Menstuff® has compiled the following information on becoming a
I Really Want to Have a Baby!
Kids cost big bucks
Parenting is really hard work
Kids can really cramp your style
A Juggling Act
Kids aren't a cure-all
Parenting at a young age can be really lonely
Our society isnt real cool with teen parents
You're 100% responsible for your child and their upbringing
If you're considering parenting
I Really Want to Have a Baby!
In your teens and really, really, really want to have a baby or to become pregnant? Going without birth control often or always "just to see," to let fate decide, with or without talking to your partner about it? Going without birth control and safer sex when you'd rather not, but have a partner who says he or she wants a kid? Actively trying to become pregnant, without any standard preparation in place, like a full GYN exam to be sure your body is up to it, like a good job to pay the high costs, a place to live, a healthcare plan, a support system in place? Desperate or in a big hurry?
Many people have the idea that they'll find a way to cope and can handle a pregnancy and raising a child like a pro -- sure that for some reason, itll be easier for them than it ever was for anyone before, even when totally unprepared -- but more times than not, it ends up being more difficult than they imagine, especially for teens. That doesnt mean it's impossible to enjoy. Lots of young adults find parenting fulfilling, in spite of the challenges it brings. But wanting a child or loving a child isnt often enough preparation to ensure a healthy pregnancy -- physically and emotionally -- .and readiness to parent well.
Kids cost big bucks.
The first year alone, including the costs of pregnancy and delivery, will cost around $10,000. If you have health insurance that covers pregnancy, if you can qualify for some federal or state assistance, if you can obtain cheap childcare or stay at home with your baby, and if you have the help of family or friends it can cost less, but 10K is average, and sometimes, it can cost even more than that. In the first four years alone, raising a child often costs more than attending a four-year public college with NO financial assistance, grants or scholarships whatsoever, something few people can afford. You can't not feed, house or clothe them, and their healthcare -- preventative and in crisis -- is necessary but expensive. Children cost a LOT of money. Add their costs to the cost of taking care of yourself as well, and you can see why many parents are so often stressed out about money.
You will need a reliable means to pay these costs. Your parents may be willing to help, but dont just assume they will, especially indefinitely. Not only isnt that fair -- after all, they should get to decide when and if they want another baby -- they may or not have the means to take care of the both of you. Your partner may be able to help, but remember that, like it or not, he can up and leave at any time, and child support lapses battles are the norm for single moms. Assuming federal or state aid will pay all the costs is also unrealistic. Many people aren't low-income enough, or dont meet other criteria to qualify for many programs, and even those who do cannot even come close to covering all of their costs with welfare.
Why are there so many dogs in the pound? Because people forget: BABIES GROW. Obviously, those little puppies really do grow into big dogs, and yet, everybody and their uncle still seems to space that out. Same goes double for babies. They grow into kids, and then into adults. In between, they're juveniles and adolescents: heck, they can become teens who want YOU to pay for THEIR pregnancy and parenting. Through a lot of their life, a whole lot of people -- including you -- won't think they're the cutest thing ever some of the time, or make concessions for them or you because of them. For a lot of women, one of the appeals of motherhood is the notion that someone -- their child -- will love them unconditionally. But very often, especially once out of very early childhood, children DONT behave as if they love their parents unconditionally.
While babies are pretty demanding and need a whole lot, as kids grow, those needs change and become different, but they've still got them. When you choose to parent a kid, you're basically signing a contract that says for the next 18 years and beyond, you're going to be a parent. Growing kids have physical, emotional and intellectual needs and look to you to fulfill them. Extended family and friends can be a really big help (and tend to make for a very healthy and balanced upbringing), but for the most part, all that is on you, first and foremost. Thats a whole lot more than breastfeeding and diaper changing.
Parenting is really hard work.
Even if it's often wonderful, enjoyable work, it IS work. The good stuff is usually within the context of a whole lot of things that are tiring, challenging and thankless, and which you can't opt out of.
Infants are demanding little critters. During your kids first year or more of life, you can rest assured you'll have bags under your eyes the size of the Grand Canyon, you'll be pretty crabby, and your kid isnt going to say thank you for a couple years. Postpartum depression -- deep and sometimes debilitating depression after childbirth, which can sometimes last for months during one of the most challenging stages of parenting -- is common. Lactating and breastfeeding often hurts. Babies often cry more than they gurgle cutely. Having to tend to someone's basic needs and functions literally 24/7 -- feeding, changing diapers, putting to sleep, entertaining -- is exhausting, even with help, and always putting your own needs after theirs can make a mother feel like a walking bottle, rather than a person.
Kids can really cramp your style.
