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Ask Rene: Why All The Hate For Teen Moms?


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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  1. pattyrowland

    September 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    good advice gem! kudos to this teen mom who’s child will not be a ‘burden on society’!

  2. Irene

    September 9, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    There is nothing that says you have to stand and listen to the opinions of people who aren’t living your life.- Gem word of wisdom

    AMEN!!! Young lady print that out and put it on your refrigerator along with “I don’t care”

  3. Smarty P. Jones

    September 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    People feel bold enough and brave enough to do this after watching the train wreck that is “Teen Mom” on MTV. I am the product of a young mother who started having babies at 18.

    To this young mother, I say that the best revenge is success. You’ve already proven that you will excel in bleak circumstances. You are treated this way because you allow others to treat you that way. My therapist told me last year that you have to teach people how to treat you. I am passing it on to you.

    Instead of allowing yourself to be treated that way in front of your child, interrupt and remove yourself. You don’t have to take it and they can not make you feel any way without your permission. Don’t give it to them.

    You’re my shero!

  4. Diana

    September 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I love this article. I also was a teen mom. Nothing worse than being made to feel like a ‘burden to society’ when you are doing your best to make lemonade from lemons. You sound like an amazing mother and person, keep up the good work, and don’t let anyone tear your down with their narrow minded judgement. Congratulations on all your successes, your daughter will no doubt look up to you. Nothing we do as young mothers is easy. We took the hard road with pride and held our heads high for our children. What more could be ask of us? Good luck to you in the future. <3

  5. Taylormade

    September 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I applaud this mother for her accomplishments; however she may be one of the few.
    “In the most recent Census Bureau statistics, 2.4 million of the nation’s families are maintained by grandparents who have one or more of their grandchildren living with them–an increase of 400,000 (19 percent) since 1990. These families comprise 7 percent of all families with children under 18.”
    I am one of those grandmothers, raising my granddaughter her Father is my son. We have custody. Her mother is nowhere to be found. I have had her since she was 2.
    Understand I don’t condone these adults and strangers who would take it upon themselves to berate a stranger. But I understand the frustrations of others who do carry the burden of these children either personally via their taxes or community. And the numbers keep growing and our society has created a culture where the behavior is acceptable.
    Also, it is so hard to understand why girls are still having accidents when birth control is so accessible?
    I wish this Mother good luck, as I struggle to answer the question, “Why did my mother not keep me?”


  6. Ken Sargeant

    September 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Almost implicit within the equation of a 21 year old single mom with a five year old is the notion that some form of public assistance is providing for that child’s well being(not necessarily true).
    We, unfortunately live in a “zero sum game” society. In other words,many people feel that “I can’t win (tax wise) unless you lose (benefit wise). Rightly or wrongly, some people view such mothers, and their(“babies’ daddys) as being personally responsible for taking bread off of their tables. The Dads get a bit of a pass, because they, customarily are not as visibly proximal to the kid as the Mom is.
    Personally, I feel everybody is entitled to one lapse of judgement……it’s the repeat teen Mom’s that piss me off. I do, however, make every effort not to let it show, though.

  7. Irene

    September 10, 2011 at 7:18 am

    The Dads get a bit of a pass, because they, customarily are not as visibly proximal to the kid as the Mom is. ken

    Yes, Ken this is true but if more dads in America were doing their fair share the amount of assistance single moms would need would lessen. I hold my son’s feet to the fire on this subject they are just as much a dad as the girl is a mom when it comes to pregnancy.

  8. That Writing Chic

    September 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Sadly, some people are so judgmental. I was 24 when I had my daughter, however, I looked like I was in my teens. The girl in the room next to me and the girl that shared my room were both teen moms. There was commotion in the hospital because, apparently, both of the young ladies had a child by the SAME boy, less than 24 hours apart. I will never forget the nurse coming in the room to scold ME and tell ME that I should learn to keep my legs closed, because she was sure that I would be back next year with another child. I let her finish her rant and imagine her surprise to learn that while I was unwed, I was 24 years old. I took the chance then, as I always do NOW to let people know that each person’s path is THEIRS to follow. A teen mom has her own struggles and rather than contribute to any statistics, we should help them, embrace them and realize that they didn’t get pregnant alone. Instead of being angry that they are on public assistance (IF THAT IS IN FACT THE CASE – DON’T ASSUME), try to help them find a way to get off! I agree with @Irene – more dad’s need to step up to the plate, because although I wasn’t a teen – I did find myself a single mom. Parents do their son’s a disservice by not holding them just as accountable as the teen mom. Kudos to Rene for her advice and blessings to Teen Mom NYC.

  9. Amanda

    September 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    One thing that I have noticed more since I have become a mother is that people look for anything to judge you on. It is easy to look at someone who appears to have had a child as a teenager and judge. It’s easy to make all kinds of assumptions without getting to know the person as an individual first. Yes, there are a lot of teenagers out there who got pregnant when they could have avoided it, who choose to not take responsibility for their actions, who choose not to work hard and improve their situation. But there are a few out there who do the exact opposite and we don’t know who these ones are when we choose to pass them on the street and judge them.

    I’m 26, I had my first child at 21, and was married, but I was still judged. I was judged because shortly after we had our child, we ran into financial difficulties and had to be on welfare. So we were judged because people assumed that we had been on welfare when I got pregnant and were just choosing to be lazy. We’ve been judged for choosing to live a simpler life now that we are not on welfare so that I can stay home with the kids. I got judged for not breast feeding my kids. The list goes on.

    Yes, it still makes me angry, but I’ve learnt to bite my tongue and realize most people who judge me are living in glass houses, so to speak!

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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