Doors close on teen moms

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As a teen mother, the doors of one of the top universities in the world would never have been open to me. Because, when you become pregnant while a teenager, you’re automatically catapulted into the adult world—and the adults in YOUR world (usually your parents) expect YOU to pull your weight and care for YOUR baby. Compared to the number of teen pregnancies, rare indeed are the parents who will rear your child for you while you finish your education. And why should they, when they didn’t choose to become grandparents?
That’s what I was thinking yesterday as I drove to Johns Hopkins University to speak to students in a Family Violence class taught by one of the nation’s top domestic violence researchers. Well, I didn’t think about all of this, but I did wonder in amazement that I was even going to speak to students enrolled there. Me, a teen mom whose multiple pregnancies guaranteed I wouldn’t attend any college, much less one as revered and renowned as Johns Hopkins!
And that’s how I began my speech, when I addressed Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell’s nursing students. I’m not sure how they understood my introduction: Was I not intelligent enough to be accepted, did my parents not have enough money to send me, or couldn’t I obtain a scholarship? But they soon learned what I meant.
This is it: when you, a teenager, become pregnant (or when you father a child while a teen, although not as frequently, since the guys still often walk while the gal bears the brunt of the fallout), your future options are greatly diminished. Thinking of going to beauty school? Okay, who’s going to babysit while you’re in class? Or how about getting a good job? Who’s going to hire you, a high school dropout? Maybe you had plans to model or become an actor. Well, pregnancy doesn’t automatically rule out these two careers, but again, it’s pretty hard to pursue a vocation with a baby strapped (figuratively or literally) to your back.
I’m now a grandmother of two. My eldest daughter did it the right way, the healthiest way: she got an education, got a job and got married. Then, when she had a supportive partner to help her, she got pregnant. My two grandsons have something their mother did not: financial security and an abiding contentment that comes from knowing both parents love you and will care for you, no matter what.
My youngest child will be 26 in April. And last night, his mother walked onto the campus of one of the premiere universities in the world. His mother, once a straight-A student, could have done that at age 17—if she hadn’t instead become a teen mom.


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