You may be used to going out for a night with your friends, needing to okay it with your folks, and come up with transportation and spending money. Now you'll need to find a reliable babysitter you feel safe with, try and afford things when you often already can't pay for the basics, and reschedule things constantly because babies and kids tend to have schedules of their own that dont neatly coincide with yours. You may find that the things that are important to your friends aren't important to you anymore, and that they're not very interested in what IS important to you, like listening to your struggle to find good daycare, or the nights in a row you've spent with a colicky, screaming infant. The things you go through as a parent, even those that are fun and wonderful, may not sound very exciting or interesting to some of your friends who aren't parents. Dating when you have a kid is difficult and often frustrating, and if you're co-parenting with a partner, you'll find the two of you end up with very little alone time and more challenges and conflicts in your relationship than you can shake a stick at.
A Juggling Act
Juggling school, college and/or work with a kid is tricky, especially if you're single and young. It's hard to study when a baby is crying or a toddler decided to rip up your dissertation. Many schools do not make concessions for pregnant teens or mothers. Many employers aren't very understanding about taking time off because your kid is sick, or about needing to leave early to get to a daycare center before closing time. Even basic things you take for granted, like having the time to take a bath or shower, to take in a movie, to do your laundry, to talk on the phone with friends or to sit down to eat a meal will be compromised.
Kids aren't a cure-all.
If you currently have any really tough issues or challenges in your life -- an abusive partnership, depression, self-destructive behaviour or self-harm, an eating disorder, drug dependence, homelessness -- they're likely to get even tougher. Plenty of young parents find that dropping bad habits or patterns actually seems pretty easy when they first become pregnant, or at the beginning of their child's life. But it's typical for those issues to pop right back up in time. When they do, not only are they often even harder to manage and work through than before, someone besides you is directly impacted by them. How might your child be affected growing up around an eating disorder, self-injury like cutting or in an abusive relationship? How are you going to manage putting your needs second when you're depressed? If your own parents or family had big challenges, take a look at how you think they impacted you. Even seemingly small issues, like poor eating habits or having a hard time making and enforcing limits, can become pretty big problems when you're pregnant or parenting.
You may find that at the same time you're having to learn to take care of a baby, you're also having to learn to also take care of yourself, and thats vital. You need care as well. It's important that you stay physically healthy and emotionally well, that the relationships you choose are beneficial, balanced and healthy; that you get downtime by yourself or with your friends and partners. It's vital that you still follow your goals and dreams, and that besides being the parent you will become, you also get to be the person you are and will become, too. But it's a lot easier to do that AND parent when you at least get a toehold on tough issues and basic self-care before parenting, rather than during.
Parenting at a young age can be really lonely.
Young parents often feel incredibly isolated. It's common to get lots of attention, care and company while you're pregnant, and in the first six months or so of your kid's life. It's also common for teens, and even adult women sometimes, who feel lonely and crave attention to see pregnancy as a means to fill those voids. But when all the showers and parties have passed, when the novelty of your cute baby has passed, a whole lot of young parents start to feel like they moved to Mars when they had kids. Many far more alone than they felt before they were parents.
You will find you'll lose friends who just dont have the patience to wait to see you the one or two nights a month you can net a sitter and dont want to hang out when your baby is crying it's head off.
Not only do many young relationships not stand the test of time -- but having a baby adds loads of extra stresses to make relationship longevity and harmony even more challenging. The vast majority of teen parents are and remain unmarried, and partners, even the father or your baby, can and do vacate the premises often enough.
Having a pretty strong self-image, being autonomous and independent and being okay -- even happy -- on your own are all pretty vital to healthy parenting for both mother and child.
Our society isnt real cool with teen parents.
Teen parenting IS going to be much harder for you than it would be for someone ten years older than you, and not just because of their better financial, health or emotional status. A whole lot of people really look down on teen parents. Finding resources and assistance will be harder for you and plenty of times, you are going to have to fight pretty hard for your right both to parent and to be treated like a parent. You'll be walking into parenthood with people assuming, no matter what you did or do, thats you're irresponsible. You're going to need to be able to advocate for yourself even better than a parent older than you needs to be their own advocate. You're going to have to learn to be one heck of a fighter, for yourself and for your kid.
That may involve battling to get schools or workplaces to provide childcare or make allowances for your being a parent, working your buns off to obtain financial assistance, housing, school and work opportunities, healthcare and emotional support. It may involve facing up to people who feel very confident that not only can you not be a good parent, but that you have no RIGHT to parent, and may make doing so harder for you. It may mean losing the support or presence of friends, family or partners.
You're 100% responsible for your child and their upbringing.
