31 May Not Just Another Teen Mom: Breaking the Teen Mom Stigma
My experience with motherhood has been very rewarding, but not always easy. As most of you all know by now, I had my first son at 18 years old (to learn more about that, click here). Even though I was legally an adult, many still viewed me as a teen mom. In the beginning, when CJ was in preschool, the whole “teen mom” label didn’t bother me. Mostly because when he was in preschool I was around a lot of other young mothers and we all knew and respected that we were doing our best. It wasn’t until CJ started kindergarten at a prestigious private school that I started to feel uneasy and insecure about my age as a parent.
On his first day of kindergarten, I walked CJ to his classroom. All of the parents were lined up against the wall admiring their little humans getting situated and finding their seats. Every single parent in the classroom was dressed in full business attire with expensive watches, huge wedding rings and fancy shoes. Clearly they were very established. Meanwhile, I’m standing there in a short floral dress, with a brown leather jacket and cowboy boots trying to discreetly scarf down the rest of CJ’s cinnamon raisin bagel because I forgot to eat breakfast at home. My budget for clothes was pretty small since basically every penny I made went towards CJ’s school tuition.
A few of the mothers in the corner were giving me major stink eye, but I was so emotional from my baby being in real school that I paid them no mind. The teacher began passing out a questionnaire to the parents. It asked questions like “Does your child have a nickname?” or “Does your child have any allergies I should be aware of?” When she got to me, I reached out my hand for the paper and she pulled hers back. “Where’s your mother, sweetie? She needs to fill this out.” “I am his mother.” The teacher, who was in fact a very sweet woman, began apologizing profusely saying that she mistook me for his sister. However, the immature mothers in the corner began to chuckle and snicker.
At this point in my life, I was 22 years old and had learned, for the most part, how to ignore ignorant people. But for some reason, those other moms really got under my skin. For the next two years that CJ attended that school, I made it my top priority to show those other parents that I was just as deserving of the parent title as they were. I gave very enthusiastic “Hello!”, “HI!”, “Top of tha mornin’ to ya!” greetings each morning at drop off, volunteered for every field trip and class party, and I only wore business attire when visiting the school.
Despite all my efforts, I was never chosen to chaperone a field trip, was never chosen as Room Mom (even though I applied four times) and I was given very bleak responses to my over eager greetings each morning. It was difficult for me to process how I was being secluded from the parent community at the school when I paid the same school fees and was just as involved in my child’s education as they were. If anything, shouldn’t I be commended for putting my son in such an elite school at my young age? Not to mention that CJ tested at top of his class. Nope. No one cared. In everyone’s eyes I was just another teen mom.
In 2014, CJ’s dad and I moved him to a new private school. I not only viewed this as a fresh start for CJ, but as one for me as well. This time, I would make sure I made a more professional and mature impression on the school and the other moms. The first day of school I went straight up to his new teacher and introduced myself as CJ’s mother. No way was I going to have another sibling mix-up. I also mentioned that I would be very interested in being the room mom for the class. Thankfully, the teacher was very sweet, and also around my age, so we had a good connection. She said I was the first to ask so she would grant me the role. BOO YOW BITCHES!
Aside from the fact that CJ’s classmates constantly told me I looked like I could be his sister, the parents respected me as their equal. I got to know a lot of the parents at the school since I coordinated all of the parties. This made it very easy to make mom-friends. Some of which I still have now.
Unfortunately, despite my “mature” reputation amongst the other parents in the school, some members of the faculty still spoke to me as if I was a teenager. They offered parental advice when it wasn’t needed, gave disapproving looks when they noticed my tattoos or when I chose to wear a legging/sneaker ensemble to pick-up, and constantly reminded me that I was perfect as a field day volunteer because I was young and could keep up *inserts eye roll*.
The icing on the cake was when one teacher, probably the oldest teacher on the face of the universe, said the following and I realized I was never going to shake the “teen mom” title. “Wow. When I was your age I was just finishing college and looking for a husband. You started early, huh? God bless you.” Listen here you bag of bones, I don’t give two shits what you were doing at my age.
Two years later, we moved CJ to another school. Not because of the faculty, but because CJ needed to be challenged more academically. This did offer me yet another chance for a fresh start at a new school. But this time was different. I didn’t care how the parents and teachers viewed me. I didn’t care if they knew my age. All I cared about was the well-being of my son and his education. Everyone else could kiss my ass.
I’m not sure if it is my care free approach to this new school or the fact that I was 28 when CJ started (so I looked a little older than previous years), but so far so good. Two years later, CJ is still at the school and we absolutely love it. I am still (unfortunately) the room mom and receive respect from the parents and staff alike.
While we’re on the topic… Another place I often feel uncomfortable about my age as a parent is the work environment. Just a couple of weeks ago, I brought CJ to work with me for “Take Your Child to Work” day. I took CJ to the office cafeteria to get lunch and this happened…
A woman came up to me and said: I’m sorry. Did I just hear you say he is your oldest of three boys?
Nosey ass woman: Wow. This whole time I thought you were one of the children that someone brought to work.
I smiled in the pettiest way I knew, paid for our food and we walked out.
Now I may look young, but I in no way look like a child that would be at work for “Take Your Child to Work” day. You tried it. I can understand you being a little surprised that I have three children, but let’s not get carried away.
I’ve also dealt with people coming into my office, seeing my pictures of my boys and say “OMG these are your children? All of them? How old are they? If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?”
Yes, those are ALL my children. Yes, they are old AF. Two of them are preteens and one is a baby. And yes, I do mind you asking me how old I am cause that’s rude AF and I don’t need you calculating the year I conceived my first-born, you creep! HAVE SOME FUCKING CLASS!!
I may have started on my family earlier than most but that does not make me irresponsible, unfit or unreliable. It also doesn’t make it okay for you to offer unsolicited advice, make disapproving gestures when you find out my age or judge me for “starting early”.
If you think it was tough for you to be a parent at what you deem an appropriate age, imagine how much harder I had to work to raise my child at 18. I was in college, didn’t make a lot of money, was going through my own hormonal changes and I was supposed to raise and protect another life. And you know what? I did it. And I did a damn good job at it.
So I am not just another teen mom. I am a super, incredible, fucking awesome mom and it’s time you know and respect that.