What Teen Moms Want You to Know
By Jenny Rapson for the Mustard Seed Foundation
Here at the Mustard Seed Foundation, supporting teen moms in foster care and their babies is our number one priority. Living with these remarkable young women day in and day out, we are regularly confronted with just how strong, amazing, and determined they are to raise their children and succeed in life. Yet, in our society, teenage mothers are often marginalized and looked down upon. Communicating the strengths of these young women while still maintaining their privacy can be a real struggle for those of us who know and love the Mustard Seed Foundation and the young women within its walls, and yet it’s vital that we do so.
Fortunately for us, a recent article from New York-based parental mental health non-profit Seleni features some wonderful quotes from teen moms who have succeeded beyond their teen and early motherhood years. These women sounded off about what teen moms want you and I to know—and their thoughts are pretty revealing. We hope you’ll take their words to heart when you’re thinking about our moms and babies, and what your donations to TMSF enable and empower them to do.
The author of Seleni’s article, Gloria Malone, was a teen mom herself. She says, “The huge focus on preventing teenage pregnancy has turned teen moms into cautionary tales and scapegoats when in reality we are women and mothers who need support and encouragement. We are often spoken about and condescended to, but we are rarely given the chance to speak for ourselves.”
Wanting to give a voice to young women who had walked the teen motherhood path as she had, Malone interviewed several American and British women who became parents in their teenage years. Here, she says, is what teen moms want you to know.
A mother is a mother
“I had kids in my teens, 20s, and 30s and can tell you there’s NO magic time in your life when you suddenly ‘get’ parenting,” says Lucy, now 34 and a mother of three. “It’s a seat-of-your-pants ride, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.” Another young mom, Krystal Cisneros, adds, “Teen mothers and adult mothers have the same anxiety and nervousness all mothers do.”
Words hurt and help
When asked what she wished people would have said to her whens she was a pregnant teen, Kenya Golden says simply, “Don’t give up. You’re doing fine. To know you have someone in your corner and that they are supportive of you.” Kenya’s thoughts echo what we strive to do at TMSF, but sadly not all people give teen moms this support. When asked the opposite question, about what she wishes had not been said to her, 23-year-old Yumi, a Philadelphia moms, says she was given, “Condescending comments like, ‘It’s not as fun as it looked, huh?’ Or ‘I bet you wish you hadn’t done this.’ That didn’t help or empower me to be a better woman or mother. It just made me feel insecure and lonely.”
Society can help teen moms in simple ways
The moms Malone talked to wanted to emphasize that society can help teen moms first and foremost with their attitudes toward them. “Stop shaming us, “ says Kenya Golden. “All the blame is on [women]. Shaming us does not help anybody. It makes us more depressed and makes us less likely to talk to people about how we feel.”
“Help them instead of bashing them [teen moms],” adds Krystal Cisneros. “We just need a support system.”
Support comes in many forms
The teen moms were also adamant that a support system is vital for their success, but that support doesn’t have to be extravagant. Once again, a little simple action goes a long way.
“Support comes in all forms: non-judgment and empathy from teachers and caretakers. Babysitting and encouragement is a form of support,” says Yasmin McMorrin, who became a mom at age 19.
Mariely Moronta-Santos adds that teen parents who are finishing their education need extra support to do so, and called for local governments to make it happen. “…this means our city setting funding aside for teen parents who are in school or on their way,” she says. Teen parents also want access to higher education. We need institutions to create spaces for us to access tutoring and childcare without judgment.”
Teen moms are capable
Finally, these now-adult teen moms want young women currently parenting in their teens to know that they can succeed. “You got this! Don’t listen to naysayers. Respect your kids as human beings too,” says Kenya Golden.
Teen moms need to take pride in their motherhood status, especially when things are hard, says mother of two Victoria Porto. “Patience is key when things get tough. Take a deep breath and look at your child. Realize you are everything to that child and you mean something.
Young mom Charlie sums it up best with her advice to current teen moms: your life is NOT over. “Being a mom is such a transformative experience. With support, you’re going to figure it out, and you’re going to thrive. You are not a cautionary tale. You are the head of a beautiful family.”
With all this wonderful insight from teen moms about what they want you to know, we hope you will feel equipped to encourage and support the teen moms in your life, as well as the ones we’re empowering here at TMSF. If you know a teen mom who could use an encouraging word or an hour of free babysitting, please reach out and make a difference.