Don’t shoot the messenger!

I think in this country, we have a tendency to stick so passionately to our views that if someone who represents a view that is ideologically opposed to ours that even if what they are saying is actually worth listening to, that like a kid sticking their fingers in their ears, yelling “I can’t hear you” that we adults do the same thing. I suspect this is why many are slamming this piece by Bristol Palin telling teens to pause before they play.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you know that Bristol Palin is none other than the daughter of one time vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. A woman who talked abstinence only to have her own teenage daughter get pregnant. Originally the plan as the public was told, was that Bristol and then boyfriend Levi Johnston were going to get married and live happily ever after…instead like many teenage couples they broke up and now Levi is a baby daddy who must be forced to pay child support. Lucky for Levi he has been able to make a few shekels here and there riding on the fact that he knocked up Bristol so unlike many young men who forget to finish high school and have no careers, at least for the moment Levi is earning a few bucks.

Thing is Bristol made the PSA and there are some who feel it’s a tad hypocritical that she of all folks is the face telling teens to think. Mind you no where have I seen her telling teens don’t have sex but she is saying to think about it. In this PSA she also states a truth that for some is akin to shaming those of us who have less privilege. She states what if she did not have a well-known family and opportunity, how different would her life be? Good questions.

Well as someone who was technically a teen Mom, after all I was 18 when I got pregnant with elder boy and 19 when I gave birth, while I have no love for Bristol’s Mama, from my perspective Bristol speaks truth. Life is hard when you are a teen Mom. While for centuries young women gave birth at an early age it was also at a time when our life expectancies were much shorter, life in many ways was simpler. A young couple could theoretically survive without any special training or schooling.

Once upon a time in this country, the cost and style of living was simple enough that all one needed was the simple desire to work and to be given an opportunity. Alas those days are all but gone, very few jobs that require no specialized training pay wages sufficient to raise a family on. Minimum wage while attractive to a teen with no responsibilities, when one adds a child to the mix it quickly becomes apparent that one cannot raise a kid on that type of cash.

While children bring much joy, when you are neither emotionally, mentally or financially ready for them it adds to the stresses of raising kids. Children can add stress in general when you have been planning to have them, who hasn’t been overwhelmed by the sleepless nights, the meals eaten on the fly, marathon nursing sessions? Those moments when you look at your precious baby and think what have I done yet in your heart you deal because you have the maturity to know this is yet a season in life. Yet when you are still growing yourself and faced with sleepless nights at the same tine wondering how you will keep yourself and your child housed, it adds another layer that frankly is not always pleasant.

Many time young couples break up under the strain which is no surprise since adding a child is a known stressor to older already established couples who again are in a better place to weather the storms. Yet for teenagers time is not seen in the same vein as older folks view time. I can clearly compare and contrast the difference in my approach and attitudes to both my kid’s baby stage, while my daughter was clearly a more spirited kid than my son, in many ways it was easier because I was older. My son looking back was a pretty mellow baby yet at 19, sleepless nights and minor inconveniences of a baby felt so much more severe. Funny thing is I have talked with other women who had babies early who went on later to have additional  babies when they were older and many have echoed my feelings.

I think it’s short-sighted as adults for us to take offense at Bristol’s message because her target audience is teens and sadly we are in a time when for many teens they see celebrities as role models. Frankly I think Jamie Lyn Spears should talk about being a teen Mom as well.

There is no shame in being a teen Mom but the fact is it is hard work and a baby at a young age can make life more difficult. Even the simple logistics of going to school take more work when you have a baby. As more and more of us are working later in life in part because we are living longer and in part because of sheer necessity, it means the likelihood that Grandma can help with the baby is greatly reduced. Grandmas these days are not the same cookie baking sitting around beings they used to be. I think back on my own Mama who became at Grandma at the same age I am right now…she was still raising a kid at home and just starting to go into the world of work. She would occasionally baby sit but her and my Pops were pretty clear that my son was my responsibility. Even now I chuckle when I see my esthetician who is a Grandma but  this gal at barely 50 is definitely unlike any Granny I have ever known, even down to the fact her grandkids have been instructed not to call her Grandma, Granny or any derivation of Grandmother.

No, we simply do not have a society that makes it easier to have kids early and in the 18 years since I walked that path, its only gotten harder. I say don’t shoot the messenger. In this case, Bristol is a young woman living the reality of teen parenthood and I suspect much I like learned the dream she dreamed when she learned she was pregnant is much different from the life she is currently living.