Something that really gets me is how many people size me up when I walk into a room with my daughter. She is a different complexion than me but is obviously mine. Although she is tan, we do not speak Spanish. We do not live our lives off welfare or collect unemployment. I have no ring because I am not married. I was not divorced. I was not raped. I have my own unique story like everyone else. One that I should not have to explain. But I do. That way I can watch the judgement turn into embarrassment.
I always can tell when I am getting the “look”. That “how the hell young are you?” look on most peoples faces. Why does it matter how old I am? Would I be a better parent if I was 40? Do you think if I had a ring and some age to me that I would be legitimate and not a slut? I hate the word slut. I loath it. I hope no one ever says it to me out loud. Or I will explode. No. I get stares and questions, sometimes by total strangers who desperately want to know how the hell I got pregnant. Well genius. The answer to the secret is “I had sex.”
One common misconception is that I must not be in school. How could I possibly be in college if I am a single mother? And what college would allow such madness? Well assholes, I applied. I worked hard and got good grades. I was accepted into it. I have the acceptance letter to prove it. As well as the textbooks and knowledge I have. It was that easy. I just applied myself.
The next big thing people cannot fathom is how I “do it”. I appreciate love and support. Who does not love to be encouraged? You aren’t human if you don’t. But seriously, its almost insulting to say the words do it. Not to me but to the billions of teen mothers that have ever existed. We are not any different than you. Although we are sexually active for various reasons, we have brains and emotions just like you. We have options. Unfortunately not every woman believes she has a choice. A choice to work or go to school. A choice to keep her baby or not to. Women every where make no choice or bad choices because that’s what people expect to happen. It is predetermined when we walk into the damn clinic that we are ignorant, some drug abusers, orphans or plain disobedient. Its assumed we want to abort our babies. That we will abort them and run away to have more sex with anyone we can find. Like ferocious and rabbis infected animals. If we do keep the baby, its expected we will make the worst parents possible. That those who don’t plain pity us will let us off the hook on life since we have screwed up so badly. I have met girls who aborted because they were forced by parents due to religion or force of opinion. I have been one myself.
I do not have tattoos but I think they are beautiful. My nipples and vagina aren’t pierced. I wasn’t wild as a teenager. I did not get knocked up because of the pink streaks in my hair. I did not get knocked up because I walked the corner for sex. Or “planned” it to ruin my family– as my mother said. I am not that conniving and smart. Not like I’m given credit for.
I have a question. Its serious. Do you walk down the street and ask a thirty something old woman if she wanted her baby? Do you ask her if she meant to get pregnant? Do you tell her it will ruin her life? No you don’t. Do you ask her assumed to be husband if he is ready to be a father? Do you ask if his parents are OK with it or if they made him stick around? Do you give him the slightest bit of attention? No. 90% of you don’t. And no one did to my ex either. No one asks if he was ready. Its assumed and allowed for him to not be. He’s off the hook. He’s a free man. It was an accident. His sperm is to blame. He made a mistake. He still needs a life. Its OK.
Why isn’t it OK for the single women in the world who are abandoned? Are they all just sluts? Is that even possible?
I bring all these things up to show you that I am a person. I am a woman. I make choices. And I take care of my responsibilities. I pay my own bills. I work part time and take full time classes. I have my own rent. On an apartment I got myself. I take buses because I cannot pay for rent and a car. No mommy and daddy to cover my insurance. I have money because I work for it. So if I want a nice phone then I can get one.
I do not party. Unless a party means balloons and cupcakes I designed with a million screaming kids wacking a pinyata, I do not go out. Its not because I hate alcohol or waking up next to strangers. Its not because I hate clubs and neon lights. Its not because I can’t dump my kid on anyone so I can live it up every weekend. I actually just like spending time with my daughter. I like to make crafts and have tea parties. I do have me time. But its not the kind you think. Its sober. Its fun. Its me.
I actually did not qualify for food stamps. My part time job apparently makes me have too much income to get help. I get Medicaid because I am eligible but I have to travel myself and buy my prescriptions. So when I pull out my medicaid card at the clinic, do not stare at me.
My child does not need to be sized up either. I raise her to enjoy things. To not look at everything gendered. We own dresses but I allow my kid to play in dirt. To splash puddles. I let her roll in grass and feel the sun on her face. We pick flowers and we touch bugs. We don’t own white ruffle socks. We wear sunblock and I like to sprits her with body spray before we go out on mommy daughter dates. If you see my child with a snot on her face or a stain on her shirt, its not because I was a teen mom. She is five. She will learn. Maybe we ran out of tissues. Maybe you caught us during one of her meltdowns. It happens to us all.
Discipline is my last topic. I use it. I use it at home and at school. At the library or in the middle of target. I am 22 but I use it. I do not have to tell you how. I should not have to tell you when. Or if it is affective. Its my business. And my child. I am 22 but I am not an idiot. I believe that no means no. I also will do time out any where. Any time. For real. I will give a two minute time out in the middle of the frozen veggies. You all have witnessed it. It was probably me. And my kid who was upset over nothing. Or candy. Or wanting a toy. Mostly over nothing. I know how to discipline. So don’t tell me how.
I hope that all stigmas could one day disappear. For everyone not just me. I wish i could hear more sincerity and less judgement. When you are 34 with a newborn and I am 22 with a 5 year old– I know what I mean when I talk about potty training or tantrums. I know because I went through it as a mother. So do not declare my advice as worthless because I did not have the same path to motherhood as you.
I know that some mothers, of all ages or situations, do actually fit the stigma criteria. Using welfare or unemployment to cheat working. Using medicaid to avoid having no health care because they don’t want to pay. Some don’t want to work or go to school. Some women have tattoos and some don’t. We are all different. God will judge. Leave it to the big man. The rest of you just worry about your own lives.
Next time you see a young mother, give her more credit. Without knowing her story, accept her as a human. Smile at her baby. Don’t ask if she is married. Do not tell her what to do. Treat her like you want to be treated. Guess what? It won’t kill you not to know her business. She might even be friendly. Imagine that.