5 Greats Things My Teen Mom Taught Me
Thanks to shows like Teen Mom, young mothers are often scorned by the media. My mother had me when she was only 17 and since Mother’s Day is coming up; it seems only fair to share what it’s really like to be raised by a teenage mom.
Pros- My mom always understands how important the right outfit is. I remember the day of the 7th grade Valentine’s dance. Money was tight, so I was planning on wearing a hideous velvet and pearl dress left over from Christmas, as it was my best available option. Maybe she had a little extra to spend and wanted me to look my best or maybe she had overheard me talking about my huge crush on our school star basketball player and remembered what that felt like, but for whatever reason, an hour before the dance my mom surprised me and took me to the mall for a fabulous red jumper with a black turtleneck and matching pageboy hat. All my friends were bickering over who got to try on my hat first and my crush asked me to dance. It was like the end of a Disney Channel movie, and I will forever be grateful to her for crafting that night for me. My mother’s fashion sense is still superior to my own. I’m 30 and I still shop in her closet when I have to be seen in public, as her collection of stylish dresses and tunic tops puts my drawers full of yoga pants and long sleeve T-shirts to shame. In fact, I’m wearing her high-low hem purple sweater right now, and I feel fabulous.
Cons- Between trying to figure out what’s “in”, having a paltry after school job paycheck for your clothing budget and dealing with teenage body issues, it’s not easy to put together an outfit to wear to high school that you feel comfortable and confident it. It’s even harder when you can never find your favorite shirt because it’s in her laundry basket. Growing up and moving out on my own solved this particular issue, but even now it’s hard not get annoyed when my mom looks better in my new pants than I do.
Pros- Music was a huge part of how I identified growing up and having a mom young enough to appreciate the same music I liked made it a big source of entertainment for us. When I graduated from middle school, my parents took me to my first concert as a gift and instead of feeling chaperoned, I felt like we enjoyed it together. Not only can I sing every lyric of every song on Rhythm Nation, thanks to long winter weekends and a limited entertainment budget, my mother, sister and I can do the choreography just like Janet. My cousins and I do a great 5 part harmony of Aerosmith’s Janie’s Got a Gun that we perfected on long car trips, though we had no idea at the time what we were singing about. If they ever announce a family version of The Voice, I think we’ve got it in the bag.
Cons- Compared to some of my peers, I feel like my musical education was thin. Beyond the recent Maroon 5 song, I’m not quite sure who Mick Jagger is exactly or what his moves are. In fact, because my uncles spent years playing in a KISS tribute band, I was in college before I understood that the Rolling Stones logo tee wasn’t the same as Jean Simmons fan shirt. And if commercials have any truth to them, I’ve apparently missed a rite of passage in complaining about the radio station while driving with my mom.
Pros- I’ve never been dragged to the symphony or films with subtitles when I’d rather go see a concert or the latest rom-com, because so would my mother. We often exchange recommendations about must watch TV shows and have easily spent hours rehashing the ending of Gone Girl. Being a young mom also means she has plenty of stamina. For example, she spent most of her free time in her late 20s coaching my middle school cheerleading squad with zeal, and we’ve had many late nights watching dance competitions and award shows.
Cons- My mom’s energy can make me feel lazy; sometimes she can chase after my toddlers long after I need to take a break. Training for a half marathon can be disheartening when I struggle to finish a six mile training run without passing out and see on Facebook that my mother/training partner not only ran faster than I did, but decided to add a step class on at the end of her workout-just for fun.
Pros- When I was are a teenager, being out with my mom made me feel mature and sophisticated as wait staff thought I was old enough to sit at the bar, people asked us if we were sisters, and grown men hit on us both. This delighted me and annoyed my mother.
Cons – Now that I’m an adult, when we go out people still ask us if we are sisters. This delights my mother and annoys me.
Thorny Teen Issues
Pros- When I was a teen, talking to my mom about sex, pregnancy, drugs and drinking were easy because she remembered all too well what it was like to be there. My friends were all envious that I didn’t have to lie to my parents in order to go to a party, and the fact that I knew I could call home if I needed a sober ride helped prevent me from making dumb choices. When I did become sexually active, my mom supported my taking birth control and instead of slut shaming me, was proud of me for being responsible.
Cons- Just because she’s young, doesn’t mean she’s dumb. Unlike my friends, there was no sneaking out of the house, no telling her I was staying at a girlfriend’s and actually spending the night with a guy instead, no motel room parties, no taking alcohol from the liquor cabinet and filling the bottles with water. I never got away with anything truly wild because she remembered how teen deception works and was on to me- every time.
Pros- Although she has never for a single second made me feel like giving birth to me prevented her from doing anything in life, the older I get the more respect I have for my mom and the opportunities she sacrificed to have me. I graduated from college and then law school, partially because I wanted to, but also because I wanted to make her proud.
Cons- Despite my academic achievements, it was really hard not to feel lazy when I was in my mid-twenties and could barely remember the feed the cat and stay on top of my own laundry considering that when my mom was the same age she had two kids, was working a full time job, paying a mortgage, and in her spare time, sewed my Halloween costumes.
While being the child of a teen mom may mean my upbringing doesn’t fit society’s definition of conventional, I like to think my sister and I turned out alright. Either way, I have great memories of childhood that I wouldn’t trade and a best friend who just happens to be my mother.