Once I was having a conversation with a young woman and asked her about her goals. She told me that she wanted to graduate and not get pregnant. It got me wondering about goals. Like, once they’ve made it past that…then what?
I was a bit sad that she didn’t seem to have any other plans.
But I get it. I remember for myself being a young teen and constantly getting it drilled in my head… Don’t have sex and don’t get pregnant! As a young black girl we were all afraid of becoming a statistic. I even had a white teacher tell a group of us that we were all at risk for being a statistic because we were black….awkward…
In my high school days and even before that I’ve seen a few teen moms. Some have gone on to do great things despite the extra challenge of being a young mom. Others haven’t been able to get too far.
When I think about the difference it all comes down to two main things, goals and support systems. I’m sure there are a few more but right now I want to focus on these two.
I can imagine that it’s pretty terrifying to find out you’re pregnant and have no way of supporting yourself. You’re in junior high or high school and now you’re going to be a mom. This is the worst thing ever!!
Actually it’s not the worst thing.
Like I said before I’ve seen young girls move on in their lives wiser and more mature than their peers after having children. I’m not in any way endorsing becoming a teen mom but I do believe that we need to change our mentality when it comes to supporting young women. What if a young girl finds herself pregnant after being raped? I’d hope that she would be supported instead of ostracized by her community. She needs to feel that she is valuable no matter what stage of life she finds herself in.
We need to stop breeding fear in our girls about getting pregnant and instead encourage them to set real life goals. We are stunting our girls and getting them to focus on the wrong thing. They need to know what they are capable of not just what they shouldn’t do. I think that if the focus is in the right place then they will make the good choices that will pay off in their lives.
I’ve seen what happens when we don’t breed the right dreams in our girls. Young girls get pregnant and give up on everything. They might muse on what they would like to do later on but don’t have the drive to get there at all costs. They feel sorry for themselves and ashamed and so they become obsessed with image. They need to look good and so do their kids. They can become trapped in materialism using their money to buy the most expensive latest trends for their kids instead of investing in their futures. Or a young mom can start the search for the perfect man to rescue her and her child only to find herself deeper in emotional baggage and possible with more young mouths to feed.
Having a child while you’re a teenager and unmarried means that everything is harder. Without the close support system of a family of trust worthy babysitters you’ll have little time for your own dreams. A young mother would need stone like determination to make something of herself. You can’t get very far with almost impossible odds without being a hard worker.
The young mothers I knew that succeeded had a great work ethic. They finished school, worked and bought homes for themselves. They raised responsible smart and loved children.
So what’s the point of all that I’m saying?
I believe that first we need to help our girls dream big for their lives. Making realistic goals will help keep them on track in their lives. They will be looking forward to what they want instead of what they shouldn’t do. They will see the things they shouldn’t do as hindrances to what they want out of life.
We need to support the young single moms we know. If they are still inching toward their dreams we should encourage them and lend a hand when we can. These young women are full of potential and are capable of making great decisions as they mature.
If you are a parent and you’ve made mistakes talk to your kids about the goals and dreams you might have missed out on or encourage them to set real tangible goals for each year of their life. They should be thinking about schools they want to attend, places they’d like to visit and careers. At an early age expose them to information and activities that will allow them to dream. If you’re a young single mom remember that you have your whole future ahead of you. Don’t take any shortcuts when it comes to your education. There is nothing stopping you from accomplishing your dreams unless you don’t try. Be the best mother you can be. Invest in yourself and in your children.
If you’re a young single girl set your sights so high that no set backs will be able to stop you. Involve yourself in sports, programs and other activities. There will be plenty of time for guys later, right now you need to focus on who you’d like to be and where you’d like to go and if you do that, you can rest assured that your life will not be built on fear of the unknown but excitement for what’s to come!
Nana Abraham is a speaker, youth activist and author of For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman– a handbook for life that discusses relevant issues for young women today.