Dear Rene,

I am 21-years-old and have a five-year-old daughter. Whenever we go out I get people looking at me as if I have personally offended them by being a teen mom; some have even had the nerve to lecture me!  They say I selfishly placed a burden on society and my DAUGHTER. I don’t get that at all.

I was with ONE person, got pregnant and maintained a six-year relationship with the father of my child before I decided that the relationship was no longer healthy for the three of us. I stayed in high school and was a full-time employee, mother, fiancé, step-mom, housekeeper, student and daughter; I even graduated with HONORS. I went on and earned my Associates degree and now I’m pursing my Bachelors.

I am not trying to sound like I’m the poster child for teen moms or make it sound easy, because as we all know being a mother at ANY age is difficult to say the least. However, why don’t “adult” mothers got the same RUDE treatment that I receive for no reason and why are “adult” mothers often the ones that dish it out the most?  Shouldn’t a mother get the same respect REGARDLESS of age?

In the end we are all trying to do the same thing;  raise healthy, happy, successful children.  So why all the hate toward teen moms?

Please help because I am at a loss.

Teen Mom NYC


Dear Teen Mom:

First I want to say congratulations on all your accomplishments. Those things are amazing, even under the best of circumstances. Now, please don’t take this the wrong way, but  in your letter, you telegraph your age simply because  you care at all about  what a bunch of strangers say. But I can’t be too hard on you; heck, we were all young once.  So here are three things you can say when someone starts in.

“TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A TEEN MOM”: The next time an “adult” mom opens her mouth about what a burden you are and how you’ve handicapped your future, in a very polite way, say, “Well why don’t you tell me about your experience as a teen mom?” They may stammer and stutter, at which point you can add, “Because I’m sure you’re not saying this to hurt me or tear me down but would really rather help. So tell me how I can make what is a very difficult job just a bit easier.”  Then sit back and wait for them to talk. I think at that point, they’ll realize how bad they sound, trying to heap on guilt and shame. If they do not, move on to the next phrase.

“THANKS FOR YOUR CONCERN, BUT..” Have you ever heard of the “Velvet Hammer” approach? I’m a big fan, even though I’m not very good at it. It’s a way to put someone in his or her place but with a smile on your face. So if they continue on,  politely but FIRMLY, say, “Thanks for your concern, but I’ve got it under control.”  If they are still talking,  stop them mid-sentence with a more insistent, “Thanks but we’re okay.” And if that doesn’t work, walk away. There is nothing that says you have to stand and listen to the opinions of people who aren’t living your life.

“I DON’T CARE” : This is the title of one of the chapters in my book, Good Enough Mother, the Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting and it’s one you need to absorb. You are doing your best as a mother to your daughter. You are modeling for her, what women do; they go to school, they go to work, they hold it down at home, they love fiercely. All those other people, with their opinions have no bearing on you and your life. You don’t care what the old lady on the bus says, it doesn’t matter what the women in church say or how the man in the library feels; this is YOUR life. Practice saying, “I DON’T CARE”, not because you’re going to spring it on them, but because you need to believe it. Learn it. Live it. Love it. Seriously.

I only have one exception to this and that would be parents or other people in your life who genuinely care about you. But you’ll be able to tell the difference between them and the busybodies because their advice will more than likely, be wrapped in love.

Good luck, mommy!

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