Talking About a Revolution

Deborah Chilcoat

I want to start a revolution. Right here. Right now. It cannot wait another moment. And I don’t mean the kind of revolution that requires us to occupy our local parks for weeks on end, or the kind that fizzles out when it’s no longer fashionable, or one that pits women against one another.

I want to start a revolution. I want Mother’s Day to be as Anna Jarvis envisioned: a day of rest for mothers…ALL mothers, including mothers who had their children young. Young mothers deserve to be served breakfast in bed, forgiven their laundry duty for 24 hours, and treated like royalty when they arrives at Friendly’s for a hard-earned hot fudge sundae.

I want to start a revolution. I want the greeting card mega-industry to include a selection of cards that gushes over the sacrifices young moms make; that celebrates their stamina and applauds their courage. I want the card to capture the reverence I feel when I think about the young women who tenderly kiss their child goodbye as they leave for school or work, spend sleepless nights soothing their child’s cries or bravely scare away the monsters under the bed, real or imagined. I want young moms to know that they will be supported, not scorned, for seeking help when their own well of patience runs dry.

I want to start a revolution. I want politicians to stop bickering. Specifically, I want them to stop bickering about who protects children and women more, Democrats or Republicans (which can be contradictory in the case of teen moms and their babies), which type of sexuality education works best (even though research proves that abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education is a complete failure), and which programs should get axed from government funding (without regard for their merits. Think, Title X Family Planning.). Young mothers are often too busy to worry about the political games played in Washington, D.C. But, we, the professionals who work with young parents must advocate on their behalf…with their involvement.

I want to start a revolution. I want an education system that stands up for the rights of young mothers and enforces Title IX–The Equal Opportunity in Education Act. When Title IX was enacted in 1972, the birth rate among women 15-19 years old was at a then-historic low (61.7 out of 1,000). In 2012, CDC data shows that teen birth rates have dropped to 34.3 per 1,000. However, even after 40 years of Title IX, young women are still being discriminated against for being pregnant, giving birth, or parenting and are subsequently dropping out–no, cast out–of school. Considering that education is directly linked to employment and economic security, young women and their children are often relegated to a life of poverty. Mothers, of any age, have a right to an education free of discrimination and the right to economic opportunity.

I want to start a revolution. I want more research conducted in the field of pregnant and parenting adolescents and young adults; the complexity of the issues surrounding young parenthood can be overwhelming, even for a seasoned practitioner like me. I want…no scratch that…WE ALL need more evidence-based programs that have been rigorously evaluated and proven to delay or prevent subsequent teen pregnancies. I want teen mothers to have the knowledge, skills, and ability to space their children’s birth greater than two years so that they and their family can be more successful in their educational and economic endeavors.

I want to start a revolution. I want young mothers to speak up and claim the honor, respect, and appreciation they deserve…and not just on Mother’s Day. I admire young mothers because they, too, struggle with the daily grind of parenthood: long days, longer nights, and worrying if they are doing right by their children. Every mom wonders if she’ll miss a momentous occasion, if she’s being too strict or too lax in her discipline, or if her kids will remember the times she caught their vomit in my, ah-hem, her hand. Young mothers are no different. Considering this, doesn’t it seem disingenuous NOT to celebrate young mothers on Mother’s Day…and everyday?

I feel the verve intensifying… Will you join the revolution?

Just for the record, THIS mother doesn’t expect breakfast in bed (There’s no time, I’ve got to shuttle my daughter to soccer tryouts and have to coach my son’s soccer game…all before noon!) or a reprieve from the laundry (Is it weird to experience nirvana while folding clean towels?). But I have already told my children that my Mother’s Day will be complete with them in my presence and a double-scoop of butter pecan ice cream in my tummy.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms reading this…no matter how old you are!

Deborah Chilcoat is the Senior Manager, Training and Technical Assistance at Healthy Teen Network.

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1 Comment

  1. I really appreciated this article and was inspired by it. I was a teenish mom and now I work with teen moms. Encouraging and educating them to see their importance as a mom and to know how to grow and make wise decisions makes all the difference in their lives and their children’s.

    Reply

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