Since the first airing of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and the “Teen Mom” series, there has been the ongoing debate over whether or not the shows glamorize teen pregnancy or help reduce the rates. Supporters of the show claim if offers an inside look into what it’s like to be a teen mother, while those who oppose say the show only encourages teens to have a child. As a teen mother, I tend to neither agree or disagree. Honestly, I feel the shows don’t accurately portray what it’s really like to be a teen mother for most teens. However, in a way, there are a couple of small accuracies with the show.
I openly admit, I started out as a statistic, but throughout the years, left it far behind me. I became pregnant with my 1st child at 17 and, like many teen mothers, had my second child within 2 years at 19. With my experience raising 2 children as a teen mother, here’s my take on deciphering myth from fact between the reality of teen pregnancy and reality shows portraying teen pregnancy.
Fact: You rarely end up with the fairytale family
I was one of the lucky few who stayed with the father of my children-- now, 9 years later and married with four children. But, let me tell you, it was no where near easy. Most of the people I know personally who had a baby as teens are no long with the child’s father. Sadly, some fathers aren’t even a part of the child’s life. I can only name a handful of people who were able to work as a couple and stayed together long term after a teen pregnancy. It’s not impossible, but more likely than not, it won’t work no matter how much you believe at the time that it will.
Myth: You’ll make ends meet
This is the biggest misconception in my eyes. Yes, the moms on TV struggle, but not like you struggle when you aren’t on TV. In reality, when you become a teen mom, there are no cameras following you around to give you an added paycheck. There’s a huge difference in working one or two minimum wage jobs, while going to school to make ends meet, and what’s portrayed on the show. Sure they struggle, but not like in real life. The show doesn’t show the moms in real life who are taking buses and walking because they can’t afford the new car the teen’s drive on the show. It also doesn’t show the empty refrigerators, empty houses, worn out clothes and shoes, or the tears spent crying because there’s no money for food, furniture or even a pack of diapers sometimes.
Fact: You’ll be lonely
This is very true. Being a teen mother is a very lonely thing. The friends you grew up with won’t relate to your new life as a mother. Those you were so close with will slowly fade to memories as eventually you have to move on and become an adult much quicker than your friends. Even when you’re surrounded in a room full of people, it can be very lonely because no one really knows what you’re going through. However, as lonely as it can be at times, you’ll find who really matters in your life as they will stick by your side and support you on your journey.
Myth and Fact: You’ll have a support system
This is true for some, and others not so true. In the shows, most of the families are around to help raise the child and with financial costs, but this isn’t guaranteed. Often, teens are left on their own to bear the full weight of being a teen mother.
In the end, I do feel these reality shows glamorize teen pregnancies to an extent because they really don’t show just how hard it is. In the shows, most mothers still get to finish school, go out with friends, have nice little homes, new cars and so much more. This simply isn’t the reality.
Whether the shows do more harm than good, I’m not one to say. But, here’s the truth in black and white from someone with first hand experience.
Follow my mission to help teen mothers and reduce teen pregnancy on my blog.