I want to thank HelloBeautiful.com for sharing this picture of a group of teen moms proudly sporting their baby bumps on Facebook. Apparently, a baby in your belly has become the ultimate accessory, instantly turning you into the most fashionable girl at your school. I can hear the collective gasps and head shaking coming from anyone who gets to experience the “thrill” of seeing these children expressing their excitement over having babies who could easily be their younger siblings. There is a big part me that agrees with you.
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But to put it into perspective, I thought about the fact that my own mom was a teen mother, giving birth to me at the age of 17. Mother Nature is a powerful force, and scientists say that a woman’s most fertile years are between the ages of 15 and 27. So, that means that even when we tell young people not to desire sex, all of us are strongly wired to do “the nasty.” Finally, I’m admittedly not a big fan of abortion (at least not as a tool of simple reproductive convenience – at least I’m glad my mother decided not to abort me), so I am trying to find ways to make this picture OK in my mind.
But let’s be clear: THIS PICTURE IS DISTURBING.
So, to make the picture OK (at least in my own psyche), I’ve artificially constructed a few facts about these young women that I hope are true about the little bundles of joy they are so proudly sporting underneath their naked belly buttons. If any or all of these facts are true, then I might be able to take the snarl off my face:
1) (I hope that) All of these women are fully equipped to provide for their kids without depending on help from the state or living off of relatives until they are deep in their twenties: I know two young women who each had four babies, in four years, with six different daddies, with nearly all of the fathers being uneducated, unemployed and having criminal records. They live with their mothers, with no plans on getting out (in too many cases, grandmas are first in line to volunteer to be surrogate parents). It only took three years for their kids to start asking why they don’t have a daddy. I really hate saying this, but statistics predict that children in these circumstances don’t have much of a future (there are exceptions, of course, but the exception is not the same as the rule). It’s hard to argue that you love your children when you bring them into these kinds of circumstances. It actually says that your selfish desire to create the ultimate accessory overrides any concern you have for your offspring.
2) (I hope that) None of these young women has been impacted by the out-of-control rates of HIV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Syphilis, HPV, Herpes and Hepatitis that are plaguing the black community due to there being so much unprotected sex: Odds say that if you have unprotected sex with at least a couple of people who also “get around,” you are surely going to be infected with something. Also, quite a few infected people never go to the doctor and only find out about their infections after they have festered and begun to kill them (this is usually after the person has infected quite a few others along the way). Unfortunately, with the way things are going, a lot of young parents will be dead before their children reach the third grade.
3) (I hope that) The fathers of these children are actively involved in their lives, perhaps even (gasp) planning to one day marry their mothers: Maybe then these babies can at least have a chance of experiencing the stability of a two-parent household. Perhaps I am fantasizing too much and being old-fashioned. Since when did a child actually need a dad?
4) (I hope that) These women will go on and become educated so they can take care of their kids, and the kids’ fathers aren’t going to spend their lives dodging the police (or end up in jail) to deal with state mandates to pay crippling amounts of child support: What’s even more interesting is that many young women choose to have multiple kids with multiple men, and too many men have been trained by hip hop culture to rotate their penises around the world. Far too often, by the age of 30, the mother is an overworked, impoverished, depressed woman with kids she can’t control. The father can easily become the man who never gets ahead because the child support court takes half of his paycheck for all the kids he’s created….that’s assuming he isn’t in jail for nonpayment. So, the dude who once thought he was “the man” for getting so much female attention realizes that the joke was actually on him (you hear me Terrell Owens?)
5) (I hope that) None of these kids will grow up and repeat the cycle of their parents or, even worse, end up dead or in prison as a result of growing up without adequate role models in the home: Unfortunately, our mothers are our first teachers, especially if the dad is nowhere to be found. The same jail cell used to hold the father is preserved, by the state, for his son. The same welfare office visited by the mother can easily become the first stop for her daughter just a few years later. This is the plan for poor, black single parents, unless someone makes a deliberate effort to break the cycle. The cycle is only broken by providing education, awareness, high expectations and self-esteem for our kids, and we must sometimes even provide it for other people’s kids. The black community needs a “Parenthood bailout,” and we must all make a contribution of time and resources.
What saddens me about this picture is not the fact that these women are young mothers. A child is a blessing, no matter how it gets to this earth. What bothers me the most is that these women have no idea what they are getting into, and most of them are too young to realize how the children they claim to love so much are going to suffer for decades because their parents brought them into the world with the odds stacked squarely against them.
Engaging in the powerful act of sex obviously requires education and preparation that we are not taking seriously enough. Wearing protection and being selective about where you share your body are critical parts of the parenting process. If you spread your seed or womb to just anyone because they look good, drive a nice car or say the right things, then you are asking for all the problems that come with creating a life with that person. Few of us make plans to make a baby, but all of us know when we are planning to have sex. So, the first key to parental responsibility is actually sexual responsibility.
I wish these young women and their kids the best. But when I see the future that may lie in front of these children, part of me wonders if these women even love their babies at all. No parent who cares about their kids voluntarily sets them up for self-destruction, and the fashionable mystique of sporting your baby bump on Facebook quickly translates into a nightmare worse than you can ever imagine.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The Rapp Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.