By Kristy Campbell
Teen pregnancy is hot in Hollywood right now. MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, ABC’s The Secret Life of An American Teenager, and Fox’s Glee all showcase the topic. But I have a real issue with giving teenage motherhood an air of intrigue. It isn’t based on moral or religious bias, it’s based on the fact that I’m the child of teenage parents.
My mom and dad were 17 when my mom got pregnant with me. She was kicked out of her house, moved in with my dad’s family, and saw her college dreams go down the drain. My dad was released from his Varsity baseball team and lost a scholarship. For my mother, going from being someone’s daughter to wife to mother within a 3-month period was a tough transition, but it was only later that her stress fractures gave way.
My parents worked to get my dad through college. A few years later, my mom went to nursing school while working as a waitress in order to make ends meet. I remember frequently saying goodnight to my mom as she studied, and then waking her up at the same table the next morning. I’d then make her coffee, make lunches for her, my brother and me, and hug her goodbye as I left for school. When she graduated (at the top of her class), she started working at a hospital -- often pulling double shifts in order to earn extra money.
When I was 12, my mom had a breakdown of sorts. She was exhausted, anemic, and thought she was going to die. When I saw the ambulance take her away, I cried. When she came home a couple of days later, I was mad and didn’t understand for a long time. As part of her healing, she began to experiment with who she is. She wrote poetry and danced in the rain. I was entering my teen years at the time and didn’t appreciate my pushing-the-boundaries mom, and so we often clashed over who was the parent. When I needed teen advice, she was never sure what to say about dating, sex, boyfriend or girlfriend problems. When I went off to college, I couldn’t go to her since she had never experienced college life as a single woman…or life as a single woman on any level.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s, married, and had had my first child that I began to understand the sacrifices my mom made for me. My dad made compromises, but it was my mother’s journey that affected me. Beyond Senior Prom, she gave up her ability to grow up and into herself at her own pace and choosing. Her own emotions, fears, dreams, and hopes were replaced with her feelings for me.
Today my mother and I have a strong bond and deep respect for each other. My mom has found her stride and has grown into an amazing woman with incredible wisdom. She and my father celebrate their 45th anniversary this month.
My hope is that young girls watching shows highlighting teen pregnancy and thinking it looks manageable will pause. The baby part is easy. It’s the raising of the child, the giving up of your self, and the inexperience with life that’s the difficult part. And, very often, your child will end up raising you. I think it’s important to round out this perspective for teens, and I’d like to pitch a new reality series for the fall television lineup titled: “My Teenage Mom and Me”…just to show the other side of the story.
Kristy Campbell is a writer and actress. Her column, “Saving The World One Teen At A Time,” is at Mommytracked.com, and her thoughts on modern mid-life are offered in her blog, “My Cape Is At The Cleaners: Secrets of an ExSupermom.” You can find her work at www.kristycampbellcreative.com.
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