Have you seen these ads?
I’m not a fan of these ads. When I was pregnant for the first time I was 17 making me a ‘teen parent.’ I hadn’t finished high school, I didn’t stay with her father, I didn’t have a good job, in fact, for quite some time I had no job at all which ultimately led us to living in poverty for several years. I guess my past situation validates these ads but that is only half of the story. Maybe this is what irks me about these ads. Yes I was poor, yes I was alone but given the chance, I wouldn’t change a thing!
The experiences I had shaped me and changed me and led me to where I am today. I’m not rich but we don’t live in poverty any more. I am still raising my children alone but that is how I want to raise them. I did finish high school while completing a diploma program and am now on the verge of graduating from one of the top universities in Canada with a degree in a field I absolutely love. The problem I have with these ads is that they seem to be portraying teen pregnancy as an end to what could have been a good life; an act of closing doors and ruining your chances – which it can be but doesn’t have to be!
These ads also seem to be targeting those who are either already pregnant or at risk of becoming pregnant (i.e. participating in unprotected sex). All these ads seems to be doing is shaming. They provide no alternatives or strategies for prevention. They are laying the blame and responsibility of teen pregnancy on female teens but it isn’t a female teen problem, it is a societal problem! If I had of saw these ads while pregnant I would have been deeply bothered by them, especially the “Honestly Mom…” one. The condescending tone speaking to young mothers-to-be as though they are complete idiots is not going to motivate or inspire positive changes but rather seems like kicking someone when they are already knocked down.
The tagline “Think being a teen parent won’t cost you?” is again condescending. When I found out I was pregnant I knew it was going to cost me. I took extra shifts and got a second job so that I was able to save my money and could afford necessities such as a car seat, crib, diapers, etc. I knew it was going to cost me my social life. Most of my friends slowly trickled out of my life but with that came new friends. I couldn’t participate in all the same activities I enjoyed before pregnancy and parenthood but I found new activities to enjoy. Isn’t this true with parenting at any age though? Why does no one speak to a 30 year old married women who engages in unprotected sex? Becoming a parent is costly at any age. Becoming a parent has cost me my ‘typical’ young adult years but I’ve gained much more than I’ve lost. And then there’s the claim that parents should expect to spend “more than $10 000 a year to raise a child” I’d like to see where they get their stats from because that is absurd! To be quite honest there have been years where my household income was not even $10 000 but I seemed to manage to raise not one but two young children. I think spending $10 000 on a child in one year is ridiculous and I’m not the only one who thinks raising children doesn’t have to be that expensive. Read Babies Really Don’t Cost That Much from Feisty Red Hair‘s Katherine Martinko – another proud young mother of two who doesn’t spend 10 grand a year on her children – for more on why there is no need to spend thousands on your children.
The one that infuriates me the most: Really? This one makes my blood boil simply because I didn’t do any of those: didn’t finish high school, didn’t start my career, and didn’t get married before having children. I understand that financially someone might be better off having children after checking these accomplishments off their life to-do list first but this ad is nothing more than a strict Christian ‘abstinence only’ perspective and it saddens me to think our society has yet to move past this mentality. I know many families that have followed this ‘preferred’ path and are still living in poverty, marriages are unhappy and some end early, and children aren’t raised in a positive environment. Being married is NOT a guarantee of a prosperous life like this ad is insinuating.
These ads are attempting to tell young people that teen pregnancy is a costly mistake. For me and my unique situation, I am grateful and proud of my ‘mistake’ and couldn’t imagine my life any other way. I love being a young mother, am proud that I was once a teen mom, and feel no shame regardless of what New York’s Human Resources Administration claims.