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A Young Mother's Manifesto: Five Tips for Raising Your Child

YO! Youth Outlook, Video, Words//Video: Valerie Klinker Posted: Jan 15, 2010

Editor's Note: A 19-year-old shares why she likes being a young mother and what she has learned from raising her 2-year-old son. Valerie Klinker is a content producer for YO! Youth Outlook.

Im 19 years old and pregnant with my second child.

Being pregnant is a beautiful feeling. Even though this is my second pregnancy, it feels different than my first one. There are obvious problems associated with being pregnant, like having a low immune system that makes me more susceptible to viruses and having trouble walking when I get bigger. Morning sickness is a problem, too.

However, the act of carrying an infant inside of me and the experience of feeling the baby grow makes this entire experience worth it. My first child, a son, Terry III, is now two years old.

Pregnant from New America Media on Vimeo.

I know some people look down on me for being a young mother. They think Im irresponsible or unprepared. Ultimately, its my decision to have children. If Im willing to give up my adolescence and free time to care for my children, I clearly understand the sacrifices that come alongside being a parent.

I think there are advantages to being a young mom. For instance, my body heals faster than an older person's body would. When my children get older, Ill be able to relate to them in ways that older parents may not be able to.

I know Im not the only young mother who faces criticism and judgement. So here I've compiled five tips to help young women cope with haters and be good mothers.

Five Tips for Young Mothers

1. Use criticism as motivation

When I think about the average person who might criticize my decision to have children, I imagine someone who is very old and close-minded. After I got pregnant the first time, I began seeing my family doctor--the same one Ive seen since I was a baby. After I had my son, the nurses and doctors treated me like the 12-years-old girl they once knew--as if I wasn't fit to be a parent. Once they saw how good I was with my son, however, my doctor started treating me better.

I use these people who doubt me as motivation to be a better mother. They make me work harder, so I wont judge other people in the same ways I've been judged before.

2. Build a strong support system

Even if its a small support system, try to develop one. Whether its collecting resources or talking to your partner (if you have one), use the people around you to serve as a central support system. I may not have a big support system, but I do have the support of some family members--my son, my significant other, and my grandma. These people lend an ear whenever I need to rant.

3. Find resources to help pay the bills

I love knowing that by paying my bills, Im able to live, rest my head, and raise my children in the type of environment that I trust and feel comfortable in.

Being independent comes with responsibilities. Theres a lot to worry about because I'm trying to raise a child and forge new opportunities for myself at the same time.

I've learned it's important to find resources. Dont be afraid to ask for help. Theres federal aid, like WIC (Women, Infants and Children), and community organizations. Non-profit agencies like Larkin Street in San Francisco can help you secure housing. (See a full list of resources below).

4. Strive for success at your job

When I worked with the Center for Young Womens Development (CYWD), a non-profit for young mothers based in San Francisco, we attended a workshop in which the speaker said, You have to fake it to make it. What he meant was simple: If you dress the part, act preppy," and do what you need to do to get your foot in the door, you give yourself the access you need to succeed.

I used this advice when I applied to Change the Odds, a program through the San Francisco District Attorneys office that links young people with media opportunities. I looked at the job as an opportunity to put my new-found interviewing skills to use. Eventually, this worked. I landed a full-time job at YO! Youth Outlook.

I do not regret having my son. I love the fact that I have a beautiful family and that there will always be someone to love me. I believe that everyone makes mistakes, but without them, you would never learn how to become a better person. I'm over-protective of my son because he's my first child. I did not have suitable parents, so I want my son to be cared for and have everything I did not have.

Looking back, I can honestly admit that I made one big mistake, which was dropping out of school. I wish I had waited a little longer and gotten my diploma. Now I have to go through a whole other process to get my diploma, which will take a lot of time. To all young mothers-to-be, my advice is to stay in school and get your diploma. It will be much harder to accomplish once you get older.

5. Find stable housing

I began looking for housing when I was pregnant. If you look sooner rather than later, youll find a stable place that your child can call home. Get help from someone who is familiar with the housing market, especially if youre looking for subsidized housing.

Here are a few resources in San Francisco:

The Center for Young Womens Development (especially for incarcerated young mothers)
832 Folsom Street, Suite 700
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 703-8800

Department of Children, Youth and Family Services
Fox Plaza
1390 Market Street, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 554-8990

Larkin Street Youth Services
Haight Street Referral Center
1317 Haight Street at Central Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 522-1377

A Safe Place (Emergency and transitional housing and services for battered women and their children)
Confidential Location (Call for information)
P.O. Box 23006
Oakland, CA 94623
(510) 536-7233

Related Articles:

Pregnant High School Athlete Faces Discrimination

Young Mother's Bill of Rights: Incarcerated Mothers Demand Fair Treatment

1 in 7 Girls Pregnant at Chicago High School

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