by Marylouise Kuti-Schubert
How is a successful parent defined? Is it by their age, their income level, their race, their relationship status? Organizations like Candies Foundation encourages people to believe that teens who have children have ended their own personal lives. Statements like “Enjoy your youth by being a kid, not raising one,” and “You’re supposed to be changing the world…not changing diapers” only perpetuates the idea that teen parents are not capable of leading meaningful lives. I would like to personally invite the Candies Foundation to sit down with the women of #NoTeenShame, because these are just 7 of the many teen mothers who ARE changing the world and changing diapers too!
Celebrity endorsements may influence some, but does it trump reality? I challenge everyone reading this to look past the fame and fortune, to develop their own educated opinion with a wider viewpoint than that of shame and stigma. If the Candies Foundation would like to continue sending these mean messages, they will – they have the money and power to do so. They have been contacted and approached numerous times to sit with #NoTeenShame and develop positive, educational and resourceful information with regards to teen pregnancy prevention, and numerous times we have been ignored. To send the kind of destructive messaging that shaming young men and women and their children is not productive, it is hurtful and it is mean. Since when did being mean become the acceptable form of strategic messaging and information sharing, especially in 2014? The Candies Foundation has adopted this approach, and I encourage you to please challenge it!
Now that May has ended, remember that teen pregnancy prevention without shame and stigma are critical to the continuation of conversations, policy and education for effective comprehensive sexual education and teen pregnancy prevention. After reading countless articles, blog posts, tweets and facebook posts regarding teen pregnancy and teen pregnancy prevention, I feel compelled to YELL out loud “Teen parents lead productive, successful happy lives with their children. Teen parents are NOT poor examples to other youth and should NOT feel ashamed for choosing to parent their children!”
Becoming a mother at 16 years old allowed me to learn to love another person more than myself, my motivation to become a better woman was driven by my desire to become a better mother. I did not nor do I seek perfection with my children, I seek to be a good enough mother. One whose children do not measure their self-worth by the amount of money I make, my relationship status or my age when I had them. Being good enough means that though I may make mistakes, my children will never doubt how much I love them. They may not have the newest shoes at their tennis banquet, but they have me and they will always have me there. My sons are growing up in an environment that encourages young people to judge others for their past circumstances. Do we want to raise our children to judge people like this?
Parents struggle in every community in different ways. Many of us face injustices that make it harder for us to be the best versions of ourselves – yet we continue to challenge those odds. Parenting is a layer added to our already existing identities, it does not define us but it does impact who we are. To young mothers and fathers, I encourage you to please, work to be the best version of yourself that you can be. If you struggle with addiction, if you struggle with school, if you feel alone please know that you are not! We at #NoTeenShame support and encourage your growth as young men, women, mothers and fathers.