I was a teen Mom. (Oh geez, this sounds exactly like the start of a cheesy Lifetime original movie.) Anyway…
I was convinced when I was 17 that I had found the perfect man and we would be happy together forever. No one ever told me that acting like an adult, especially acting like an adult with a baby, would not be just like high school plus a tiny person. Of course I was scared out of my mind and had no idea what my life would entail from then on.
I had applied to several colleges and got into all of them. (I was a straight A student and graduated with nearly a 4.0. Surprise! Not every teen pregnancy is born out of slacking and stupidity. Though I DO have to admit a certain amount of stupidity is involved, just not as much as most people assume.) I wanted to go to MSU. I wanted to be a Spartan soooooo badly. I had no idea for what yet but I knew it would be something with photography. Instead I went to GVSU (a really awesome university and I loved my time there) because it was closer and my soon to be husband was already going there. So I got married, had my kiddo halfway through my senior year, finished high school and went to Grand Valley for photography.
It was hard. Much harder than I ever imagined. I was going to college full time and taking care of a baby on the side. I knew how to take care of a baby for the most part. I am the oldest of four and the younger two were born 8 and 11 years after me. I was the de facto babysitter any time the ‘rents had to work late, etcetera. I knew how to change a diaper, wrangle clothes onto a squirming infant, put them to sleep on their back…all the basic things. What I didn’t know was how to deal with a colicky kiddo at 3 am when I had to be at class at 8. I didn’t know how to deal with the constant tiredness. I didn’t know how to deal with the stress of diapers taking up most of the food budget so I was stuck eating hamburger helper for the 15th day in a row when all I really wanted was real food not from a box.
I made it through my first semester though. I was happy. I was doing this. I could get a degree and take care of my kid. Then his father left.
I woke up the morning after we got our taxes back and he was gone along with our only car and all our money. I had to call my professors and tell them I couldn’t take my mid-term exams because I had a family emergency. Most of them let me take the exam a different day when I had a sitter. One of them didn’t. The formerly straight A student dropped to C’s. I was devastated on so many levels. He came back after about a week and decided not to resume school. And because I was 19 and didn’t know what else to do I went on like nothing had happened. I wanted to get my degree and I wanted to have a happy marriage and I wanted my kiddo to grow up with both parents. A few months later I was pregnant again. I quit university.
Two years later I decided to go back. This time for Chemistry. I had realized my fantasies of being some international travelling photographer were not going to put food on the table for my little ones.Oh. My. Gosh. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I took 12-15 credits per semester, worked part time on the weekends at a grocery store (where I learned to hate the general public) and took care of my kiddos when I wasn’t at school or work because their dad was working at those times. I was no longer the straight A student. I was a C student in my chem classes. I could however totally get A’s and B’s in my criminal justice and history and english and math classes and frequently thought I had chosen the wrong major. But I love science and god knows I would have hated myself for quitting so I kept at it.
I was a very stressed mommy. I was probably not the best mommy. I know there were times I could have acted better. There were times I had to leave my screaming baby in his crib and walk out on the balcony of my apartment because I just couldn’t deal. My home was never uber clean. (News flash, it still isn’t. I seriously suck at keeping up with housework.) I didn’t take my kiddos to the park some days because I just couldn’t deal with the idea of piling them in the car, chasing a 2 and 4 year old around the park and changing diapers in the back of an old chevy caprice.
I finally got my degree. I was 28 and so relieved I had passed all my classes. I found out a few years later that both my kiddos would frequently brag to their teachers that their mom had a chemistry degree. I was embarrassed a bit but proud I had given them a good example. The times that I had to bring them to class with me I felt like maybe I was showing them what they could do in the future even if they had a rough time of it. That you can still do this even if things seem to be falling apart around you. I had 2 unplanned pregnancies but I was still trying to better my circumstances in life. I didn’t give up. But there were plenty of times I wanted to.
There still are plenty of days I wake up and think I just can’t do this anymore. I want to quit my job, crawl back in bed and sleep for the rest of my life. I want to binge Netflix and not interact with anyone. I want to forget about my responsibilities. But you can’t do that when you have two little people depending on you.
They’re not so little anymore: 15 and 17. They’ve grown into very good, decent, reputable human beings. When I was laid up a few months ago they did a really good job of helping out. And I honestly don’t think I could still be doing this thing called life if it wasn’t for them. They have saved me in so many ways. There’s this whisper in the back of my mind every day that tells me I need to get up and be a person today because they still need a mommy. I can’t be a blob on the couch because they need to go places and do things. (Being a blob on the couch is reserved for weeks they are at their dad’s.)
I hadn’t planned on my two kiddos. I hadn’t planned on dealing with being a single parent. (Funny enough I had planned on being single. Not sure why, but when I was young I figured I’d be a single lady with a couple cats and a boring office job. Why was I so strangely realistic at the age of 7?) But I am so glad I have them. I am happier when I have my kiddos at my house. I know I don’t have to be perfect. I know we understand each other, for the most part. I may not be the best example in the world but I know they see me try. And this is how I deal with the world.