When people talk about teenage pregnancy, what do they usually picture? Most of the time, they pertain to the young mother who just lost her great future – the 18-year-old girl who struggles with taking care of a baby, going to school, and therapy to keep herself insane amidst the changes in her life. They visualize a young mom carrying her baby or pushing her in a stroller and having a hard time feeding and putting her to sleep. Whatever she may be doing, people probably imagine a teenage mother when they start talking about being a teen parent. Is that correct?
Through the years, society has influenced people, including me, to think this way, especially the media. We interchangeably use teenage parent and teenage mother or vice versa because we see teen pregnancy is typically a girl problem. Today, there are two popular television shows that center on the troubles of teen motherhood – but what about the young dad who got the girl pregnant? Where do we fit him into this? Isn’t there a show focused entirely on his experiences and the things he has to give up to be a responsible father?
Occasionally, the teen dads are given cameo roles where they get to appear on the show just to add drama to it. The situation can be an argument with the teenage mom about child support or custody, or the young mom shouting at him because he gives so little time and money to support the baby. Obviously, the heroes are the teen mothers and the babies who have been portrayed as thriving despite living without a normal family – without a good father.
But really, would there even be a baby if it were not for both the male and the female? So why do the teenage moms get all the praises?
The Forgotten Half
This is the reality in almost all cultures – the teenage father is often the forgotten one. His role frequently goes unnoticed, especially when the sides are picked and the mother gets to take care of the baby alone – and separated with the teen dad. He is just there to pay for child support and make occasional visits and takes the baby to the park or something. He is typically painted as an irresponsible guy who doesn’t worry much while the teen mom is so exhausted taking care of their baby the whole day.
Teenage fathers didn’t just get this rude tag because of the power of media. Two groups, the Pittsburg Youth Study and the Rochester Youth Development Study, proved that there is a strong connection between negligence and teenage fathers. A teenage boy’s past involvement in negligent behavior increases the likelihood that he will be a teenage father and will also become an irresponsible one. It has been deemed as a vicious cycle that has tremendously affected the perception of the society about teenage fatherhood.
This is not universal, though, as a lot of teenage fathers want so much to be a part of their baby’s life and future. However, this perception may also be a hindrance to the teen dad, preventing him from trying his best to prove the society wrong because he has already been judged.
Teen Fathers Deserve Support
If and when young dads are given equal opportunities and equal standing with the young moms, they are truly capable of making appropriate decisions for the betterment of his child and the child’s mother. He can make healthy suggestions with regards to his baby’s welfare.
Antonio Luciano’s Story
Antonio was only 19 when he became a father and a single father at that. He had his mother and sister to help him with his child. He has been working five days in a week with two jobs and no time to do what other 19-year-olds would be doing, which is going to school, going out with friends, and enjoying time as a teenager without major responsibilities.
Antonio got his girlfriend, Joanne, pregnant, who was barely 16 that time. After she delivered their baby, she decided to move to another state and leave the baby with Antonio because she wanted to build a future for herself and taking care of the baby would prevent her from doing that. So once or twice a month, she visits their son.
Antonio’s story is one that society would probably wish would be about the struggle and success of a teenage mom, but no. It is a rather touching chapter of a young dad who managed to be responsible for his actions despite instances when he would not be able to buy everything they needed.
There are perhaps more stories like this one out there that only need to be known and publicized. This is not to defend their mistakes but to shed some positivity on teenage fatherhood. Ultimately, stories like this should be put out there so that people will understand that teen parenting does not only mean motherhood but also fatherhood as well.