Mothering Lessons, Learned the Hard Way

For quite awhile I've wanted to write about this. About how different it is being an older mom vs. a teen mom. I have a somewhat unique perspective on this subject since I WAS a teen mother, and now have become a mom for the 3rd time much later in my life. I was just 17 years old when I became pregnant with Colin, 18 when I gave birth to him. Sam came a couple of years later, when I was a little more prepared. Let me tell you what it felt like to be a teen mother:

Embarassing, shameful, awkward, undeserving, unprepared, judged, scary, mournful (lost future), self-concious, impatient, trapped.....did I mention JUDGED!!?

I didn't fit in anywhere. How could I hang with my friends when they were busy being TEENAGERS and how could I hang with older, more mature mothers when I felt they didn't want me in their circle (and truth be told, I'm sure they didn't)? 

Now I did feel all of those things strongly. But I also felt deep maternal love for my son, just as an older mother would. I wanted the best for him, though I didn't always carry that through in real life. I still wanted to party and have fun. I was immature. I didn't know who in the hell I was!  I felt like I was spinning in a circle and couldn't stop.

How in the world was I to shape my life so his would be the best it could be? I didn't have a pot to piss in. I didn't have a clue. I did do my very best at the time, but the best just wasn't good enough for any baby. Because for me it was impossible to know what is the best until I grew in my years and learned what only experience and time can teach you.

I watch Teen Mom on MTV and wonder how many teen girls are also watching and seeing the fame these girls are achieving by having a baby. Cover shots on magazines, their own show on MTV and a salary that makes mine look like squat, and attention from the entire world. I hate to see teen pregnancy glamorized in that way, even though I know the show tries to show how terribly hard it is for these girls. In the end, though, they are still getting rich and famous!

I still feel guilt that Colin didn't get me as his mother when I was ready for it. I hope I made up for it in his later years when that maternal instinct finally kicked in and I stopped thinking about myself all the time.

Let me tell you how I feel about being a mother (to a teenager and a toddler) at this point in my life, at age 34:

Patient, amazed, blessed, like a puzzle piece that fits, focused, selfless, prepared, unbelievably happy, WORTHY

My boys make me feel complete every day.

These days, when I see a very young, tired mother walking through the store with her baby, I try to make sure she sees me smile at her. She is me, years ago, scared and unsure and looking to see who judges her. I'm trying to not be that person. I know that she has a hell of a long road ahead of her. I know how fast teen pregnancy can happen when you are uneducated about it. She's learning, she's just learning the hard way.

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Carmen @ Life with Sprinkles on Top said...

I didn't even realize you were a teen mom. I was too. I had my oldest daughter two weeks before my 18th birthday. She is now 17. I could have written this post myself. Thanks for sharing. And you've turned into a wonderful mother. I'm sure you weren't as bad as you think either when you were younger. If you were, you wouldn't have turned into the mother you are today. There are 30-something mothers who act like you described.

Tara said...

As you know i was VERY young. i was preg at 16 and had jacob at 17. then preg again at 18 and had jordan at 19, then preg again at 20 and had emma at 21. (by the way.... lol the second two were PLANNED pregnancies.. :p) although i was married at 18, owned our own home, was a stay at home mom, and had all the things that a MATURE mom had it was not the same.

i got the dirty looks from EVERYWHERE, the whispers were the worst when i was pushing a double stroller and pregnant with my third. i was HARSHLY judged especially since i looked much much younger than i was.
(even now, people thought i was 16 and pregnant with my first, giving me dirty looks...they really flipped out when i correct them and tell them it was my fourth.)

not that i am OLD-OLD but i am much older than i was at 16 and pregnant. i am now 28 and have a 2 month old and i cannot even explain the differences. its like a whole different experience than what i had when i was younger. not that i was not a good mother when i was younger, but i don't think i appreciated it as much as i do now.

i wouldn't give up being a young mom though. i don't think i would be where i am today if i didn't go through the struggles and learning experiences.

thank you for sharing your story with us. i am so glad to know that i am not the old one who feels different being an older mom vs. a younger mom.

Disneypal said...

What a heartfelt and thoughtful post. I have no doubt that you are a wonderful mom - at every age!

one of nettie's girls said...

Loved this post. I love honest, look at my feelings kind of blogs and this fit the bill.

I agree, also, with your thoughts about Teen Mom. My own 13 year old and her friends love to watch it and I talk with them often about how television makes things look fun. I hope they do see the hardships.

Your boys are blessed to have you. Colin was too.

Karen said...

Very thought-provoking post.

By the way, from reading your blog, you ARE an awesome mother! You found your way. I don't think anyone really has a clue what they are getting themselves into until that little baby actually arrives - and changes everything.

^..^Corgidogmama said...

Tanya, you've evolved into a fantastic mama, woman, person. Each and every experience that you've had has contributed to what you are today. Many of us experieced early motherhood...frankly, is anybody ready for what it takes, and the giving up of "you?" Until you go through it...a gal just doesn't have a clue! You've been given three very different boys...each at a different stage in your life. It's beautiful, how you've written about this, and how you are today.
Life is such a journey...we keep on, day by day, unraveling more of it. It's such a trip. Highs and Lows. Blessed are our days....and the people who touch them.

Tanya said...

Thanks everyone for sharing with me and the kind words.

Carmen-I wasn't a bad mom, but I wasn't what I wish now I would've been...

Tara-you and I have so much in common. Blessings to you my dear!

everyone else-thank you for your uplifting, thoughtful comments. I truly appreciate them!

Restyled Home said...

Well, you know I think the world of you...and your mothering!
Thanks for dsaring such honest feelings. You may have matured with age, but I am sure your heart was always as full and pure as it is now.
You have a beautiful family, and you are at the heart of it.
Much love,

Colleen said...

You just said the words that ring true for so many, including myself. I had my son two months before I turned 18, in 1979. It was hard, I made terrible mistakes, had no support, and had no idea what I was doing. My daugther had a baby when she was only 15. I was there to help her and things weren't nearly as hard for her but being a teen mom is never easy.

Anonymous said...

Lovely and honest post Tanya. Thanks for sharing!

Kristen Duke Photography said...

thank you for sharing...very poignant

Mz-Cellaneous said...

It sounds like no matter what age you were, you were a pretty good mom. I'm sorry that everyone was so judgemental.

Kylas Mom said...

I think this a really good post. It is heartfelt, sincere, open, and honest. I applaud you for recognizing your mistakes and even more so for not letting those mistakes permanently destroy the woman you are now. With these lessons that you have gone through, you are able to see this epidemic from the perspective of a young mother and now as an adult mother. Congratulations on stepping into your destiny!

Joyful Things said...

I just found this blog and have to say I am from the other end of the spectrum and people can be just as judgmental. I was 42 when I had my first son and 45 when I had my second son. (too old people said - just too old) My sister on the other hand had her first daughter when she had just turned 15. She is a great mom - her daughters love and respect her. My kids love me too (sometimes they make me wait in the car but I'm hoping that is just a teenager phase) Our lives are our own to make them as best as we can no matter what the circumstances are. Would I change anything if I could? Not on your life!

lita said...

thank you :)