I’ve Grown Out Of Being A Teen Mom, But Certain Situations Make Me Feel 15 Again
By Sabrina Boileau
PHOTO © gudilina/Twenty20
Sep 30, 2021
As you may or may not know, I was a teen mom.
And when you’re a mom at a young age, there can be a constant feeling of judgment from others. It becomes a fear. Or at least it did for me — that I’d be judged for my age forever.
I thought I had gotten over that, since I haven’t been a teen for some time.
I had stopped caring about what people thought of me, because people’s opinions don’t define me. And while I still know that to be true, the fear recently came creeping back.
And that’s because my daughter has started school.
The Great Interrogation
Before school started, I met with my daughter’s teacher.
I felt anxious.
I felt like I was in a job interview and I was worried about giving the wrong answers, or asking the wrong questions. Not because the teacher had given me any reason to feel this way, but because my brain went into overdrive.
Suddenly I felt like I wasn’t good enough.
It’s a curious position to be in, because I know that I’m a good mom. I also know that I don’t need to prove myself to anybody. But like many, it’s one thing to project the spirit that you aren’t influenced by people’s opinions of you, and a whole other reality to actually follow through. In this situation, I became my own worst enemy.
In My Feelings
What I came to realize is that I was feeling uneasy because for some reason, I was worried about what other parents might think of me. And that feeling got even worse when we picked up our daughter at the end of the day, on her first day of school.
"As she was leading me to go get my daughter, she stopped and said: 'I’m sorry. You look like her sister?'"
While waiting in the school pickup line, I got out of the car to greet my daughter. A supervisor came up to me and asked who I was there to pick up (a pretty standard question), and as she was leading me to go get my daughter, she stopped and said: "I’m sorry. You look like her sister?"
I know that when I get older, I’ll take this as a compliment, but right now? I don’t.
I don’t know what she meant by the statement, veiled as a question. Maybe she needed confirmation from a parent that it was OK for an older sibling to pick my daughter up. Maybe she was just curious or perhaps she was worried that she wouldn’t be safe with me. Something fairly innocuous became charged, and as a result I had a flurry of questions in my head.
I don’t expect everyone to understand this situation. I know that many parents aren’t as young as I am, but I do believe that parents often feel like they have something to prove. So perhaps you can relate to the struggle of the doubts that come along with parenting, even if you don’t know what it’s like to be a teen mother.
"In these moments, I feel like a 15-year-old girl again."
For me, doubt creeps in after flippant remarks like the one at pickup. I start to think that people are looking at me not as the protector that I am, but someone incapable of taking care of a young child. And that’s not something I want. I don’t want anyone to feel like my daughter’s safety is in question, just because I may be the odd parent out in the pickup queue.
I know that not everyone is viewing me in this way. In fact, perhaps few people are. Maybe none. But the anxiety is like all anxiety: one moment it isn’t on the surface, and then it is. And when that happens, it can be hard to avoid.
Once A Teen Mom...
In these moments, I feel like a 15-year-old girl again. When I’m walking by other parents, I sometimes feel like I need to look down and hide my face, made much easier these days by wearing a mask. I know my children are happy and healthy, but will others?
"I look at parents who are older ... and I see grown-ups with established careers, with far more knowledge and life experience than I do."
In the end, there is work I need to do for myself to practice what I preach since the opinions of other parents will always exist. Some parents can feel like they’ve figured out parenting — offering tips, solicited or unsolicited. This isn’t always in bad faith. Sometimes, parents are just lonely and want to share a small tip to break up their mundanity. And just because an opinion exists doesn’t mean I need to pay it any mind.
This kind of situational awareness isn’t always the easiest thing to have. Especially when our differences seem so apparent to me. I look at parents who are older, in what some may describe as a parenting “prime,” and I see grown-ups with established careers, with far more knowledge and life experience than I do. And that’s probably true, but I also need to remember that age does not make someone a better parent than me. These people also had to figure it out.
Ultimately, I want to walk into a room, or step onto a playground, and not feel inferior. It sounds simple, but it can sometimes be not-so-simple to measure yourself up against others.
Because I am human after all.
I know these are insecurities I will get over in time, and by and for myself. I know that I have come a long way since I was a teenager. I know that I take parenting day by day, and I’m always learning and growing. Other parents were granted this grace, and I need to offer it to myself.
My age does not define me
I’m not forever a “teen mom” because I had a child as a teen. Because teens grow up, and they work and live and educate themselves like every other person, in ways that work for their family.
What I’ve come to expect with parenting is that there are hurdles, and there are milestones. We all have good days, bad days and days we just want to hide behind a door and cry. But even through my insecurities, there is one thing that is unshakeable: my focus is my children, and that will never change. They are my priority.
It’s certainly easy to fall back into the memories of being stigmatized for having a child so young. To remember the stares, the comments and the doubts of others. But I just have to remember that I’ve already proven myself to the only people that matter: my family.
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