Young Mothers and the “Achievement” of Parenthood

Pregnancy can be the start of a beautiful life - but can it "ruin" our younger years?

Pregnancy can be the start of a beautiful life – but can teen pregnancies be detrimental to society?

This may sound like a strange, even pointless topic to cover. Why do people enjoy having babies? Well, err, obviously Neil, they enjoy having babies because:

  1. We need children for the continuation of our species
  2. They’re soooo cute and fuzzy and little with their toes and well… cute!

But the question actually isn’t as straight forward as one would like to think. Why, *do* people enjoy having babies so much? Do we actually really know? Or is the pleasure associated with incoming parenthood an unconscious by-product of our selfish genes; a requisite of the turning of the biological mechanics driving us toward the goal of propagation?

I live in an area where the average reading age is eleven years old, and I often see young, single mothers pushing prams around the shopping centre or in the village. I see the delightful Facebook status’ showing off the sonograms of those expecting, and the revelry of friends and family. Words of praise ring out as high as: “You’ll never love anything more/It is the best thing that will ever happen to you…” and then nine months will pass, and the baby is showered with gifts but… then what?

You may want to tell me, who am I to talk about anything (I’m not a father) – but there is a whole world out there waiting to be explored. To birth a child on the cusp on your own independence seems, to me at least, a little bit vacuous. While I don’t doubt these people unconditionally love their children, are they in the right “frame” of mind to raise them properly, especially considering they were children themselves a few years back? When I was 18, I couldn’t even decide on what to pursue at university – but that could be just me. But are these parents educated enough to look after their children? At such a young age people generally aren’t all that aware of important issues, which though they may seem far away (or invisible) inevitably will impact all of our lives. It seems many young parents I encounter are fall fault with the following:

  1. Poor diet: Parents load their children with sugary sweets and processed, salty junk food. The start of a poor diet that can lead to the early onset of diabetes, heart problems and hypertension
  2. World Issues: Many of these parents seem to not know – or care- about the importance of, say, recycling which are undesirable memes which could impact their children’s response to the same issue
  3. Ignorance: Worse still, disinterest may mean they literally have no knowledge on important subjects, such as global warming or the the theory of evolution
  4. Attitude: This is one of the biggest problems I have, particularly to those of the “underclass”. Extreme selfishness is a feature of this attitude that prevails among those I witness everyday in my home town. It almost seems like a contradiction. How can a unconditionally loving mother harbor and reflect racist, xenophobic, and callous opinions on to the outside world? I see it too often. An example being the “Ahh, fuck them!” attitude we face, when learning we may be leaving a disastrous world to the next generation because of our inability to act on climate change

These points are what bring me back to the first question. Why do people enjoy having babies? What drives such people, people who expect the state to support them; people who believe they have done enough in birthing a child and need do no more – what makes them revel in an unrelenting, life-long commitment so willingly? I do not have the answers, but it is remarkable how the incurious are prepared to live their lives as virtual propagation machines without question. To sacrifice a potentially adventurous life in their late teens and early twenties, and to then project vacuous and dogmatic world views on children whom they know little more themselves seems bizarre to me. Parents need to care for their children in others ways than physical. They need to make the world they are born in to a better place, and maybe that requires a little more thought.

Addendum

I have had some interesting feedback in regards to this topic. One theory is that parents regard having children as an “achievement” – one that almost anyone can achieve, yet it still brings positive attention on them. Some parents out there, who aren’t ready, and may never be ready, love having and raising children without ever considering the child at all. One person even said, and I quote:

“I think it shares many of the mechanics as those who go on TV. They want to be famous without actually doing anything that would make them worthy of it. Young parents want to be a success without doing anything that requires effort, and are mostly unprepared for the realities of parenthood.”

It seems we may live in a culture where it is taboo to criticize a parent who hasn’t outright abused their child. There is the risk that this post may alienate genuine young parents who are good with their children, and it’ll provoke a lot of “how dare you…” responses, but should parents be considered negligent if they don’t nurture a child’s natural curiosity or intelligence? And is that almost tantamount to abuse?

The really depressing thing is, can we even call it abuse? Abuse implies some form of malicious intent. These parents, in most instances, probably fail their children passively: either out of laziness, or their own ignorance.

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