First demographic data point – I was an adolescent parent. My eldest child was born before I reached the age of 18. I don’t fit into the the roughly two-thirds of adolescent women who have children out of wedlock, I was married to the father. That doesn’t mean he was incredibly helpful, employed full-time, or engaged, but at least I could check that box that said married. Another dot!
Adolescent Parenting -Evidence:
Not long after the birth of my daughter, I realized the father just wasn’t going to live up to all of the ‘pie-in-the-sky’ promises he had spun to me on those date nights not that long before, so I set out to right at least part of the wrong I had done to myself. Subconsciously, I began choosing the path toward being demographically incorrect.
I was still in high school when my daughter was born. High school and pregnancy don’t mix. Due to some decisions earlier in my life I was faced with the adventure of having to complete the requirement for physical education the last semester of my senior year. Needless to say, that requirement wasn’t met and I didn’t graduate. Here I was, a young mother with a dreamer husband, facing the world without the basic credentials necessary to get a job. Not a good plan. I fixed that. I got my GED and began studying to achieve a degree in Accounting. Accounting is the language of business, so there would always be a job somewhere, not to mention I was clueless about how to write a check or balance a checkbook at the age of 18.
Things were looking up. I was working part time at the school. My daughter was healthy and happy. The husband was still a dreamer and decided he didn’t like being a cabinetmaker, so he was going to explore his options. His options, as it turns out, were to watch daytime television while I worked by butt off. One would think that this option would decrease the need for daycare so I could pursue the path that would improve future circumstances, but that wasn’t the case. The daycare costs were killing me and at this point my measly wages -($.1.10 per hour) – were what was feeding our little family. This didn’t meet the bills. Fortunately, as part of the options exploring, we had moved in with his parents, so at least we didn’t have rent consuming the bulk of my pay. I was going backwards rather quickly – student loans, daycare, clothing the baby. I went to the bank. Before I was married, I had worked a lot of jobs and was quite the saver. When I had married, I brought those assets with me. I was shocked to find my accounts drained. My husband had become my ‘legal guardian’ as he was over 21 and I was still considered a minor. In his capacity as my ‘legal guardian’ he chose to ‘guard’ my funds. To this day, I don’t know where they went, but there are quite a few creditors out there that could probably point you in the right direction. There is a pang deep in my soul when I think about that day and how it changed my view of him forever. I write this off as naive. I was young and dumb. We have all been there. It is what we do with that choice that makes the difference.
At first, I chose to ‘sick-it-out’ for the ‘sake of the children’ and my personal religious beliefs on marriage and divorce. One day about the time my daughter was 18 months old, things began to change. This situation was not improving and I wanted out. The father of my children gave me an out. I reached out to my family and explained to my father that I hated to admit it, but he was right and I needed out of the marriage. This was the best thing for my daughter and myself and I would find a way to make it work. It is one thing to be a ‘deadbeat’ and entirely another to be a ‘cheating-philandering deadbeat’ who is dragging us down with him. There was a lot of that ‘father-daughter condemnation’ discussion. There is nothing worse than being a head-strong teenager who has to go back to her loving family and tell them they were right all along. I sucked up my pride and humbled myself. I chose to do the right thing, given the best information available. He was gracious and took care of me; he got me the best attorney he knew and we met. There was a statement made during that meeting that would forever influence every decision I made for the rest of my life: “This isn’t about you, it is about the children. You and <insert ex-husband’s name here> are the adults.”
I overcame the fact that I was an adolescent parent by realizing I was an adult at the tender age of 19.