Beyond Statistics: Portrait of a Former Teen Mom

Beyond Statistics: Portrait of a Former Teen Mom

How often do you judge a book by its cover? And how often have you been unfairly judged yourself? We’ve talked before about why we shouldn’t judge others and the impact it can have on our own lives. Today’s guest poster, my business partner and friend, Alyssa Ast, gives us a peek inside the mind of someone who is often judged by others who don’t take the time to get to know her.

Alyssa wrote this post back in 2010, originally as a guest post for my old site. I’m rerunning it here because I believe the lesson is still valuable and a good reminder for all of us.

Alyssa has become even more successful as a writer (and has grown her family by two, including the one she was pregnant with) since she wrote this piece, and she continues to impress me every day.~Angie

In Judgmental Eyes
By Alyssa Ast 

alyssaLet me give you a brief history lesson of the past 5 years of my life. I’m 23 years old and technically considered to be a single mother.

I got pregnant with my first son at 17, had my second son at 19, and I’m currently pregnant with my 3rd.

I haven’t completed a level of education beyond the 11th grade and needless to say I’m a high school dropout.

I live out of wedlock with my children’s father and don’t work a nine to five job.

You may now be thinking to yourself, well there’s what’s wrong with society. In judgment’s eyes I appear to be just like every other teen mother out there.

I bet you probably think I spend my nights partying as my parents watch my kids. I’m sure you’re even thinking this is why some people should not reproduce.

But if you peer a little deeper and take some time to lose the judgmental eyes, you may actually be surprised at what you would learn about me and my life.

While I’ve made more mistakes in my life than I care to admit, I can honestly say without those mistakes, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Now take a minute to get to know the real me.

I’ve lived with my soul mate, my partner, my best friend for the past 5 years. We have 2 beautiful children together and are expecting our 3rd in June.

Our family consists of days spent laughing under the sun and doing typical things families do together, with one minor exception. We believe in raising our children with the morals and values of the past that have long since been forgotten by most.

Although they are only 4 and 3 years old, my boys are well rounded children, and although they may get into trouble from time to time, they know the importance of respect for themselves and others- which so many children lack now and days.

Like I said, I’m a high school dropout and I don’t work a nine to five job. Instead, I test at college level education in every academic course, except math- which I currently hold a 12th grade education level.

I work from home and co-run a successful business. I’m a freelance writer, journalist, co-founder of the WM Network, and I’m about to publish my first book. And, all before my 24th birthday.

But all of these accomplishments sometimes go unnoticed in my life, because all some people see is my age. In judgmental eyes I’m viewed as a typical teen mother, without a wedding band on my finger, or a high school diploma.

Because of my age, people don’t take the time to notice I’m not one of those parents that’s out partying every night; in fact my parents may have watched my children twice in 5 years.

Because I lack a piece of paper verifying I completed general education courses, I’m viewed as being limited in my intelligence. And because I don’t leave the house every morning to go to work, I’m viewed as lazy and not contributing to society.

It’s very frustrating and emotionally exhausting to be viewed as an ignorant child in the eyes of society. Society has their mind set on stereotypes and most lack the capability to take a second to see what’s really behind some viewed as a stereotype. It isn’t anyone’s fault; after all being judgmental is a human’s nature.

However, please take 5 minutes to really look at me and see ME. Yes, I am 23 years old and expecting my 3rd child.

But please look a little deeper and see, I am a mother and although not legally, I am a wife. I am an educated and successful writer that follows my dreams to make a better life for my children.

I hold wisdom and maturity beyond my years, as I have grown from my past mistakes. Take a second to look and see that not everything is as it appears; sometimes you just need to look a little deeper for the truth.

More About Alyssa Ast

Alyssa Ast is an experienced Arizona based freelance writer, journalist, author, SEO/SEM, web developer and social marketing specialist, who enjoys working from the comfort of her home office. Alyssa works for many online companies and private clients, fulfilling their need for quality content, social marketing and developing their online business needs. Using her SEO and SEM knowledge, Alyssa optimizes traffic to online content and websites– increasing traffic, search engine ranking and profit potential. Read Alyssa’s full bio here.

 

Beyond Statistics: Portrait of a Former Teen Mom

Why You Should Never Have Kids (Unless You Really Want To)

By Angela Atkinson

 

Home with Kids

You’ve heard of the mommy wars, right? That’s when moms get into heated debates (and sometimes even physical altercations) over silly things–like working vs. staying home with kids, marriage or not, bottle or breast, extended use rear facing car seats or not–the list goes on and on.

And you’ve heard about the whole mommy-stigma thing. This is when a woman is assumed to be less capable, intelligent or otherwise valuable because she chooses to be a mother (and, in many cases, how she prioritizes that role in her life.)

But what about women (and men) who choose not to have children? Have you ever thought about the fact that they, too, are highly criticized?

While some percentage of “non-parents” is made up of those who wanted children but couldn’t have them, either because of physical limits or relationship status, the rest of them are made up of people who just decided not have kids.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard other moms say things like “It’s so sad that they decided not to have kids,” and even “How could they be so selfish?” when someone says they chose not to be a parent.

The fact is that 81 percent of men and 87 percent of women will become parents in their lifetimes. This means that we are almost expected to do so–and that many people in society actually criticize those who make an intentional choice not to have kids. This is especially true for women, but it also affects men.

