Adults in Diapers: ‘Teen Mom’ vs. the Real Thing
by Meshel Negrete
Imagine this…walking down the hallways of high school is a young sixteen-year-old girl, she has brown hair, blue eyes, tanned skin, an athletically fit body and she is also one of the most respected students because of her polite attitude and generosity. On top of all that she also has many acceptance letters from prestigious colleges for her intellectual and athletic qualities. This girl is your daughter. One day she meets a boy and falls in love, thinking this is the person she will be with for the rest of her life. A few months pass and you think everything is fine but then BOOM! Her acceptance letters are denied because she is unable to run track and field, play basketball, or even play water polo. Her mind is distracted from her studies and her grades are falling dramatically. You ask her why and she confesses to you.
“Mom, Dad…I’m pregnant.”
“Living in Long Beach, that’s all you ever hear about nowadays,” states a local childhood friend. “All the kids nowadays are either getting high or getting pregnant.”
Pregnancy used to be seen as a beautiful thing that women go through once they’ve met the right man and want to settle down. But since the hit series Teen Mom aired on the popular television network MTV, viewers have received mixed signals about everything, from what the celebrity moms are saying about their hardships to what they have said they want to do in the near future. Contraceptives are available but it isn’t made clear enough how many options there are for teens. Many actual teen moms who have watched the shows broadcast on MTV are not satisfied with what is shown compared to what it really means to be a teen mom. What makes Teen Mom different from the real thing and what qualities make them the same?
It was only a few years ago that teen pregnancy was looked down upon greatly by society. It was hardly ever spoken about on good terms. Nowadays, however, teen pregnancy seems to be glorified by the hit series Teen Mom on MTV. The first season of Teen Mom aired on December 8 2009, with cast members Amber Portwood, Maci Bookout, Catelynn Lowell, and Farrah Abraham. These women were all young teenagers who had the responsibility of raising a child while still being children themselves. While filming the show, Amber Portwood had relationship issues with the father of her child, Gary. They got into arguments with verbal and physical violence towards one another in front of their daughter Leah. Amber was arrested, and according to Lisa Carey, “recently struck a deal with prosecutors in her drug case from December 2011 and instead of heading to jail, this mom to three-year-old Leah has been sent to rehab. This is her second chance at rehab, after her suicide attempt last summer. Maci Bookout was seen as the popular girl with a bright future until she became pregnant with her son Bentley. Her college aspirations and dream life were put on hold. Catelynn Lowell was young and in love with her boyfriend. In the end they gave up their daughter to an open adoption, but regretted the decision later on in the series. Lastly, Farrah Abraham was known as the spoiled little rich girl with a smart mouth towards anyone who wouldn’t agree with her (mostly her mother). The majority of the girls are white, and they are shown through the process of being young and pregnant, birthing their children, and then living their lives afterwards. The problem with a show such as this is that most pregnancies happen within Hispanic and African-American ethnicities, which are hardly ever broadcast. Dr. Logan Levkoff, a teen development expert, says that even though MTV illustrates the harsh consequences of teen pregnancy, there are many pregnant teens in pop culture that can really influence American teenage girls. “There are more pregnant teens in pop culture than ever before,” Levkoff said in an interview with ABC News. “They are on the cover of magazines, getting paid, getting endorsement deals, and becoming calendar models.” This in itself helps show that glamorizing teen pregnancy is not the way to go. Leah Messer, nineteen, recently suffered a miscarriage, but isn’t giving up hope to have more children soon with boyfriend Jeremy Calvert. Reportedly she hopes to turn her pregnancy into another money-maker. The source claims she wants her own series like Kate Gosselin. It makes you wonder what kind of message these girls are really trying to spread.
While Teen Mom shows a few struggles of being a teen mother, many actual teen mothers are not satisfied with what is broadcast on MTV. An actual teen mother in Oklahoma, seventeen-year-old Roberta A., was interviewed about her responses towards the show and her thoughts on being a real teenage mother.
Me: “What do you think of the show Teen Mom? In your opinion does it really show what it is like to be a teen mom? How hard is it to balance school with raising your daughter?”
Roberta: “The show really isn’t too similar to the realities of being a teen mom. Yes, it is hard, but they get the luxury of a check for being cast on the show while the rest of us continue to struggle every day. Of course working, going to school, and being a full time mom is difficult. Sometimes you forget why you’re doing it, but when I look at her, I remember.”
Me: “Are people as friendly as they used to be?”
