The Young Mom Stereotype


Let's not dance around the subject.

Let's get it all out there.

Although being a teen mom is an entirely different, uniquely challenging experience from the 20-something  mom, we're still relatively grouped into the same category -- at least to the rest of the world. And if the shows Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant teach the world anything (besides don't get knocked up in high school), it's that young motherhood comes along with drug charges, promiscuity and bad choices. That young motherhood is an irresponsible accident limited to the uneducated, the disadvantaged or the fiercely religious. Young motherhood is not wanted. And even those who are 23, 24, 25 years old will still be judged, speculated, gossiped about.

Of course she'd get pregnant young. She's "that type."

I recently read a story over at The Stir about a teenage girl, a straight-A student, who told everyone in her life she was pregnant. She quickly faced rumors and judgments in her high school halls -- being labeled the "bad girl" and being told she was "expected" to get pregnant. Then six months later she pulled off the fake, padded belly. She wanted to prove that pregnant teenagers get treated differently, get unfairly judged. And she made her point loud and clear.

And although I have no concept of how embarrassing and challenging a teenage pregnancy is, I know what it feels like to be pitied, judged, asked insensitive questions. I know what it's like to have people search my face for an age -- as if there's a cut-off for being a competent, responsible mom and a mom that's taken less seriously. I know what it's like to be embarrassed to tell people my age.

But to me? I'm a young woman who has made a commitment to my family -- to my young marriage, my toddler -- while pursuing my dreams and ambitions. I'm an educated woman who had faulty birth control, which could have happened to anyone. I'm a woman who birthed a child and birthed a new life, a new identity, that changed the way I think and the way I feel. I'm a mother who loves her child with the same passion that I would have 10 years from now. The same passion, the same worry, the same love as any other mom. I'm a person who is constantly defending myself -- more to myself than anyone else.

I am not a statistic.

Even though being a young 20-something mom used to be the norm not too long ago, there's a certain amount of isolation, doubt and defensiveness that comes with the territory today. Motherhood itself comes with a level of insecurity (Am I screwing up my kids? Am I a terrible mom?), which brings out the Mean Girl at play group. And maybe age is just an easy target. Or maybe it's just the new "young mom" stereotype that we'll always have to overcome.

In starting Early Mama, I wanted to provide a place that other young moms could connect and inspire one another -- to show that there are a lot of us out there who decided to start early. But I was also hoping that maybe we could change the way we're perceived. So leave a comment below saying why you're not a statistic. Tell us something about you, about your family, that will give the world perspective. Screw the stereotype.

Image: Polina Sergeeva/Flickr via The Stir