There's little doubt right now that teen moms have captured our interest: From MTV's 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, to ABC's The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Lifetime's Pregnancy Pact, the television spotlight was on teen pregnancy in 2010, and 2011 is kicking off no differently. On January 11th, MTV aired Teen Mom 2, following on the heels of the 16 and Pregnant: Where Are They Now? special and a controversial teenage abortion interview. Circle of Moms members, including current teen moms, mothers of teenagers, and mothers of teen moms have been watching, and we decided to take a closer look at their conversations to see what kind of an impact these portrayals are having on our kids, on our feelings about teenage pregnancy, and on teen moms themselves.
Do Teen Mom Shows Glamorize Teen Pregnancy?
Circle of Moms members disagree, often vehemently, over the accuracy and impact of teen mom shows. Kate C., a mom in Dallas, thinks the shows make "teenage parenthood look like a fun time," and Nicole A., a mother of one, expressed concern that such shows glamourize and promote teen pregnancy: "I think it might make girls who watch think 'Motherhood's not that hard, these girls can do it, so can I. Plus, I'll get to be on TV!'"
In contrast, others argue that such shows reveal the hardships of teen pregnancy, and actually discourage it. As mother of one, Mandy P., shares: "I, personally, don't think it glamorizes teen pregnancy at all and that's what I liked most about it! It shows how having a baby so young can cause you to have to let go of your career aspirations, struggle through high school and college, work hard to make ends meet, put a toll on your relationship, and hurt your social life." Lisa M. in Victoria, B.C., agrees: "What's glamorous about living in a motel, fighting with your immature boyfriend who doesn't help parent, seeing all your friends go off to college without you and giving your child up for adoption?"
Moms Say Teen Shows Are a Great Teaching Tool
"Whether it's on TV or not," says Delia D. "Kids are still having sex at earlier and earlier ages. I think any avenue to open discussion with our kids is good."
Many moms shared the opinion that teen motherhood shows can help parents discuss sex and pregnancy with their children. As Michelle M. explained, "My 14-year-old and I watch "The Secret Life" together and I use it as a great tool to explain to her what she should and should not be doing." Janet N., a mother of teenage girls who was herself a teen mom, also finds the show a helpful conversation tool: "As a mother of two girls who gave birth at 16 and 18, I love this show…I watch it with my girls and it often generates some good conversations."
Are Teen Moms Getting a Bad Rep?
"[The shows] pick the worst girls. They absolutely give teen parents a bad rep," asserts Taylor W., a teen mother herself. Many other Circle of Moms members expressed similar frustration that current TV programs on teen motherhood feature many seemingly irresponsible, ignorant, and selfish teen mothers. "They give teenage mothers everywhere a bad name." says Maci B.
Several moms, including Shavaune C., wish these shows portrayed a more diverse set of teen moms, including "teen moms that do breastfeed…and more moms that are going to college and what college life is with a kid."
Teen Moms Can Relate
Whether or not the "teen mom" image is suffering from the show, many teen moms on Circle of Moms simply appreciate having the hardships of teen motherhood publicized. Kaara H., who got pregnant at 15, admits she enjoys watching the shows: "It makes me feel better about being one of them… The shows help me feel like I'm not alone." And Pamela S. shares "I was a teenage mother and now I am in my 30's with 4 boys and I love the show… I hope that they continue to follow these young girls and see how their lives turn out."
Want to share your opinion on teen mom shows? Looking to dish about "Teen Mom 2"?
With communities for teenage mothers and young mothers, moms of teenagers, debating current hot topics, and discussing popular TV shows like The Office and Grey's Anatomy, Circle of Moms is a friendly, helpful place to share the challenges of motherhood with fellow moms.