Being called a teen mom isn’t just a label; it is a term that carries a great deal of stigmatism. Society says teen parents won’t succeed; statistics indicate that these teens are destined to fail; stereotypes depicts a dismal picture of the teen parent’s future. Cast aside as a failure, many teen mothers give up on themselves before giving ambition a chance, leaving despair and hopelessness to be inherited by the next generation. This is the result of no one encouraging the teen moms to be better, make wiser decisions, or see beyond their current situation.
The stigmatism of teen parenthood limits future success of these girls because it distorts how they view themselves. As a teen mom myself, I remember hearing comments directed toward me like, “You don’t look like a teen mother” or “You are so smart to be a teen parent; I can’t believe you are where you are and a teen mom.” Those statements were accompanied by looks of disgust and judgement. Statements like that may seem shocking to many of you, but just imagine hearing some variation of those words almost daily as a teenager. With everyone around me painting a picture of failure, it was extremely difficult for me not to buy into thoughts of being nothing and aborting my dreams of success.
Some see a young lady with a baby and make assumptions about her, her background, or her situation, judging her without ever speaking with her. Assumptions of promiscuity, poverty and problems limits the ability to see these teen mothers as young ladies, which affects them and the generation that they’ve birthed.
With more than 750,000 teens becoming mothers each year, it’s evident that judging teen mothers doesn’t lead to a resolution. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, teen mothers and their children are bricks in the foundation of our future. They can’t simply be discarded as useless because of our own personal biases. Regardless of the decisions that led to teens having children, it’s still our responsibility to inspire those teens to succeed, not only as parents but as productive citizens, as well.
Too often teen mothers are judged for the “mistake” of getting pregnant and classified as irresponsible, and rarely provided with an opportunity to succeed. Even convicted criminals are granted amnesty and given a second chance. Rather than extending judgement, offer teen mothers a little encouragement. The decisions of their past have already manifested; that can’t be changed. But, planting seeds of hope, knowledge and optimism will impact their future and ours.
There is not a single answer to how to reduce teen pregnancy, nor can we guarantee the success of these young ladies, but the words we speak to them and about them are sure to become what we harvest in the future. –deondriea cantrice
Deondriea Cantrice is the author of several books, including Rhythm Can’t Keep Time, Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough; When Emotions Lie; You! Branding Yourself for Success; and Tiptoes, Steel-Toes and Stilettos. She is the host of the popular podcast Catch the Rhythm and has been named as a finalist for the Stiletto Woman in Business Award (SWIBA) for the 2014 Author of the Year and the recipient of the Distinction of Excellence Award