Roberta: “My friends disappeared. Everyone gave up on me once I got pregnant. It’s a horrible feeling to lose them but then you truly realize who is really there for you when you need them and who isn’t.”
Me: “What made having your daughter worth everything that you’ve gone through?”
Roberta: “When she said her first word I was so happy. But then they say it all the time and it drives you crazy! Then when she first started crawling I got excited but then she wouldn’t stop getting into everything.” Roberta laughs happily.
Me: “How is your life financially?”
Roberta: “Financially I’m struggling every day. There isn’t one second I don’t feel like she deserves better!”
Me: “How is school?”
Roberta: “I’m failing in school but I keep trying for her sake. Having her makes me want to do so much better, but it’s hard. There are so many people that are trying to make things complicated by judging me and shoving my age in my face, no one understands what it takes and how hard it is to be a mom this young, until it happens to them.”
Me: “What is it like being a single teenage mother?”
Roberta: “Being a single mom makes everything ten times harder!”
Me: “How would you describe your relationship with your daughter’s father from when it first began to now?”
Roberta: “We rushed into it too fast. He used to love me and always want to be around, and now it’s the exact opposite. When he does come around I want him to hold me and tell me he loves me, but he won’t. When she was first born everything seemed perfect! We were happy, we fought less and had much more fun. She made us better. She helped us realize what we wanted. But the second I leave state he wants to party. It’s hard to do what’s right when you’re constantly thinking you’re doing it wrong. ”
Me: “What was your first thought when you realized you were pregnant?”
Roberta: “What did I do? I’m about to destroy someone’s life.”
Me: “How has being a teen mom affected the choices you make?”
Roberta: “It’s affected everything. I can’t just walk in the wind, go out, or even have that much fun. I see nothing but the inside of my house and my daughter. Everything I do isn’t for me anymore, it’s for her. I don’t worry about myself, I worry about her. Every second that I’m away from her I can’t get her out of my head.”
Me: “Was it hard to adapt to being a mother instead of being just a child yourself? Do you feel that you have matured faster than the majority of the other people in your age group?”
Roberta: “I’ve matured a lot. The childish fights and arguments don’t seem to matter. Everyone I hang out with doesn’t understand but they know I can’t do what they do. They party and have fun, I change diapers and clean all the time!”
Me: “As a mother yourself, what do you think is the same as the real thing and the show Teen Mom? What do you think makes them different?”
Roberta: “The show only shows the little struggles and all the drama. They don’t show the things that make being a mother worth it.”
Me: “Does that mean you are satisfied with what they air on television?”
Roberta: “Of course not, they make other teen moms look like they are selfish! They have it easy, I don’t see why they are always complaining.”
Roberta was thanked for her time and remained open to the idea of speaking about her experiences as a teen mother. She was sixteen years old when she had her daughter Gabriella.
This does raise an issue on the thoughts teenage girls already have about growing up quickly to fall in love, get married and a start a family, or even engaging in sexual activity for pleasure without thinking of the consequences until later. With pregnancy rates rising slowly, contraceptives are becoming more of an issue to schools and other public environments. Should they be allowed to give out free contraceptives such as condoms or birth control, which could suggest to some that it’s ok to have sex at a young age? According to an article found on the Guttmatcher.org resource files, contraceptive use at first premarital sex has been increasing. As they say, all hope is not yet lost for this generation of the young and naïve. There are many forms of contraceptives that can be taken. There are condoms, birth control pills, and a monthly shot. Women can get what is called a NuvaRing that is placed within the vagina and removed after three weeks.
Being a mother is hard no matter how old you are; maturity is a must-have factor in order to be a decent mother figure. Teen Mom does not always show what is really needed to inform the younger generation on the consequences of unprotected sexual activity. Contraceptives are changing as time continues and many people are unaware because they fail to research their options. Overall, the way society views teen pregnancies has changed dramatically over the past few years. As the networks continue to promote the idea that being a teen mother is possible, more and more young minds are filled with the ideas of intimacy for a possible lifestyle that may or may not happen. MTV continues to bring in new faces for the teen pregnancy series which will more than likely have more young teens getting pregnant just to appear on the show. Younger and younger age groups are having children and society says is starting to say it’s ok. The more appealing the advertisements and televised series are, the younger the child is curious to explore the world of intimacy. Contraceptives are becoming more available to those who need it—or rather those who want to play it safe. And even so, the message of struggling to be a teen mother is not entirely understood until someone has been through it herself. I suppose personal experience speaks for itself and lessons have to be learned one way or another, but everyone should think twice before they act because surely no one wants to be seen as an adult in a diaper.