Having been a teen mom myself, I know how hard it can be. But while I often wish I could have done things differently for my daughters, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I loathe the way reality shows make teen motherhood look — it’s not realistic at all! — so I’ve decided to do something that is a little more useful and supportive. Here are 9 tips for real teen moms.
The absolute most important thing you can do for your child is to provide for him or her, and part of that too is setting an example. The only way you’ll ever be able to support yourself or your baby is if you get a good job, and the only way to do that is to stay in school. Capital letters here for emphasis: STAY IN SCHOOL. This is a must, not an option, and though it won’t be easy, you have to do it. STAY IN SCHOOL. Don’t quit, thinking you’ll go back. Don’t think that you won’t have to work because the baby’s father will support you. STAY IN SCHOOL. And when high school is over, GO TO COLLEGE. I can’t stress this enough.
There are going to be a lot of things that come naturally to you, and a lot of things that will seem easy and fun. But there are also going to be times when you have no idea what to do, or how to do it… and this is when it’s time to ask for help. Don’t think asking for help means you’re weak or you’re a bad parent. You’re not. You just need help — we all do — and there’s a lot of courage in asking.
I also can’t stress how important this step is. No matter how loving and close you and the baby’s father are right now, you absolutely must get legal, now. Make sure the baby’s father is listed as such on the birth certificate, and if you’re not married to him, make sure you start the child support process legally. He may not like it, especially if you’re getting along right now, but you have to do it to protect yourself and your baby. And believe me, when it falls apart, and it ALWAYS does, even if temporarily, you’ll need that process already in place.
The first thing you can do to help your baby be healthy is to see a doctor before she’s even born. Prenatal care is key in making sure you and baby are healthy and happy, and if you’re avoiding it because you don’t think you can afford medical care, it’s free in most states. All you have to do is apply. Besides, if you don’t have prenatal care, you won’t learn all of the cool tricks to staying fit and healthy before and after baby is born, and you won’t get to see those amazing ultrasound photos of baby before you meet her. Also, be sure to get baby medical care after she’s born, including immunizations.
Sweetie, it’s been nearly two days and you haven’t slept a wink. The baby’s been cranky from diaper rash or teething and you desperately want a shower and a nap. You feel like you’re at your wit’s end, and you just want to scream… except the baby finally just fell asleep… so you start to doze off on the couch… and when you wake up, ten hours later, you’re refreshed and the baby’s fever has finally broken. The moral of this story is that no matter how bad things seem, no matter how awful you feel, it will get better, and quickly. Hang in there. Be patient. It will get better, I promise.
This is the ultimate win-win suggestion for so many reasons. First, nursing your infant provides her with all of the nutrition she’ll need to be strong and healthy, and there is no formula that’s ever been able to even come close to it. Children who are nursed rather than bottle fed, even for just the first 6 weeks, are a lot less likely to develop food allergies, ear infections, and are actually even smarter. Also, it’s healthier for you, since nursing helps your body bounce back after childbirth and it also helps you burn calories. Nursing is also so much easier and faster than preparing bottles of formula, and it’s FREE. With all of these amazing advantages, it’s a wonder anyone chooses to bottle feed! If you don’t believe me, ask your doctor.
You know what? Even after 20 years of parenting, I still make mistakes — a LOT of mistakes. We all do, and you will too… and that’s just fine. When you do make a mistake, own up to it, and learn from it. And don’t beat yourself up about it, either. Like I said, we all make mistakes. No-one’s perfect. Just do the best you can, every day, and you’ll be a wonderful mother, always.
This is a tip I learned very early on, one that’s especially helpful in those first few weeks. You won’t be any good for baby if you’re exhausted all the time, so ignore the pile of dishes in the sink and sleep when baby sleeps. Believe me, you’ll feel loads better and, in the middle of the night, when baby wants to be fed, you won’t be nearly as miserable since you had a nap in the middle of the day.
Your auntie or grandmother or that nosy neighbor down the street may tell you otherwise, but politely put them off — there is no way you’re going to spoil your sweet baby girl by holding her too much. And so what if you do? She’s only going to be a baby once, and she’s so sweet and soft and loving… go ahead and hold her.
These are a handful of the most important things I learned when I went through it, and believe me, a lot of other people will want to give you advice, too. The only other thing I have to add is that you will never be the same again, in a very good way, once you have your baby, so be prepared. She’s going to come first for the rest of your life… and you’re going to love it. Maybe being a teen mom isn’t the most ideal situation, but it’s not the worst, and if you take even a little of my advice, and the advice of the people you love, like your own mother, you’ll be just fine… and you’ll be an excellent mom. Do you have any questions, or any other thoughts to share?
Top Photo Credit: Chantel Baggley
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