Chapter Onedo I matter?
The deepest principle in the human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
- William James, author
Erica handed the food stamps to the grocery store clerk. She tried to appear natural, as if it
didn't bother her that the government, not she, supported her child. Two-month-old Kayla lay fastened in
the shopping-cart baby seat. The clerk had smiled at the baby but didn't ask Erica any of the friendly
questions new mothers typically get. Instead, Erica spotted something else in the woman's gaze.
Disapproval, with a hint of accusation.
Erica tucked her change into her jacket pocket and loaded her few bags of groceries into the cart.
Before reaching the exit Erica noticed an elderly woman approaching. The woman's eyes fastened
intently on Kayla. At least someone's interested in giving my baby some well-deserved attention,
Kayla's pacifier wiggled up and down with each suck. Erica started to smile as the woman's frail
hand reached toward Kayla's face. But instead of stroking the baby's cheek, the woman plucked the
pacifier from her mouth.
"That thing's nasty." She dropped it into Erica's trembling hand. "Don't you know not to use those
things?" The woman stalked away before Erica could respond. Heat crept up Erica's neck to her face. Ignoring the
customers who had witnessed the scene, she hurried to her small, blue hatchback.
Erica struggled to hold back the tears. Did they think she was a bad mother? That she was a failure
because of her age?
Erica fastened Kayla in her car seat with a peck on her forehead. She then plopped the groceries
into the trunk and slid into the driver's seat.
It was always the same. The looks. The comments. The lack of respect. Even a few weeks ago at
the doctor's office, her valid concerns for her daughter had been ignored.
"It's just colic," the doctor had claimed, rushing off to visit the next low-income patient. It was
only Erica's persistence, days later, which brought more tests and a better diagnosis. Having a baby at
her age was difficult enough, but the reactions of those around her made being a mother all that much
What if they're right? she wondered. What if I can't do this? What if they know something I don't?
Erica thought back to just one year ago. She'd worked hard at school and her report card reflected
those efforts. She'd trained her body to perform on the soccer field. The stellar plays and winning
season were her rewards.
What about this motherhood thing? She tried to do it right. Erica gave her baby plenty of time,
attention, and love. She even practiced the baby massage techniques she'd learned in her Teen MOPS
group. But was her hard work paying off? How could she know when there was no report card or
scoreboard to judge her efforts?
Erica's hands gripped the steering wheel as she thought back to the question she'd heard many
times. "Just how old are you?" She always told the truth, and she always received the same look of
disapproval. Perhaps these people at the grocery store, at the doctor's office, knew something she
Erica glanced back at Kayla, now asleep in her car seat. Could she do it? This mom thing? Or was
she just a kid playing dress up, fooling no one except herself?
Life as I See It
I do feel inadequate. I cry sometimes and have even had a few anxiety attacks,
but therapy is a luxury for us working poor.
- Travis, Michigan
Some people have given me dirty looks when they see me with my baby. Others
look at me and sigh. But some people are very nice when they see what a good
mom I am.
- Diana, Washington
* * *
I'm finding it very overrated, all of this growing up, taking responsibility, becoming an
- Brandon, 90210
These were supposed to be years of parties, football games, and fun. Dances with handsome dates
and sleepovers with friends. You've gone from chatting with friends in the hall to changing dirty
diapers. Not long ago, the only runny nose you wiped was your own. Colic wasn't an issue. Your
clothes were spit-up free. Now you wonder where your importance is.
When your baby came into the picture you not only lost your old life, but you gained a new one-literally.
Many of us know, without a doubt, that having our babies was the right choice. We want to
be good moms. We want to give our babies the love that we, perhaps, never had. But if we're honest,
we can't help but think how our lives have changed. Sometimes we wonder if it's worth it.
Life as I See It
When I found out I was pregnant, I was incredibly scared and didn't know how
to tell my parents. They'd always said they'd kill me if I ever ended up pregnant.
- Desiree, Texas
Before my pregnancy, I was in four clubs and had a meeting almost every night.
Most of my friends have completely left the picture. I figured they would, but I
feel very alone. Having a baby has really helped me to see who my real friends
- Amanda, Ontario, Canada
* * *
Tell Me I'm Important
Young moms want to be good moms. We try our best, we really do. Yet there are negative
reactions we can't seem to escape. We've decided to carry and keep our babies (not an easy
decision!). But often the people we encounter make it clear, both in words and with body language,
that they disapprove. Sometimes we feel like we have no importance.
But I'm here to tell you that what you do is important. Can you think of anyone who loves your
child more than you do? I doubt that you can! You're the exact person your child needs to love him,
support him, and be his biggest fan.
Parenting comes with big obstacles. Yet as you'll see in a story often told, sometimes human beings
can do the impossible when it comes to their child.
* * * Moving Mountains
"There were two warring tribes in the Andes, one that lived in the lowlands and the other high in
the mountains. The mountain people invaded the lowlanders one day, and as part of their plundering
of the people, they kidnapped a baby from one of the lowlander families and took the infant back
with them up into the mountains.
"The lowlanders didn't know how to climb a mountain. They didn't know any of the trails the
mountain people used, and they didn't know where to find the mountain people or how to track them
on the steep terrain.
"Even so, they sent out their best party of fighting men to climb the mountain and bring the baby
"The men tried first one method of climbing and then another. They tried one trail and then
another. After several days of effort, however, they had climbed only a couple of hundred feet.
