girl-mom

Community Advocacy and Support by and for Young Mothers

What has GirlMom done for you?

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mamamayhem
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What has GirlMom done for you?

I'm 28 and my son will be 10 this year. When I had him I was 18 with no health insurance and an ex boyfriend who had proven very quickly to be a deadbeat. I occasionally defended my decision to parent by attacking the other options afforded to women. It's hard to defend becoming a mom when it's not socially acceptable. Sometimes you take the easy way out by simply making everything else seem worse.

In the delivery room, one of my (former) friends pointed to me and said "She was supposed to be the smart one." I'd just graduated high school, and other people I knew would bring me stories about how this or that teacher was now "so disappointed." My own father told me that it shouldn't be too difficult to date with a baby, as guys would know I put out. I wasn't even thinking about dating.

I found girlmom after someone on a no-longer-existent iVillage messageboard posted a link. That was almost 8 years ago. When I got here, I was pent up with issues. I was still thinking there was no room for me, no room for my personality, inside my new life. I was consumed with the desire to prove to the world I was worthy.

One of the most important gifts the lovely members of GirlMom ever gave me was the knowledge I didn't have a damn thing to prove. The fact that I loved my son was all the proof I ever had to offer. Having that information, they gave me the strength and the words to fight for my rights and the rights of my child. It also gave me the freedom to admit when I needed help and understand that just like a married mom in her 30s, I was entitled to the right of not having to do everything by myself. Holding myself to a ridiculously higher standard because society pushed me to an even lower one did not benefit anyone, least of all my son.

GirlMom also helped me realize that I could still be me. My life didn't have to revolve 100% around parenting, and in the end my son would thank me for having a hobby once in a while! I could change and grow as a person, and that was still open to me. I was able to indulge in writing and art and social justice. Having a well-rounded life lead me to a much greater happiness than I could have found when all I was looking for was to prove everyone else wrong. The fact that I could still be myself loosened me up and made me a better mother.

Beyond his babyhood, the lessons I learned at GirlMom have carried me through his life so far. He's been diagnosed with Aspergers with mood disorders. Having a child in the autism spectrum means a fight, every day. You fight with the school board, you fight with the daycares, you fight, you fight, you fight. To make sure your child has the necessary resources to survive, become educated, and to not be treated as a pariah. GirlMom taught me how to fight. Knowing how to fight for my rights helped me fight for the rights of my child. Without my history with GirlMom, I wouldn't be the strong and aware person I am today.

MamaCaboose
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Re: What has GirlMom done for you?

I always say, "girlmom saved my life," and I don't think that statement is quite as hyperbolic as it sounds. This website really shaped my early motherhood, and in doing so had a profound impact on who I am as a mother. It provided community when I was isolated, support when I had post-partum depression, and it empowered me when I felt like I was constantly swimming upstream, trying to prove myself against this flood of negative expectations. It made me stronger, more driven, and more confident.

"One of the most important gifts the lovely members of GirlMom ever gave me was the knowledge I didn't have a damn thing to prove."

This times a million. I remember, during my pregnancy, trying to distance myself from other teen moms as a defense mechanism. As in, yes I am pregnant and in my teens, but I am not one of *those* teen moms - you know, the ones featured on Candi's foundation posters who we talk about reducing the prevalence of and who we all know are bad. I don't know if I conveyed those feelings when I was talking to other people, or if it was just the narrative I told myself, but either way, yk? Girlmom really helped me check myself - that story I was telling myself was damaging - and gave me the confidence that I could be a good mother in my own right and not worry about pushing away from those stereotypes so much.

I think the problem is that public discourse around teen parenthood is (typically) designed only for teens who aren't parents. So often when we, as a society, talk about teen parenthood, the ways that we frame the issue are designed only to discourage non-pregnant teenagers from becoming pregnant. It makes sense that we (as a society) don't want to encourage non-pregnant teenagers to get pregnant, obviously, but teen moms have very little in common with non-pregnant teenagers, and I think that treating us as an example to non-pregnant teenagers can really make it harder for teen moms. It can be de-humanizing, almost. Not to mention, the way to keep non-pregnant teenagers from getting pregnant is to provide easy access to and information about birth control, not tell them how much it sucks to have babies young. There really aren't that many teenage girls out there who get pregnant b/c they think having a baby sounds so nice.

For example, when I was pregnant with my first, they had a social worker visit my recovery room at the hospital. Social worker visits were supposed to be by request - they had a form where you checked off "yes I'd like a visit" or "no I wouldn't." I checked no thanks, but they sent her in anyways.

She clearly had well-formed ideas in her head about what it meant to be a teen mom. First she told me that if I fucked up, they would take my baby away. This was while I was in recovery from labor, and the only thing she knew about me was what she read on my chart. I've read that chart. It said my name, my age, and some nice things the nurse wrote about how well my baby was breastfeeding and how confident and competent I seemed handling him.

