Have you ever been out at the mall and see a teen mom with her baby? Maybe you thought to yourself, “That doesn’t look so hard! And the babies are so adorable!” But before you think that being a teen parent is all about shopping for cute little clothes, here’s what life is really like for a teen parent.
Rachel, 19, got pregnant with her son Dylan when she was starting her first year of college. “I always knew that I wanted to have children … someday,” says Rachel. “I had a friend who got pregnant a few years ago and she made it look so easy. It’s anything but easy, though! My whole life revolves around my son!”
Rachel and Dylan start most of their days at 7 a.m. “When Dylan first came home from the hospital, he slept all of the time. I should have taken advantage of that and slept more myself! Now that Dylan is older, he is much more alert and needs to be entertained. Some days, I can’t even find the time to take a shower!”
Rachel is luckier than a lot of teen moms — she lives at her mother’s house with her younger siblings and Dylan, and her family provides her with a lot of support. But she realized right away that Dylan is ultimately her responsibility. “My sister is great with Dylan, but she disappears pretty quickly if she thinks that his diaper needs to be changed. Especially if it’s a poopy diaper! People say that they will help you, but in the end … it all falls on me.”
Having Dylan definitely put the brakes on Rachel’s social life. Rachel’s friends have offered to babysit, but she just isn’t ready to leave her baby with anyone else right now. “I used to go out all of the time and stay out all night,” she says. “Now, Dylan and I stay at home 24/7. Even something as simple as running errands can be a huge hassle.”
And what about quality time with her boyfriend? There is no such thing! “Anything that we do for fun has to be the three of us,” she explains. “I used to think that I was ready to settle down and not go out so much, but you don’t recognize how much freedom you have until it’s taken away from you!”
The other thing that Rachel misses is her pre-baby physique. “I thought that I would have my baby and my belly would go away, but there are other changes to my body — like wider hips. Those are here for good.” Not being able to wear her old clothes isn’t the only thing that will set Rachel apart from other 19-year-olds when she returns to college. She often thinks about how she will make new friends with Dylan in her life. “When someone asks for your number, do you tell them that you have a baby? Will they still want to hang out with you?” she wonders.
And finally, there are financial concerns. Any money that Rachel gets goes to Dylan. Diapers, clothes, toys … the list is endless!
Rachel has made a lot of sacrifices in order to be a good mom to her baby Dylan. She hopes to one day get a degree in nursing and marry Dylan’s father. But she admits that she’s not positive that their relationship will last, and she questions how she’d be able to date other guys when she’s got Dylan in her life. She often wonders what the future will hold. “I almost feel like I won’t have much to look forward to since I had my baby so early in my life. The love I have for my son is overwhelming. But, he’s kind of like a gift that was given a little bit too early.”
So what is Rachel’s advice to teens who are thinking about having a baby? “Wait. Just wait. Having a baby changes things forever.”