This Mother’s Day is one for the books. As mothers across the country celebrate under new terms–via video calls, zoom chats, or FaceTime–I can’t help but relate how our young mothers feel year after year when society’s standards leave them out, oftentimes to celebrate alone.
One of my favorite projects in my entire tenure at National Crittenton has been the Young Parent Advocacy Project. Over the last year, we have worked with 11 young parents, 8 of whom were teen mothers. Their stories are unique, yet they ring familiar to young mothers across the country. Though they’re all from different parts of the country, with diverse backgrounds, they share the similar experiences of young motherhood–the challenges of feeling invisible, unheard, unappreciated, and excluded.
I heard them talk about how their ages at parenthood became the point of focus. The fact that they’re working hard to provide for their children, raising them with love and tenacity takes a backseat. The struggle and drive they face day in and day out is overlooked. When we think of recognizing mothers, we don’t think of young mothers and the fact that they deserve all the credit in the world; they’re doing the work, sometimes with much more grace than older parents. Their energy is contagious and their optimism is incomparable. I love being around them.
If it sounds like I am biased toward young moms, I am. I was a young mother. I too know the pain of watching every other mother be lauded and celebrated while I was shamed for loving my children and loving motherhood. It is refreshing to be a part of a group that acknowledges young families, understands young mothers, and creates a platform for them to use their voices to share their challenges, the injustices they face, and their passion to help young families experiencing similar obstacles. Young mothers are amazing; they love their children more than anything in the world. And on top of fighting stereotypes every day, they find the time to be part of the Young Parent Advocacy Council.
As we celebrate moms all over, remember that motherhood doesn’t have to look a certain way. There is no “right” way to be a mom. Celebrate LGBTQI mothers, non-binary and gender-expansive mothers, single mothers, mothers who are system-involved, and young mothers. Listen to their stories and support their work. At National Crittenton, we’ve been working on changing this narrative since our founding in 1883, and raising awareness of what we all need to do to support young families.
In honor of mother’s day some of the young mothers we have the privilege to work with shared some of their experiences in motherhood:
“Being a mother is everything to me! Sometimes I feel without them, I would not have accomplished half the goals I have set for myself. I look forward to growing old with my boys just so I can tell them there is no such thing as giving up on yourself. Keontae and Deonte are my strength and weakness when it comes to being a mother.”
– Lanesha, 24, YPAC member
“I love being a young mother because my son became the reason I want to succeed. I want to show him that finding his happiness is important. Giving him every tool he needs to work through his life.”
– Mirah, 20, YPAC member
“Motherhood came at the right time for me. Before becoming a mother, I had no direction, ambition, or goals. Although some might see it as “not the best timing, or under the best circumstances” I gained a whole new sense of self and identity when I became a mother. To me, motherhood is an exchange of thoughts, feelings, and knowledge with my son. Although we are never really sure who is giving or teaching, we are always learning and growing.”
– Lesley, 28, YPAC member,