THEN she told me, in a tone that I think was supposed to sound encouraging, that I should maybe one day think about trying to get a GED. You know, start slowly and all. There's nothing AT ALL wrong with a GED, so please don't think that I'm implying that there is, but she did not take the time to ask where I was in my educational career. She just assumed that I was a high school drop out, and that a GED was the best that I could hope for. At that point, I had already earned my high school diploma (and I did very well, thankyouverymuch), and I had started college (and was doing very well, thankyouverymuch). She did not even bother to ask.

I should have filed a complaint, tbh - she was out of line, unprofessional, and inappropriate. In the past few years, I've thought about sending a letter to that hospital - which was a really wonderful place to give birth otherwise - now that I have a graduate degree, and a respectable career, and no longer read as the kind of mother who needs a visit from a social worker. I've not yet followed through on that impulse, though. I'm not sure if I ever will.

adcaela
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Re: What has GirlMom done for you?

Girlmom made such a huge difference in my life. I can only imagine how amazing it would have been if I had found it earlier.

When I first found out I was pregnant I would have had a good resource for all the million questions I couldn't ask just anyone as a 15 year old hiding that I was pregnant.

At 16 I would known what to say in response when my calculus teacher told me I should drop out and get my ged, even though I was one of the youngest students taking calculus and definitely college bound. There's obviously nothing wrong with a ged - but dropping out loses you all the resources of a the school counselors, tech, etc.

And when my school didn't send me any work while I was on bed rest, I would have known that they were breaking the law, violating my rights under title IX.

Girlmom would have made me feel more in control of my birth. I would have felt less pressure to be induced.

I would have felt less alone when bd would leave me in an isolated part of town alone with an infant and no way of leaving the house.

I found girlmom right after I left bd. Girlmom taught me to recognize my privilege, to think about oppression in a smart and nuanced way.

Girlmom gave me life-long friends, including my best friend mamacaboose. Even people I still have yet to meet offline, factor hugely into the way I think about life. I have bad ass mama role models who encourage me to try big things and not to sweat the small stuff.

I love this place and all the folks who make it what it is!

mamatessa
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Re: What has GirlMom done for you?

Girl-mom changed my life in the fact it and all the wonderful mamas here showed me what my rights were. At the time I was BARELY 15 and my step dad was extremely abusive. He tried to tell me that because I was underage I had to do what he said with my child. He even made me give him HIS last name not mine or his fathers. He kept Ian's dad from him and I even lost custody bc I didn't know my rights as a mom when I took him to see his dad and my stepdad called me in as a run away and said i put my son in danger. I learned how to be a mom who teaches her son the right way not society's way. I made life long friends that I know I can turn to no matter what. I also learned that I don't have to be perfect just because society thinks I messed up by becoming pregnant and that means I have to show them wrong. I'm a great parent because thats what my children deserve and thats what I deserve. I didn't stay with my bd because I had a child with him I stayed because we loved each other and would've worked it out child or not. I knew this because of what girl-mom showed me and what a wonderful example the other mamas were.

Bee
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Knowing you all changes my

Knowing you all changes my life for the better every single day. 

Thank you. 

ice-cream-eyes
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Once a girlmom, always a girlmom

I may not be a "girl" anymore.  I am in my thirties now with teenage kids.  But finding this site when I was a young mama with my little babies definitely changed my life and I will ALWAYS be proud to call myself a girlmom.  Like others here, I believed those sterotypes that you hear.  The teen pregnancy statistics, the negative connotation of a young unmarried mom, a single mom.  I was able to "pass" as a traditional mom since my baby's father was older and we lived in his family's nice suburban house.  (Although now when I look at photos of my baby face - or see little 19 year olds walking around, I'm not sure how!)  

But the sooner I OWNED the label, the sooner I embraced my reality as a young mom in America (a young, smart, thoughtful, struggling, feminist young mom. Could this be?!) the sooner I was able to find my center and grow and develop into the amazing mature adult woman I was meant to be.  Girlmom provided support and inspiration.  It provided role models and peers like none I had ever seen before.  Here I found other young mamas who, like me, were struggling with their relationships, and parenting, and still trying to grow up themselves too.  All while caring about tons of other things too - arts, health, politics, social justice, and more. Paying the bills, getting educated, and much more - all were covered by the girlmoms!  And I am fortunate enough to say that these amazing women and I have kept in touch and continue to inspire and support each other as we all continue on our journeys and parent our children through various challenges and now into the tween and teen years themselves.

I'm excited that the site has been revamped and I can only hope that today's generation of girlmoms can find some support and community here the way that we did.  I'm happy to hang out here and give support as someone who has been through it, but really the best thing on this site is if you all can come here and support each other!  So if you're a young 2013 girlmom reading this, please don't be afraid to be the first to speak up and introduce yourself and reach out to others.  It may take a little time to rebuild but you girls can do it, and believe me, I can tell you from my personal experience - it is worth it!