"Feeling hopeless and helpless, the lowlander men decided that the case was lost, and they prepared
to return to their village below.
"As they were packing their gear for the descent, they saw the baby's mother walking toward them.
They realized that she was coming down the mountain that they hadn't figured out how to climb.
"And then they saw that she had the baby strapped to her back. How could that be?
"One man greeted her and said, 'We couldn't climb this mountain. How did you do this when we,
the strongest and most able men in the village, couldn't do it?'
"She shrugged her shoulders and said, 'It wasn't your baby.'"
You're a mom now, and the obstacles you face may seem as big and insurmountable as that
mountain. But there's one thing that's even more powerful than your challenges. That's your love.
Love is the most important ingredient when it comes to parenting. Love, as you will discover, can help
you to achieve the impossible.
* * *
Help! My Life Is Slipping Away
If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Just because a mom's willing to do anything for her child, doesn't mean it's easy. Motherhood can
be illustrated by an image of a woman wearing a tower of hats. There is the nurse's hat, the teacher's
hat, the maid's hat, the cook's hat, the playmate's hat-the list goes on. As a young mom, your
problem may be the many hats you haven't discarded: the student hat, employee hat, girlfriend hat,
even the daughter-at-home hat. How can you-one person-balance so much responsibility?
Life as I See It
I get so tired of people asking, "How old are you?" We even had to change
pediatricians once because the doctor wouldn't speak to me as an adult. I
wanted to yell, "Hey, I am her mother. I'm responsible for her welfare!" I used to
cry at night, not because I didn't want this, but because I had no idea how much
my life would change.
- Marjie, Montana
When I went into the hospital for my non-stress test the nurse told me that she
wanted my baby, and that she would prepare the adoption papers if it was a
- Amanda, Ontario, Canada
Some people haven't treated me any different since I've become a mom. Others
talk to me as though I'm stupid, like we're all alcoholic-induced, unplanned
mothers, sitting on our butts, contemplating how we can scam the welfare
system for more money as we blast our stereo and fill our screaming children
with second hand smoke, Kool-Aid, and Doritos.
- Travis, Michigan
Of course, your balancing act will change over time. The hat of high school student may change to
that of college student. The playground-mom hat may change to soccer mom. Still, the flow of your
responsibilities will never end. From the moment you discover you're pregnant, you're Mom, hats and
all, for life.
The reality of being a mom may not hit until you come home from the hospital. The feedings, the
schedule, the up-all-nights. Then, as one stage passes, there are more challenges: teething, climbing,
the terrible twos, and on.
The worst part is doing it alone. Some young moms have a husband or boyfriend. Perhaps your
family helps. Friends may come around now and then. But there are always days when it feels like it'syou and this kid against the world.
Life as I See It
How do you keep your endurance for mothering alive? How do you stay in mom-mode
and stay out of the life your peers are living? How do you stay who you
are inside even as parenting takes over your life? Don't get me wrong, I love
being a mom. Goodness knows I should have the answers to these questions by
now, as my boy is almost two. But lately, I have those feelings where it seems
I'm 'left out' again. Like the rest of the world is passing me by while I change a
* * *
Stereotyped by Society All the girls drink but I'm the one that gets caught. That's the story of my life. I always
get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
- Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot So, as we've discussed, it's hard being a good mom and worse when people judge you because of
your age. As if they think you sleep around with just anyone. They assume you're doomed to fail.
We all, at times, worry what others think. I remember the first time I stood in a welfare line. I
needed help with medical costs, food, living expenses-you name it. But before going, I made sure I
looked my best. I didn't want to be stereotyped as someone uneducated and unmotivated. I wanted
others to respect me, despite the situation I was in.
When I faced the reality of being a young mother, I could have given up. I could have accepted that
many young moms never graduate from high school and live at poverty level for the rest of their
lives. But inside, I knew I wasn't someone the world could write off.
I simply had found myself in a situation way over my head. I wanted the world to know I was a
smart young woman who would love this child completely.
Because of this, I decided to believe in myself and take distasteful looks in stride. I strove to be an
anti-stereotype and show the world what a young mom could accomplish.
I realized my importance came from within me. I couldn't please everyone all the time. I couldn't
change my situation overnight, but I could take steps to improve. I could work at becoming a great
mom. And it worked!
As I believed in myself, and trusted in my importance as a mother, my confidence grew. Like a
small snowball kicked over the side of a steep hill, I picked up speed, and grew as a person. Soon I
* * *
Home Life: The Bad, the Good Have you noticed that the only people who truly welcome change are wet babies?
The Bad It's hard enough that "the world" looks down on you. But what if you face negative attitudes at
home? Many young moms who still live with their parents may feel like the cream in the middle of an
Oreo cookie. They're sandwiched between their parents and their child. (Only this situation is not
sweet.) These young moms are parents, and they still live by their parents' rules. These moms get
advice from all directions and may feel like they're "mothering by committee."
I hear it all the time from the young moms I know. Their mothers want to make all the rules-to
tell them how to dress their kids and what to feed their child. Sometimes these young moms feel they've been left out
of the decision making.
If this is your case, be sure to try to see your parents' point of view, but also get them to understand
yours. It's key that you realize your importance as a mother.