Having Kids Changes Everything

If you’re not ready to completely revamp literally every single aspect of your life, you’re not ready for kids. Your social life, your sex life and your personal life will be completely changed when you make the choice to become a parent. Your priorities will change in such a way that nothing else will be more important than your children. Your career, your friends and even yourself are all suddenly less important than they were pre-kids.

We all know someone who has children but shouldn’t. Whether their children are being raised by a nanny or a grandma or aunt, or they’re just being severely physically or emotionally neglected, some people just aren’t parent material. This doesn’t always necessarily mean that they’re bad people–just that they’re people who shouldn’t be parents. Maybe they’re too selfish or too immature or simply don’t know how to be  parents. In any case, they chose to have kids, but they’re not following up on the responsibilities that go along with it.

Why You Should Respect ‘Non-Parents’

First of all, I don’t think that anyone should be criticized for making a choice not to have children. Though I, myself, am a parent who loves her children with every fiber of her being, I am also a logical person who realizes the profound effect having kids has on one’s life.

People who choose not to have kids aren’t being selfish or immature–they’re being  smart. If a person knows herself well enough to understand that she doesn’t want to be a parent, and makes the choice to remain kid-free, she’s doing herself and her potential kid a favor. Kids who aren’t wanted know they’re not wanted–and parents who don’t want to be parents feel restricted and oppressed by the job, even when they’re good at it.

It’s bad energy on both sides, and it’s not good for anyone.

The Argument Against Parenthood

“I think women are afraid to say that they don’t want children because they’re going to get shunned … I have more girlfriends who don’t have kids than those that do,” actress Cameron Diaz told Cosmo magazine back in 2009.  “And honestly? We don’t need any more kids. We have plenty of people on this planet.”

Diaz isn’t the only one who thinks this way, either. USA Today reported in 2009 that households with children had reached an all-time low of just 46 percent–that’s less than half.

And, contrary to what many studies tell us, being a parent does makes life and relationships in general just a little bit harder.

From a Newsweek article:

“Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers,” says Florida State University‘s Robin Simon, a sociology professor who’s conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. “In fact, no group of parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It’s such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they’re not.”

Bottom line: Being a parent is hard, and it’s not necessary to be a parent to feel fulfilled in life.

Why I Chose to Be a Parent

I never thought I wanted kids. My plan was to be a globe-trotting journalist who later settled down in Maine to write the great American novel. But things happened, circumstances changed, and I’ve got three kids (and don’t live anywhere near Maine.)

With my first child, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but the truth is that I, like many new parents, was completely clueless. I did a lot of reading and researching and learned “on the job.” And it was/is the hardest (and best) thing I’ve ever done or will do.

But, when I found out I was pregnant with him, I knew two important things: I wanted him and I wanted to love him.

Once he arrived, I learned very quickly what my priorities were–and today, three kids later, I have absolutely no regrets. I love my kids, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I don’t mind that I’ve had to make major adjustments to my life plan–I feel like it’s all worth it. But that’s my choice–and I won’t judge you if yours is different.

Though being a parent is the hardest job you’ll ever have, it’s also one of the most rewarding. And if you have chosen to take on the task/gift of being called “mom” or “dad” (titles that are earned rather than assumed), then you already know what I mean.

It’s all worth it, if you want it. It’s the indescribable sense of wonder that children make you feel, the way they look at you with such trust in their eyes–the way they believe that you can fix everything that goes wrong. Watching them sleep, seeing them succeed, being their biggest cheerleader–that’s what it’s all about. Watching them grow up is a sad and amazing experience all at once–sad because the older they get, the more independent they become–and amazing for the same reason.

But when all is said and done, there should be no arguing involved. It’s a very personal choice that only you should make. If you want to become a parent, then do it. But if you’re not “parentally inclined,” don’t allow yourself to be pressured by your family, your friends or society. Follow your gut, and you’ll end up in the right place, one way or another.

What do you think? Have you judged (or been judged) because of parental status? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

Beyond Statistics: Portrait of a Former Teen Mom

Defining Mom: In Praise of All Types of Mothers

There was a time in my life when I heard the word “mother” and associated it only with a woman who had given birth to and/or raised a child from birth.

But as I have grown, and since I have had my own children, I have come to understand motherhood in an entirely different way.

Now I know that giving birth to a child doesn’t automatically earn one the title of “mother,” nor does adopting a child.

All types of mothers deserve to be lifted up. But what makes one a “real” mother?

Mothers, as far as I’m concerned, have a few particular common qualities. They truly know the meaning of the word unconditional. True mothers unconditionally love, they unconditionally support. A true mother will always look at those she loves and see their best qualities, and she will never betray their trust.

Her loved ones can always count on her to pick them up when they fall and to celebrate with them when they succeed. She may offer constructive criticism, but she does not berate and destroy. A true mother always has the best interest of her loved ones at the forefront of her mind and of her actions.

Some mothers have biological children, others have adopted or step or foster children. Some are pet parents, others are loving aunts and grandmothers and godmothers and friends.

Some mothers take care of everyone around them, but have no children of their own. Others have their own children and “adopt” many more in their hearts. And, despite the fact that many people will adamantly disagree with me, I believe that some mothers are even men.

Some people only have one mother, but most often, people have many mothers throughout their lives. In addition to their biological and/or adopted mothers, some people are lucky enough to have mothers-in-law who treat them as their own. Other people find mothers in teachers, friends, neighbors, nannies.

There are all kinds of mothers, all around each of us. Today, celebrate all of the mothers in your life, not just the one you call “Mom.”

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