My 10-year-old daughter and I were standing in line last week and she asked if we could get a magazine. On the cover of this magazine was a “star” of the MTV series Teen Mom. For several reasons, but the main one being the lack of time, energy and want-to, we don’t watch the show. The premise, however, is that several real-life pregnant teenagers get to live out their pregnancies and early motherhood days on television for all the world to see.
“Why do you want that magazine?” I asked.
She answered that she just wanted to know about the show.
Oh my goodness! She’s ten! Why would she want to know what being a teen mom is about?
“I’ll answer any questions you have; I’m a mom, ya know,” I told her, “But, I’m not buying that magazine.”
It’s not that I don’t think teens who make poor, unfortunate decisions – like having unprotected sex – don’t need support. They, along with every new momma, absolutely need any and all support they can have thrown their way. I do, however, believe with my whole being, that they do not need a reality television show. They do not need their faces on magazines. They do not need book deals. And they certainly do not need paid speaking engagements – I don’t care who her momma is.
Becoming a parent was a decision that my husband and I made together and after much thought and planning and conversation. It was a decision we made after our educational goals and career goals were met. It was a decision we made when we were certain that we were in a place to allow our lives to be turned upside down by a dependent little being and we were absolutely sure we could devote the rest of our lives to this little creature, who was now standing beside me forcing me to confront difficult topics like teen pregnancy while standing in line to buy chocolate chips for the pancakes I promised to wake up 30 minutes early to make for her and her sister.
I’m not saying teen moms can’t be successful at parenting. I know it can be done. I’ve watched friends and colleagues and acquaintances successfully parent after delivering their baby while still in their own teen years. It should come as no surprise that they pulled off successful parenting without a video crew and producers and directors.
Being a parent – especially a teen mom or dad – is not glamorous and we, as a society, should not make it so. It’s a tough job and it comes with tough decisions and tough questions and tense moments. Parenting should be guarded and deliberate. It’s a full-time job and does not come with a make-up artist and a prime-time slot on Thursdays.
I sighed a big sigh and turned back to my first born who, even though she’s only 4 inches shorter than I am, still looks like the young and innocent baby I brought home with me 10 years ago and said, “What questions do you have about Teen Mom?”
“Well,” she began, chewing the inside of her bottom lip as she often did when she was deep in thought, “Why is there a show about them?”
I smiled. She was asking the right questions.