number jumped this year, however, to 17. The school-based clinic, which offers pregnancy tests, also noted a dramatically higher number of girls coming in for tests. The girls’ reactions to the results were odd, too. More of the girls who tested non-pregnant were disappointed instead of those who were. One of those who tested pregnant replied, “Sweet!”

Investigation uncovered the mind-boggling cause. At least half of the 17 pregnancies occurred in girls who were reportedly part of a pregnancy pact. These girls had all decided that their activity for the year would be – not to go get a tattoo – but to conceive a child.

Reports stated that the girls were not even of age to consent to sexual activity. In Massachusetts, that means they were under 16. Authorities are trying to decide what to do about the boys, and sometimes grown men, who fathered these babies. In the meantime, a lot of little girls are going to have babies and they apparently did so willfully.

Their young bodies aren’t fully developed yet. Teen moms tend to have lower birth weight babies. Teen moms more frequently drop out of school. Their lifetime earning potential decreases. And they often create a pattern that their daughters fall into.

Yes, there are exceptions. There are wonderful success stories in which young girls, with loving family support, overcome all the odds. They deserve congratulations and commendations. God bless’em. But young girls should be reading their textbooks and Harry Potter and dressing up for parties, not reading Dr. Spock and dressing up their babies for court hearings to plead for child support that rarely comes.

Not entirely of my own choice, I became a single parent after my divorce from Mr. X. Our son was 18 months old, and Mr. X never chose to participate in any way. I raised my son alone. I wasn’t a teenager, however. I was an adult with a college degree and a good pre-marriage resume. And it was still hard. Babies aren’t always pink and giggly and smelling of talcum powder. They sometimes scream, have temper tantrums and smell of poop and up-chuck. It can be exhausting and it can wear on your nerves. It takes some maturity and life experience to make the loving sacrifices that motherhood always requires.

Some teen moms say they want to keep their babies so they can have someone who will love them totally. It seems like a baby-doll syndrome. No doubt there are many contributing factors to teen pregnancy, but I believe celebrities must bear some responsibility for glamorizing a difficult situation.

How many beautiful, successful celebs are stepping into motherhood without matrimony? How many hunky guys have you seen on tv proudly announcing proudly that he and his girlfriend are expecting a baby?

Girls, those people – right or wrong in their choices – can hire a housekeeper, cook and nanny to take care of their babies and their lives. You can’t.

I’m truly not a fuddy-duddy, and I don’t claim to have been an angel as a teenager. Nevertheless, I would love to see some famous role models speak out about parenthood and its responsible position in long-term life planning. Teenage motherhood is difficult for entire families. It’s too difficult and too forever for a young girl who hasn’t yet had the opportunity to grow up.


Zehr_Family said...

AMEN! Well done and well said!! We have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates here in the State of Colorado right here in Trinidad. Too many of my children's friends think it is wonderful to have babies having babies. I am truly blessed to have a daughter who is very content to take care of everyone else's babies by babysitting. She has seen her fair share of heartache with her friends who have had to drop out of school or in one case the baby died due to getting caught up in his blankets and smothering. She tells me she will wait until she is older to have any children of her own. She wants to graduate college first and be a pediatric nurse or doctor. Keep on ranting, especially on this subject I will back you 100%.

Willow Goldentree said...

I'll back you on this subject too. My Sissy, who is almost three years younger than me, always talked about having a baby early. I thought it was a phase, but then, just after high school she got pregnant. I half-believe that she didn't use a condom on purpose. When I questioned her about it, she gave me the lame excuse that "condoms don't feel good." I really don't care how they feel, you use protection! Now she has a beautiful 6-year-old boy, who I just love to pieces. However, she's now (or always has been) noticing all the "fun" she passed up by having a child so early. I'll just give you two words: alcohol and drugs. It makes me sick and fearful of my nephew's future.

These kids (yes, I use the term kids because that's what they are) have NO IDEA what they're getting themselves into.

I could go on, but this is your blog topic, and now I'm getting my anxiety worked up. Thanks for posting this.


Scarlett said...

Thank you both. I'm happy to have everyone pile on -- particularly on this topic. In truth, teen pregnancy affects entire communities when you consider the economic as well as societal impacts.