Yesterday one of my former students, now probably 17 years old, walked into the office with a tiny baby in her arms. My heart skipped a beat. I tried not to draw attention to myself, as I was not sure how I would react or what I would say to her without a look of horror on my face. Once it was confirmed by a teacher through conversation I overheard between the two that the baby was actually hers, it really got my mind spinning.
First, I thought “what a shame.” Then I thought, “I’m almost 30 and I couldn’t imagine having a child!” Then, I thought “what is the ‘right’ reaction to her new motherhood?”
Part of me feels like I shouldn’t judge young mothers as much as I do. I have respect for teen moms who manage to raise well-adjusted, successful children and manage to make something of themselves, too. However, these cases are the exception to the rule. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a 16 or 17 year old girl waiting at the bus stop with her toddler wandering 4 or 5 feet behind her while she talks on the phone, not watching her child at all. Or the number of times I’ve seen a young mother grab her child violently, cursing at him or her in reprimand.
Many of my students have younger siblings and act, essentially, as the parent. They make sure their sibiling(s) make it to school, make sure they get home, make sure they eat and I’m sure the list does not stop there. This a mother does not make. A teenager taking care of younger siblings or taking care of a younger child does not necessarily have the patience or the knowledge of child development to raise a child of their own.
I have a 5th grade student who comes and spends time with me nearly every day after school. After seeing my former student, my mind racing, I was reminded of a time my mom approached me while I was washing my face before bed and reminded me in her best ‘mom voice’ to use protection. Thinking of my 5th grader (who jokingly calls me Mom), I had a sudden urge of maternal instinct along the lines of my mom’s friendly reminder. While in the shower that evening, I went over all of the things I wanted to tell her.
“Whatever what your friends decide, remember, it’s YOUR decision whether you have a baby or not. Remember, once you have a child, your life is no longer about what YOU want to do. It becomes what your child needs. You won’t be able to go the movies whenever you want, or go over to a friend’s house on a whim, or spend your money on new shoes, a manicure or a new hair do. Instead, you’ll be buying diapers, baby food and baby clothes. Promise me that you will come back visit me to show off your high school diploma and not your new baby.”
So why my high horse? Is it very middle-class white girl of me to judge what I have never experienced? (after re-reading this post I wanted to add that it’s not limited to any race in particular. i see this happen across racial lines.) At my age, I can count on one hand the number of my closest friends with children. Most of them just recently got pregnant. I’m starting to wonder myself about what my choice will be. I was always taught (as my friend Nana reminded me in her May 13th blog post —http://returnandfetch.blogspot.com/) to take care of myself first. My mother was not terribly young when she had me, her first child, and I was raised to believe in the possibilites and opportunities available if I worked hard and didn’t give up. I don’t remember having any conversations about marriage, childbirth or even desiring such conversation. (Although that might be a personality thing.) I think that my next conversation with her might address her thoughts on motherhood and whether she is happy with her decision on when she had children.
I’m starting to worry that I’ll be 40 and suddenly realize I’m too old to have a child. I refuse to do fertility treatments, and I refuse to be 60 when my child is graduating college. I have spend my life LIVING. I have been across the country, across the ocean, and I have had the freedom to explore and socialize on a whim. I wouldn’t trade this in for a child any day (does that sound horrible?) But now my life is winding down. I’ve partied myself out in some ways, and now that I have my Master’s degree and my Level II certification, I feel ready to move on with the next stage of my life. So what will this new stage be?
Apparently, I’m not alone. Newsweek’s most recent issue has an article entitled “Why I Froze My Eggs.” It seems to be a modern phenomenon that women of my generation are experiencing ‘en masse.’ I wouldn’t freeze my eggs, though. Even if I did have $15,000 to pay for it.
After re-reading this I wanted to add that my final thoughts are: “So what the hell is wrong with being