Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Unexpected Consequence of Teen Pregnancy

 A piece of writing from 2 years ago.  Having new blog projects means I am going back through my old blog projects and re-reading them.  It's not plagiarism if I wrote it to begin with, right?  Even if I feel like I'm a different person now? 

"So, I was 15 when I became pregnant with my oldest daughter, 16 when she was born. The world did not come to an end for me, I did not drop out of school and I do not have a rotating crop of men coming in and out of the house. Shocking?

Actually, overall, things are good. My kids are 13 and 9 years old. I graduated, went to college, have a fantastic job. The girls are well behaved and well adjusted. I guess you could say that we beat the stereotypes.

My biggest challenge though, for the last 13 years, has been loneliness.

Nobody warned me about that. Everyone told me how hard it would be to raise well-adjusted kids. How hard it would be to get my life "back on track" (whatever that really looks like). How tough it would be to overcome the hardships of life. But not about loneliness.

This has just been weighing heavy on me as I'm approaching my 30th birthday. People have always called me an "old soul". And thirty has always been a psychological milestone for me. Like once I hit 30, my actual age will have caught up with my "mental age". I figured that at 30, most of my friends would have kids, partners, homes, all the trappings of adult life. And that we would be able to relate again.

Because being 16 and taking a parent role seriously leaves you pretty out of sync with your other adolescent friends. They were doing all the normal adolescent stuff, and I was breastfeeding. I had a routine to maintain, and was in the house every night after 7pm. So I was a pretty boring friend to have.

Even at that age, it made sense to me. I knew it was a sacrifice that I had decided to make so that my daughter could have the best upbringing I could provide. And it didn't even really feel like a sacrifice. But somewhere in there I did think that one day it would be different.

I'm figuring out that it's not. And I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that it probably never will be.

The parents of my childrens' friends are all 10-15 years older than I am. There is a world of difference in psychological development between 30 and 40 years old. So I'm never really a part of their world. Sure we can talk about how fast the kids are growing up, their highschool choices, how to handle adolescence...but I'm not able to identify with their increasing sense of mortality. Of approaching middle age. Of perimenopause. I don't understand their cultural references, have never seen the TV shows they remember from their childhood and was just a kid when most of them were graduating college. Some of their classmates were my teachers.

And when they are all talking together -- like ladies do-- I just feel...apart. I hate the comments they make about how I'm "just a baby", or how much they miss their 20s. I can't stand the shock in their faces when they remember how much younger I am. And the dismissive, slightly smug comments that are sometimes made when I talk about my personal struggles drive me crazy. That I will "understand it better when I'm older" or that I'll "learn to mellow out with age". Not because these statements aren't true, but because I am only progressing down the normal path of identity development and they make me feel like I should be all caught up to them.

And people my age are usually at a completely different stage. They are raising young children, are exhausted, are still trying to figure out the rhythm of family life. Or else they haven't gotten there yet --perhaps never will-- and are still out partying it up every weekend, sleeping in until 2pm, working to pay the basics and then enjoying the rest.

There is little common ground when one person is potty training, and the other is trying to figure out how much freedom a 13 year old needs in order to be safe, but still feel independent. Or when one is planning how to pay for their child's University tuition in 5 years, and the other is starting to pay off their own student loans.

And I don't feel like I'm better than others, or like I've achieved more, although I can understand how it may come off that way. On the contrary, I think that where they are is the norm, the proper place for people in the 25-30 age group. But again, I am...apart.

And lonely.

Happy birthday to me.

I should note that over the past 2 years I have worked on both accepting and changing the "loneliness" piece of this.  Mostly accepting it, as there is only so much that I can do about changing it.  This sense of being apart remains the most fascinating aspect (to me) of starting out as a teen parent, and I wonder if others feel the same way?  Do others experience the same kinds of feelings for different reasons?  I'm curious to know!  Please comment and share.  Thanks for reading.    


mrs.strongarm said...

Thanks for reposting this, as I'd never read it before. The part about getting told you'll get "back on track" eventually really made me think about how we assume that there is a way everyone's life is "supposed" to unfold. We sometimes get this reaction when we tell people we sold our house and went back to renting. On Purpose. I've heard "oh, well, you're still young" or "you will get back into the market eventually, I'm sure." I know people mean well when they say these things, but it can be exasperating.

Cassandra said...

This piece hits the nail on the head for me. It is a bit of a challenge when you really dont "fit" anywhere. The parents of my 18 year olds friends are much older than me and while I am closer in age to the parents of my 4 year olds friends I sometimes struggle with blending in to their "first time parents" world