Tag Archives: parenting

#ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear

Across the country (and even over seas!) young mothers are uniting in a discussion on a common topic – their experiences as a young parent. The hash tag #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear was started by blogger and former teen mom, Natasha Vianna about her frustration with comments made to young mothers. You can read more about how and why #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear started in Natasha’s blog post at the PushBack.

Clearly Natasha struck a chord with other current and former young moms, who have utilized the hash tag and shared their own frustrations and experiences. As a former young mom, I too joined in on the discussion. I was 19 years old when my first daughter was born and by 23 I had two daughters. The stares I received and the comments people have felt the need to share with me have, at times, been appalling.

Shortly after leaving my abusive, dead-beat boyfriend I was at my postpartum check up. My beautiful 6-week old daughter was sleeping in her car seat, as I sat in the waiting room filling out papers.  Two middle-age ladies who were sitting near by “whispered” to one other about how I was, “Just another one of those girls.”  It sadly wasn’t the first nor the last negative comment I have heard.

You’re doing a good job… for a young parent (& why is that surprising?)

Why didn’t you marry your [abusive] baby’s father?

Your life held such potential [it still does]

Really? You have two kids?

Its irresponsible of you to want your own identity and interests

 How unfair that teens are having babies when there are couples who are unable to conceive [no correlation]

I was fortunate to connect with a young mom group in my area at that time called MELD. Once a week several other young moms, myself and our children would meet. For the first hour we shared dinner with one another and our children. Afterwards our kids would be watched by volunteers and the remaining time would be split between sharing and education. As we shared our experiences with one another, there seemed to be an endless supply of rude, appalling things we were being told.  Though I have graduated from the group, I still keep in contact with most of the moms. I have also made amazing, supportive friendships with many young parents online.

Despite assumptions and stereotypes placed on young mothers, we are succeeding. I’ve completed a college degree and am working on a second one to become a social worker (working with young parents and their children). I’m a member of my school’s honor society and my GPA is a 3.549. My young mom friends have also graduated high school and gone to college.

As Katie of A Girl Like Me blogs: “We’re not all on welfare, and we’re not all party animals or sluts or druggies like the girls who give the rest of us a bad name. We love and take care of our kids just as much as ‘normal’ aged mothers do. We’re still intelligent and productive members of society. We grow up with our kids, and I feel like we learn more life lessons that way. The young moms I know are some of the wisest people in my life.”

Natasha Vianna blogs that, “Hearing the success stories of young moms can sometimes anger people even more. If we’re not falling into the ‘stereotype’ and have made something of our lives, we are told we are still a bad example! We are told we are promoting the concept of becoming a teen mom. When we fail, we get the ‘I told you so!”

The stereotyping and judgments placed on young parents is appalling and damaging to their success and the success of their children. General assumptions, such as the ones shared on #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear can be truly damaging. We are empowered by speaking out and sharing our experiences as young moms. I encourage all young moms, current and former, to join in the  conversation on twitter #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear

Can You Hear Me?

I’ve almost entirely lost my voice. I can whisper or I can squeakily force a few words out. But, ultimately, I can’t effectively talk.

Getting two little girls awake and out of bed, dressed, breakfast eaten,  medications taken, hair brushed, shoes on, coats on, hats and gloves on and out the door with everything they needed (backpack, snacks, homework, etc) with limited ability to verbally direct them was a challenge. Calling my doctor on the phone to make an appointment was also a challenge.

I could get upset. I could get mad. I could get frustrated that I essentially cannot communicate in my usual manner. It wouldn’t do any good though. It wouldn’t change the fact that I’ve lost my voice.

And, looking back, it’s not the first time it’s happened to me. At least once a year, usually during the cold season, my voice disappears. The majority of the cold season I’m fighting some kind of sickness. Colds go right to bronchitis for me. Flus stick around longer than they do for others. And my throat gets “messed up.” (I’ve been told by my Ear, Nose and Throat doctor that I will need to have my tonsils out, though the connection to my lost voice is weak.) Every year I get upset that these things happen. I get angry and mad and frustrated. I fall into beliefs of “it’s not fair” and “why me”.

Billaday: Flickr

Why? All my resistance and beliefs have never shown even the slightest change. In fact, in behaving in that manner I likely prolong my sickness. Negativity is a sickness all on its own.

Of course I don’t want to be sick. Of course I’d like to be able to talk and communicate. Over-focusing on all the things I want and don’t have doesn’t propel me forward. Instead I become entrapped in the black-and-white, pity thinking of how horrible it is. I get lost in the darkness.

There is another side to the darkness. To the negativity. In every situation, regardless of how dark and desolate it is, there is some light. It just needs to be sought out and discovered. If this sounds like a load of bullshit, I hear you. I’ve been there. I’m still there somewhat. I won’t tell you how to see the world or what to do, as we are each in control of our own lives and our own choices. Only you can decide if you wish to seek out the positives that lie within the negative experiences in your life. It isn’t always an easy task to take on.

