The Rewards and Challenges of Teen Parenting
Originally Published: May 13, 2011
Revised: December 18, 2013
DaVan David, 21, is a member of the Teen Parent Policy Advisory Board (TPPAB) of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. This group of current and former teen parents informs lawmakers of the real needs of pregnant and parenting Massachusetts teens. Between helping TPPAB provide resources for teen parents, raising awareness through various events and advocating for government funding (not to mention working, going to school and raising her toddler Saniya), DaVan found time to answer questions about her real experiences as a teen parent.
Sex, Etc.: Can you describe your typical day as a parent (if there is such a thing)?
DaVan: When my daughter Saniya was in child care, we would wake up at 5 a.m. I’d get her ready for school by 5:45 a.m., which is the time her bus usually comes to pick her up. I’d get myself ready by 7 a.m., be in class by 9 a.m. and out of school by 1 p.m. to run errands. I’d hurry home by 5 p.m. to make Saniya dinner and put her to bed by 8:30 p.m. After she fell asleep, I’d usually stay up until about 2 a.m. doing homework and studying.
Now Saniya isn’t in school, so she spends most of her time with me. Since she’s with me every day, I can’t do much. If I have to work or go to school, I have to pay someone to watch her, which I don’t mind, but trusting just anyone to watch her is hard for me.
Sex, Etc.: What has been your most frustrating experience? Does a single moment stand out as the most rewarding?
DaVan: My most frustrating experience was when my daughter was about three months old. I found out that she had a staph infection in her blood, causing her to lose her hair and become weak. I was so hurt when she was sick and very stressed. My hair began to fall out, and I fell into a depression that was hard to bounce back from.
The most rewarding thing is when my daughter tells me she loves me—that I’m the best mother ever. It reassures me that I am doing the best that I can. Every time we reread one of her favorite books and she knows what’s next, I feel accomplished. Every time she counts to 10, I smile uncontrollably, and every time she tells me she’s happy I know I’m doing the right thing. I learn something new about being a parent all the time. There’s nothing like seeing her smile.
Sex, Etc.: Did you feel the need to put any of your plans on hold, or change them entirely? Are there things you can no longer do since becoming a mother?
DaVan: I was held back in school because I missed too many days. Saniya was sick and constantly being hospitalized. I had to rethink what I would do for college, and instead of going out of state, I chose to go to a community college.
Since I became a parent, there’s the typical complaint that I don’t have much free time. I don’t date much, and I don’t have many friends now. It’s not only me anymore, and I have come to terms with that. I have learned how to put my needs aside for her.
Sex, Etc.: Have you thought about a conversation you’ll have with Saniya about your experience or about parenting in general?
DaVan: I think about this all the time. I will let her know that being a parent isn’t easy. I won’t leave anything out, because I think she should know the struggles that come with being a teen parent and having sex. What will I say? How is she going to react? Will she listen? Will she try and find out on her own? Will she use protection? Will her friends talk her into sex? All these questions and more come to mind when I think about it.
I will have to talk to her about sex, the consequences and safe sex as early as possible. I want her to get to know her body and how it works before she goes and makes a mistake she may regret for the rest of her life. I always wonder how I’ll know the time is right, how I’ll approach her. I will indeed let her know that being a parent at any age is hard, but being a teen parent is harder. I will definitely always be there for her to talk to and tell her as much as I can.
Sex, Etc.: How do you feel others see you? How do you see yourself?
DaVan: I think that people can see that I am very motivated and supportive parent. I only want the best for my daughter. I teach her as much as I can, and it shows every time she speaks. I see myself as a great mom. I provide for my daughter alone, and I rarely complain, even though sometimes I wish I would have waited to mature so that I could better handle certain situations.
Sex, Etc.: Do you have any advice for other pregnant or parenting teens who might read this article?
DaVan: As soon as you become a mom, everything will change. There is more to parenting then changing clothes and diapers. You need patience and self-control. Never let anyone make you feel less than what you are. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot reach your goals. Always strive to become better. Strive to become a better person, a better student, a better mother and a better listener, and always learn from your mistakes.
Remember that this will always be YOUR baby, so make sure your future plans include a safe and healthy environment for you and your child. Children are a gift from our higher power and deserve a bright future. Know that nobody is perfect and that our kids will love us perpetually no matter what, but make them love you because you’ve made the best choices.
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