Friday, May 3, 2013

Meet: Amanda

After reading this excellent post about teenage parenthood on Rants From Mommyland I had to get in contact with the author the rest is this wonderful interview with Amanda. 

Amanda (a.k.a Ginger), 33, lives near Hershey, Pennsylvania (which is apparently, the sweetest place on Earth) with her husband of almost 14 years, her 13 year old son and 16 year old daughter (her 18 year old stepson moved out last summer L), two ugly but awesome dogs and a creepy cat.  She is the Advertising  & Marketing Director for a small automotive association where she gets to write super exciting articles about engine oil and car body paint!  All kidding aside, she truly loves what she does, both in and out of work.  When not working, she can be found spending time with her family, making something crafty, or draining her Kindle battery reading yet another book.

You were 16 when you had your now 16 years old daughter.  What were the immediate responses from family, friend and society when they found out you were pregnant?

Amazingly, my family (while disappointed) was wonderful when I shared the news with them.  In fact, they reacted much better than I would if my now 16 year old daughter came home telling me she were pregnant!

My friends were another story.  Some stuck by me and were extremely supportive; while others just cut off contact with me.  That was hard to handle, losing my “friends.”  But I learned some valuable lessons from them, one being that they weren’t really my friends at all, and that my daughter and I would both be better off not having them in our life.

As for society, I didn’t really have a hard time with them.  Because I was so tiny before I got pregnant, most people that didn’t know me couldn’t tell I was pregnant.  The society judgment didn’t begin until after I gave birth to my daughter.

Think back to when you first found out you were pregnant.  What could the people in your life have done to help you?

When I first got pregnant, I had extremely bad morning sickness (it lasted well into the afternoon), so I began homeschooling.  I was not really pushed to finish my education.  Yes, every so often someone would ask me how I was doing with my schoolwork, but I wasn’t made to do it.  It became a lot easier for me to just blow it off. 

After my daughter was born, I wanted to go back to school.  But to keep the peace, I was splitting our time between living with my parents house and living at my daughter’s father’s house.  Because our homes were over an hour away from each other, it seemed impossible to attend school in a formal setting.  So, again, it became easier to just “blow off” my assignments.  In the end, I didn’t finish in time and instead received my GED a few years later. 

In your piece from Rants from Mommyland you clearly stated: “I took birth control every day.  I’m not trying to dismiss the way this changed my life; I’m just trying to make the point that unplanned pregnancies don’t happen only to teenagers.”  I love that you show some teens are taking the responsible steps to practice safer sex.  How did you get to the point of realizing your sexual health was your responsibility and how did you go about getting birth control?

A few months before I became pregnant, I had a scare.  I talked with my mom, who took me to the doctor for a test.  Once the results came back that I was not pregnant I asked to be placed on the pill. 

Do you think teens are as careful today as you were?  Why?
I would like to think they are.  The availability of condoms and other birth control are a lot easier to access now than they were when I was a teen.  However, I think teenagers now (as when I was a teen) have the “it won’t happen to me” complex that seems to plague us all from the age of 13-19 (and sometimes beyond).  I also think teen pregnancy can be somewhat glamorized now; which makes it seem almost fun.  It is NOT fun.  It’s really hard work.  It’s being extremely sleep-deprived and unsure of yourself, raising a baby while you are still learning and growing yourself. 

What was your biggest motivation as a student parent?
I was fortunate in that I had a wealth of computer skills for my age when I started working.  They afforded me secretarial jobs that paid better than most kids my age were earning.  However, I wanted more for my family and myself.  By going to college when my children were young, I taught them that was hard work, you can manage it all.  So, I guess my motivation was my children.  Not only did my new degree get me a better job, but it also taught them something about determination.

You are now a grown woman with an amazing daughter who is also your best friend.  Why do you think you “…still feel a bit of shame when I see the reactions of strangers finding out I was/am a teen mom[?]”

People’s reactions never bothered me much…until my daughter started school and I would have interactions with other parents.  At school functions we would talk, kind of “comparing notes” on development and general “kid stuff”.  It always seemed they were listening to what I had to say and valued my input as much as I valued theirs.  At least, until they realized how young I was when I had my daughter.  Once they found out I was 16 when I had her, I was often dismissed by many of the other moms.  Or, I would receive an off-handed comment of “It’s so good that you do that for her, considering how young you are.”  They made me feel that because I was young I had no idea what I was doing.  What always struck me about that was that we were all on the same level of parenting.  We all had 6 year olds (or whatever age) and were just trying to figure out how to effectively parent that 6-year old.

Even after all these years, it’s always amazing to me how other women can make you feel.  Often with a simple look, they can let you know (and make you feel) that you are somehow beneath them just because you had your child younger than they did.

What would you like society to know about teenage parents?

That the stereotypes aren’t true across the board.  In fact, more often than not the stereotype is the exception to the norm.  Most teen moms are not “partiers,” bad mothers, and/or dropouts.  Most aren’t having babies just so they can become part of the welfare system. 

Instead, often most teen moms are working harder than an “older” mom at giving their child a better life.  Often these teen moms are going to school, working full time and raising their child.  All without having the same support system most “adult” moms have. 

Teen parents are just trying to do the same thing all parents are trying to do:  Raise their children to the best of their ability.  Do everything they can to provide their child with a good life and raise them to be good, caring, responsible individuals.

Most importantly though, I think it’s important for society to know that while it is okay to provide guidance and encouragement to teen parents, it is NOT okay to pass judgment and spew insults without knowing the situation.  It is important to remember, in every situation, not just that of teen pregnancy, that we are all individuals, and our stories are not the same.  Therefore, since you have not lived anyone’s life but your own, you should not judge others.

If you could wave a magic wand and give all teenage parents in the world something to help them what would it be?

I would make sure that all teenage parents have the support and ability to complete their education.  With a proper education, they will able to provide better for themselves and their children.

As a former teen mom, mother of a sixteen year old today, and member of society what are we doing wrong as a society to help reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy?

In general, I don’t think parents are involved in their children’s lives as much as they used to be.  Often I will be at a sporting event or school concert and there won’t be nearly enough parents there for the number of kids performing.  I know that sometimes this is due to scheduling conflicts or work, but its disconcerting to me that kids don’t seem to have the support they should.  To frequently, parents are communicating with their children through text message instead of having a real conversation.  At times, even I am guilty of this, but I think we all need to work harder to become a part of our children’s lives. 

We have certain rules and traditions in our home.  We must eat dinner together (with no cell phones present) at least 5 times a week.  At least once a month we do a family movie night at home.  And every Sunday we have relatives over for dinner.  By doing these things, we have given our children a sense of family.  When they know their family is there for them, they don’t have to seek others to become their “family.” 

LOVE these rules! Thank you SO MUCH Amanda for your wonderful post on Rants From MommyLand and agreeing to do this interview! You have an amazing a beautiful family!