I am a 29-year-old mother of three. Now, that doesn’t seem incredibly young but there was a time when I was 23 with two children under the age of 2. During that period of my life I faced judgment and even ridicule from those in the community, and I was too naive to know it was happening. As I gained experience as a mother and a person, I realized that the preconceptions I faced are completely without merit.
I was 19 when I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter. It was a pleasant surprise to for myself and my boyfriend at the time. We had been happily together a little over a year, both of us had been holding down steady jobs, and he recently purchased a home because he “saw our future together.” When our daughter was 11 months old we tied the knot. Two months later we were blessed with another pregnancy that turned into baby girl #2. There is only a 22 month age difference between the girls. We definitely had our hands full and we loved every minute it.
I have received many crude looks in places from Mommy & Me Ballet class to malls and grocery stores, many from mothers who seemed to be in the mid to late 30s. I learned to live with those looks and accept the fact that they don’t know my story and the fact that growing up all I wanted to be was a mommy. However, it was a comment from a cashier that was the last straw. I had done my shopping, stocking up on fruits, veggies, milk the basics at a local grocer after scanning all my items she turned to me as I swiped my card and said “EBT right?” Why is it that she assumed I was paying with EBT? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful system to help those during a period of need, but why? Then to add insult to injury, why was it that she was so surprised and even confused when I told her “No, DEBIT”?
This experience really hit me in the heart. I knew going into this that people would pass judgment upon me but why was it assumed that I needed government assistance to support my children? I dwelled on it for a long time and didn’t return to this grocer for several months. Then I realized that media and reality television portrays young mothers in a negative light. They portray us as uneducated unstable individuals that just “made a mistake.” It was in the search for answers I realized that it isn’t always the person’s fault that we are programmed in such a way to make these assumptions. While I ask all mothers and people for that matter to spread love not judgment, those of us being judged should take a step back before we react or let those preconceptions take away our power.
I tell you my story so that next time you see a young mother with her children that you stop before you make your judgments and know that some of us choose this life, planned it out and have been responsible in doing so and while your judgments and misconceptions hurt for a while they just make us stronger mothers in the end.