Although most parents of a newborn believe they are prepared for the demands of caring for a baby, all are surprised at the amount of time required and the exhaustion involved. The challenges for a teen mother are particularly overwhelming. Initially there is great excitement over the baby’s birth. Friends come around, bring gifts, take turns holding the baby, ooh and ahh, and promise to help. But reality sets in as the new mom’s life is restricted by the responsibilities of caring for a baby 24/7. Those same friends, who promised to be there forever, do not want to spend hours with a crying infant, or changing diapers, and they drift away.
The truth is, the teen mom has changed and her friends have not. A teenage mother no longer has time to experiment with hair styles or fashion, spend hours on the phone or chatting online with friends, attend school activities, go to parties, participate in sports or earn spending money at a part time job. At times, just finding time to take a shower seems like a miracle and trying to complete homework assignments with constant interruptions is a monumental task. It is inevitable that at times resentment sets in. The question is how to care for the baby without sacrificing the teen mother’s life.
Start by finding child care during the day so the mom can return to school. Uneducated teen parents face a bleak future. Often parents or grandparents step in to provide child care. The teen father and his family should be assisting with child care as well. This baby has two parents and both are responsible for caring for it. If family help is not available, check with a counselor regarding day care centers. Staying in school should be a top priority.
Days at school provide teenage moms with some social connection but the teen frequently finds herself straddling two worlds. Teething, diaper rash and colic are foreign words and of no interest to most teens and the mom may find her friend’s concerns now seem trivial. It can be difficult to fit back in.
The best place to find understanding is with those who have had the same or similar experiences. Support groups for teen mothers allow teens to express honest feelings, share their stories, develop friendships, discuss problems and sometimes attend activities together. Some support groups encourage you to bring your baby and child care is provided. Other groups offer weekend getaways. Connecting teen parents also allows them to share resources, borrow baby equipment and clothing from each other, trade off babysitting hours, and schedule play dates with their babies. These groups are an invaluable source of social connection.
Teen moms need the understanding of their families in regard to individual freedom. To function at their best, all moms need breaks. A scheduled weekly time out benefits everyone. Meet friends, attend a party, shop at the mall, go to a yoga class or engage in a favorite activity. To be baby free for a few hours is a much needed stress reliever.
A teen mother’s life has been permanently changed, not ended. Dreams may be altered, but can be achieved with determination, focus, encouragement and room to grow. Always remember that there are two lives at risk, the baby and the mother. Both hold equal importance. With thoughtful attention and much hard work both can be nurtured.