Monday, February 20, 2012

Believe in them.

 "The evolution of culture is ultimately determined by the amount of love, understanding and freedom experienced by its children ... Every abandonment, every betrayal, every hateful act towards children returns tenfold a few decades later upon the historical stage, while every empathic act that helps a child become what he or she wants to become, every expression of love toward children heals society and moves it in unexpected, wondrous new directions." ~ Lloyd deMause 

There's this study taking place in my city that is focused on teen mothers and their children's outcome.
'Born' is an exclusive analysis of 535,000 birth records across the entire province. It drills down into specific neighbourhoods and shows that those with low income and poor education suffer devastating effects when it comes to teen mothers, low-birth-weight babies and early prenatal care. In one article, 'Mothers too soon,' the author writes about the Sherman Avenue and Wentworth Street,

"It's a gritty stretch burdened with the weight of heavy industry, cheap housing and high rates of poverty.
It's also where one in seven babies delivered between 2006 and 2010 was born to a teen mom, one of the highest rates among all Ontario cities. 
During that period, nearly 100 of the 668 expectant moms living between Sherman and Wentworth who gave birth were teenage girls.
Across the bay, there's a small chunk in the northeast corner of Burlington, an upscale neighbourhood known as The Orchard where the average home value pushes $400,000.
There were 774 women in this neighbourhood who gave birth between 2006 and 2010.
Not a single one was a teenage girl...
Teen mother rates in Ontario are highest in places where incomes and education achievements are low and poverty levels are high, while low rates of teen mothers are closely tied to higher incomes, higher levels of educational achievement and lower poverty levels."

Often teen moms are children of teen mothers themselves- a vicious circle.
I'm not disputing the direct correlation between low income and poor education but I'd want to bring into the discussion 'self- education' which to me means gaining education that begins from a place of personal interest 
and passion, but also includes learning about yourself, and most of all valuing yourself.

What I found revealing in the article is what the young women had to say about their situation. So many of them 'wanted some one to love,' 'thought it would be fun,' 'weren't doing anything else anyway.'
There was a sense of deep neglect amongst these young people. It's not only the blatant lack of direction, it's the obvious lack of a sense of worth that I think stems from a lack of nurturing. 

Yes, you can love someone and be totally useless for them. 

I can't help thinking that, in spite of the poverty these women were raised in, their lives might have taken another, brighter turn if there had been even one person who took a genuine and consistent interest in them; someone who could show them their potential and help them to achieve it-someone who believed so strongly in the girl that that she in turn believes in herself. I'm interested in hearing other people's thoughts on this serious issue.


Rachel said...

Having a 'Good Reason' to have a child is a relatively modern phenomenon.

Teenagers who have babies are doing what teenagers have done for millenia; what is weird is all the women in their 40s having babies by IVF.

Becoming a mum changes everyone who experiences it and we cannot assume that these women will fail their children in any way until those children are grown and either follow the path set by their mothers or choose a different one for good or for bad.

The eldest of my four children was born when I was 19 and much of his early life ticked all the boxes of material poverty and family breakdown. He is now 18 and a smart, kind hearted, hard working young man who most people assume comes from a secure middle class family with plenty of money. Why is this? I assume that it is because I am his mother and I loved him.

It is too soon to judge and no amount of hand wringing will stop teenagers having babies. Unfortunately this society's answer to your question is either to remove the children from their mothers and give them to 'better' parents or to force people to learn more in schools in the hope that they will not have babies til they are working and earning enough to spend $400k on a house.

Neither of those solutions has worked thus far.

rfs said...

@ Rachel- thank you for the comment. We have to understand what is meant by 'fail.' In this culture, the cycle of poverty is perpetuated when children are born from teen mothers from low income backgrounds. I am arguing like you, that poverty does not mean failure. Failure is when teens, children, are left to fend for themselves; with no support, no nurturing. I am not saying that if you are poor, you can't be loved, nor know how to give love and nurture to another human being.

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