For myself, there is no longer another choice. The journey of self-discovering is never-ending and there is no map. Navigating through the darkness and negativity to uncover light and positivity is exhilarating. Especially when I realize it was only hidden and always present. Expanding how I view the world, how I perceive experiences and how behave in relation to both is amazing. The paradigm shift that is occurring for me leads to growth in my life I previously had not thought possible.

How I have reacted and viewed losing my voice today is an example of that. The ability to speak only a few words is an opporunity for me to decide what is most important to be communicated. While I was initially nervous and predicting chaos for the morning routine with my daughters, quite the opposite happened. I framed the morning for them by telling them that I was losing my voice and couldn’t speak loudly. I then asked for their help in doing a good job listening and accomplishing what needed to be done. If I found myself needing to repeat myself so they could hear, I would motion for them to come closer to me so I wouldn’t strain my voice attempting to speak louder.

Early into the morning routine they both began to whisper as well, matching their volumes to mine. With the three of us all whispering, we needed to pay close attention to listening. By having limited vocal ability, I had to constantly choose if what I wanted to say was important enough to warrant depleting some of my voice. Surprisingly, in many cases, it wasn’t! The girls were both excellent at listening to directions and getting ready this morning. No one screamed (certainly not me!), there were no temper tantrums (even from me!) and we were out the door, well prepared, in better time than the rest of this week.

Perhaps I should lose my voice more often! Being required to continuously allow only statements of absolute importance to be spoken is a task I’d like to attempt to continue. How often we let everything we think become verbalized. How much of what we say is actually needed to be said? I’m grateful for the ability to discover the positive in this situation. I’m even more grateful for my daily ability to speak and communicate with my voice. For the moment, my lack of one will be viewed as a reminder of such gratitude.

Slow Down, Start Over

Yesterday morning I was already running late. Wednesdays are my busiest, craziest day of the week and I somehow always manage to fall behind. I went upstairs to wake my daughters, only to find E, my 3 year old, standing in the bathroom with an exploded pull-up. An exploded poopy pull-up. Now, if you haven’t ever had to deal with this (and I truly hope you’ve been spared!) let me tell you, it’s…disgusting. Not only did the pull-up explode but there was poop all over her pajamas, her legs and the floor. E needed a shower (which is what you get when you live in a house with no bathtub, but that’s a different story). I got Z, my 7 year old, downstairs to get dressed and ready (not an easy solo task for an easily distracted little girl) and went back upstairs to give E a shower. Of course, E didn’t want to take a shower. After much pressuring, she got in the shower and, 20 minutes later than expected, we all made it (somewhat) ready to the dining room table.

At this point we weren’t just a little late anymore, we were really late. And I still needed to feed them breakfast, put dinner in the crockpot and finish getting ready. I gave them breakfast and started on dinner. When I looked back a moment later, the girls were fooling around and not even at the table. I’m not going to sugar coat it. At this point my patience snapped and I raised my voice to tell them to, “sit at the table, be quiet and eat your breakfast.” One of them started to say something and I cut her off saying, “if it isn’t an emergency, I cannot hear it now.” They sat. They were quiet. And they ate their breakfast. But I felt like shit over how I had handled it.

As I began putting the chicken in the crockpot, piling ingredients on top, I took the moment to slow down and really process what had just happened. Was it worth damaging my relationship with my children to avoid being late? We were going to be late either way. Did it really matter (why I was upset)? Or could I let it go?

I thought it over and, quickly, decided that my relationship with them was of #1 importance. I sat down at the table with my daughters and apologized for raising my voice and being snappy. In doing so I owned up to my mistakes and modeled an appropriate method of resolving them. I asked them if we could all start the morning over, because I didn’t like how I acted and how it went (again, taking responsibility). Unprompted, they both apologized for not listening to instructions and said they would also like to start over and try again.

I work very hard not to raise my voice with my children, as I realize what they must feel when I do so. I don’t like it when someone raises their voice to me. It makes me feel horrible. And small. On the occasion that I slip up and do raise my voice (and, who are we kidding here, it does occasionally happen as stressed out parents) I like to use the Slow Down, Start Over model. It acts as a reset button. And you can use it anytime you wish.

Slow Down, Start Over

  • Slow down. Take a moment by yourself (go to the bathroom if you have to!) and take a few breaths to calm down. Then, process what just happened. Reflect on your own actions. Determine what your priority in the situation is (for me, it was my relationship with my daughters).
  • Own up to your mistakes/behaviors. Take responsibility for your actions. And then apologize.
  • Ask to start over (try again, reset, etc).
  • Let it go. This is important. You really need to let it go and move on. Holding on to feeling of guilt and the like will only cloud the rest of your day. Which you are starting over.
  • Start again, being cognizant to behave as you originally wished you had.

The process of doing this shows kids how to take responsibility for their actions, that mistakes are ok (AND that moms make them too!), to apologize/make ammends, and to let it go so you can try again. It frames mistakes as a method of learning and growth. It can be parent or child initiated. And, many times, it works. After our morning start over the remainder of yesterday went quite well. Yes, we were late, but my children were able to see me as human (instead of the supermom I try to be) and we were able to use it as an opportunity to learn.