We want the best for our kids, and we want to be able to give them everything. The fears we face as moms for our kids are the same, no matter our age; for teen moms, their hopes and dreams for their own kids aren’t any different than us older moms. But there is one huge difference between us: can you imagine giving birth, going to high school, caring for your baby, all while trying to safely survive a pandemic? I can’t, but there are some badass young women who are working hard to go to school and graduate to continue to show their kids how badass they are.
The pandemic isn’t something that only impacted the United States, but the world. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15 million girls between the ages 15-19 gave birth in 2020 in developing countries and over 777,000 girls under the age of 15 years old gave birth in the same year. And in many places, one way to provide for one’s family is to do so with a high school diploma, at minimum, in hand.
During the pandemic, moms across the world needed to make difficult decisions and choices for their kids that they’d never quite known before. Like choosing to send their kids into classrooms not knowing if they’d come home infected with the coronavirus. Moms, like me, needed to navigate working from home while teaching my three kids math, science, and social studies while they sat at our dining room table. For teen moms, the challenges were even greater. Do you remember high school?
All of the homework, all of the tests, the finals, the midterms and everything in between – do you remember? On top of navigating school online, attending class virtually while having a crying baby, or a baby who is hungry and needs your attention – it’s all overwhelming, exhausting even. For high school seniors, there’s the stressful college application process, with the questions of childcare and affordability attached. All this is coupled with the decision about whether to vaccinate (or not), while carrying the regular parental burden of worrying about your child contracting a contagious disease that’s killing people.
Throw in the general emotional turmoil of not being quite grown yourself, and still figuring out who you are and where you fit in the world, and, well … I’m tired just writing about it.
In the United States 75% of teen pregnancies are unplanned. Every single part of the last eighteen months or so have proven complicated, emotionally exhausting and mentally draining for adults. For teen moms, their prospects of finishing high school and for some, going to college — some without childcare, some without an income, some without family support — can seem bleak. But they have a kind of grit and determination that many of us can learn from.
In an article featured in Teen Vogue, 17-year-old mom Olivia shares, “I thought it would be difficult to kind of do it online with all these jobs, and then being a mom on top of it. It’s super hard to get anything done when she’s awake, because she just gets into everything. I think it would just be really hard to even focus.”
“Hard to focus” is an understatement; I couldn’t remember if I’d even showered when I stood in the kitchen one afternoon fixing my newborn son’s bottle. I stood filling his bottle with water trying very hard to recall if I’d lathered my own body with water and soap, but could not. So I did the obvious, smelled my armpit in hopes that my nose would answer the question my brain could not. I had not, in fact, showered that day.
Something as simple as taking a shower, as a first time mom, becomes a chore that sometimes can fall to the wayside, marked as unessential or just something that you honestly forget. At least, that’s how it was for me — and I was 25 and had just finished my undergraduate degree when I found myself mothering a baby boy who would have otherwise ended up in foster care. I can’t imagine being a new mom, during a pandemic, and having the desire to continue my education, but there are some very brave and dedicated teen moms who are doing just that: going to school during a pandemic while attending to one of the biggest jobs on earth … being a mom.
For teen moms, life during a pandemic means something different to each of them. The common denominator for all of them, though, is that they have another life to think about, to care about, to work hard for — and to keep safe.
If you or someone you know is a teen mom and could use some extra support, here is a list of five organizations who can help.
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