Sure, that means that the good stuff that happens, and all of your kid's accomplishments are things you'll feel really good about and proud to have had a hand in. But with responsibility comes accountability, something a lot of young people dont have to deal with in any major way. In other words, if you are late to pick your kid up from daycare, you're going to have to pay the late fees and if you do it repeatedly, possibly be asked to find another day care center. The folks in charge aren't going to be real interested in whose fault it is, because it's your responsibility. If you space picking your kid up from school someday, you'll have to be accountable for that to the school, yourself AND to them. If your kid steals from somewhere or beats another kid up, it's on you. If you have a partner who harms your child, you'll have to deal with both being and feeling responsible for putting them in harms way. If you make poor parenting choices, not just your kid but you have to live with them, as well as whatever long-term effects your choices have on both of you. You're also likely to be very emotionally invested in your child. So, when they're sick or unhappy, you're going to be scared and distracted. When you screw something up, you're likely to feel horrible about it. In many, many ways, your kids become your life. You're responsible and accountable for most of what your kid does, even through their teen years, legally, practically and emotionally. Imagine the possibilities. All of them.
Part of why making a choice to be a parent is such a big deal is that you're not just making a choice for you, you're making choices for a person who can't make their own choices and who has to live with yours. Thats a very big deal.
If you're considering parenting:
Talk to other parents. Seek out young parents who currently have infants and toddlers (if you or friends dont know any, ask your school guidance counselor or job supervisor). Not only can you ask them about what it's like for them emotionally, how they feel about the choice they made, you can also find out very practical things you need to know, like how the school, college or job you're at handles young mothers. Do they provide daycare? Is it safe and sound? What special programs and resources exist in your area for teen or young parents? What do you need to obtain those resources, and aid like funds and healthcare for young mothers and kids? How are your local hospitals with young mothers? What doctors, midwives, hospitals or clinics would they suggest?
Talk to your doctor, gynecologist, clinician and/or nurse. About 1/3 of pregnant teens receive inadequate prenatal care; babies born to very young mothers are currently more likely to be low-birth-weight, to have childhood health problems and to be hospitalized, and teen mothers sometimes have special health risks, so you'll need to be sure to spend extra time assessing your health. Healthcare pros can fill you in not only on health issues, but can also help hook you up with resources and support, and can also give you their unique perspective on what you'll be dealing with.
Spend some time visualizing your life with a kid at every stage of the game: not just when they're babies, but when they're 5, 10 or 15 years old. Consider the goals you have for your life, and figure out how you might or might not be able to work them while also parenting, with or without help or a co-parent.
Teens and young adults CAN be good parents: as good as anyone else, of any age. There have always been many young adults who have been excellent parents, many who have enjoyed being parents and felt very good about the choice they made to be parents. If it's really what you want to do, and you're prepared for it realistically, chances are good that you can do it and do it well.
Deciding to parent is a big deal for those of any age: it's a huge responsibility and a gargantuan change. Caring, responsible people are often scared when they make that choice because they have at least some inkling of how big a responsibility it is. So, it's normal to be scared (if you're not, at all, chances are you're not really seeing the big picture). It's also normal to feel grossly unprepared, even after the birth: many parents of every age and social strata find that they feel like hacks as parents; that parenting was much more challenging than they thought itd be, and worry about failing their kids. If you feel in no way scared, nervous or unprepared that should be a big red light for you to heed: pretty much nothing in your life will change it as much and demand as much from you as parenting will.
You've just considered a long, long list of challenges and pitfalls, and that isn't to say there aren't a lot of really great parts of being a parent. Kids are really cool, and they are often a whole lot of fun to be around and watch grow. Parenting makes you grow as a person, and you'll find that your child teaches you things no one else could. It's unique and special to be in a relationship with someone who is literally a part of you, who you brought into the world, and for whom you are the sun, moon and stars, for some of their life, anyway. Later on, they won't be so dependent and will be able to see your flaws (and likely even let you know explicitly what they are), but even at that point, a strong relationship develops when you nurture it well, and one you will truly have for their whole life or yours.
Again, there's no rule that teen mothers can't be good parents. Plenty of teen mothers ARE and have been good parents. But plenty of people who already are or were teen mothers will tell you that as time has gone by, it usually becomes pretty clear that itd have been a whole lot easier for them to be better mothers, and happier people overall, if they'd have waited, even just a few years.
Maybe one of your goals in life is to be a mother, and there isnt a thing in the world thats wrong with that, so long as you understand that certainly isnt your only option. Even if you know that and parenting is what you want, itll keep. While few people will ever reasonably suggest pregnancy or parenting are easy, both are easier when the parents involved is as prepared as she can be, physically, emotionally, financially and practically. A lot of personal development happens in the teens, but even more will happen in your twenties and thirties. You will be more secure, financially and emotionally, and what you want now may not mesh very well with what you want then.
A BIG part of parenting is patience. So, if you just dont
feel like you have the patience to wait to become pregnant and be a
parent, chances are pretty good you also dont have the patience
required to BE a parent. If it's you whose head is screaming, like
Veruca Salt, "But I want it NOW!" know that if you do have a kid,
you'll have two-part harmony with that line very shortly, 24/7. And
know that if that's the headspace you're in, the hard truth is that
it's pretty unlikely you're ready for parenting.