10 Valuable Lessons I Learned Growing Up With a Teen Mom

mom hugging tween daughter
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People are always frowning upon young moms (especially with shows like Teen Mom), but I don't think that's necessary. As someone raised by a teen mom, I think there could certainly be worse things to happen in the world. Truthfully, it's about how you choose to deal with your situation. And that's why no matter how much my mother and I bumped heads as we raised each other, I can never fully repay her for all that she sacrificed for me, or, more importantly, everything that her sacrifices as a teenage mom taught me.

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Ultimately, having a teen mom made me a better human being -- a stronger woman. And here are 10 ways it did so.

1. Anything is possible. 

As a teen mom, my mother had many people doubting her. Those very people, however, became her motivation to better herself. I watched my mother graduate from college and climb to the top of her field. That said, I learned that although your path may be more difficult, it's merely a challenge -- not impossible. 

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2. It's okay -- healthy, even -- to talk about sex. 

In so many households, parents are afraid to talk about sex -- but not mine. My mother made it a point to discuss the importance of sex with me. She made me aware, but not to the point of fearful abstinence.

As a result, I have a very open and healthy attitude toward sex -- with my mom, friends, men -- and that's certainly something I plan on passing down to my children (if and when that time comes). 

Sex isn't a dirty topic to be avoided, but rather one to be embraced -- and shaming or shunning your child from the topic won't keep his or her curiosity at bay. Trust me! It wasn't long ago that I, myself, was a teen -- you're either giving us condoms and showing us what to do with them, or we're getting them on our own and learning for ourselves (leaving more room for error). 

3. Never look to men for self-love. 

That's how I got here, a young teen girl looking for love in all the wrong places. Sounds cliché, but it's a reality for many teens from broken, crap families. That was my mother's reality, and it landed her in the arms of an abusive man for several years, feeling stuck with a young child.

Her life's mission was teaching me to depend on myself for all things, including love and getting out at the smallest signs of a toxic relationship. (Oprah helped reiterate these lessons every day after school.) 

4. Strive for more.

My mother forfeited her chances at childhood way before I came into the picture, but having me sorta sealed the deal. She didn't do much traveling, she didn't have the option to leave the state for college, and I think it would honestly be an insult if I didn't set out to do everything she didn't (or couldn't). 

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5. Be independent. 

Since my mom was living on her own by 16 and raising a child by 17, her standard for independence was always ridiculously high (emphasis on ridiculous) -- but high standards never hurt anyone. Per her example, I've learned to love my own company, to follow my own path, and to rely on no one. 

6. Stay humble.

Watching my mother struggle and prevail over tough circumstances, I've learned to remain humble, as you never know when circumstances will change -- for the best or for the worse. We had good times and we had bad times, but remaining humble has gotten us through.

7. Failure isn't an option.

There's not always a definitive answer to life; you just have to go with it sometimes. But, the one thing that is certain is your will to survive -- your will to succeed at whatever it is that you've set out to do. 

8. Keep a rainy day fund.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't have a joint bank account with your husband. This isn't saying you shouldn't do for him, or treat him. It's simply saying that life happens and you should always have an account that he knows nothing about. In case sh*t goes down, you're not stranded in the rain. 

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9. Do what makes you happy. 

I never settle where there's no happiness -- with work, relationships, or location. Not for long, anyway. Living vicariously through me, my mom allowed me to try any and every activity with the utmost support, with free will to quit once my interest had faded (with the completion of a season, of course).

This allowed me to explore my options and figure out the kind of life I wanted to live -- the kind of person I wanted to be. Traveling to away-camps during the summer made me realize I wanted far more than Michigan could offer. Wanting to be an artist, a dancer, and a pianist -- then being allowed to seek out those endeavors -- allowed me to realize that writing was my true passion. And here I am, writing to you. 

10. Moms can and will make mistakes.

It's no secret that the firstborn is subject to lots of parental experimentation, but I was probably subjected to a bit more, with young parents and whatnot. That said, one of the things I've learned in my many spats with my mom is that despite the old saying "Mom's always right," she's not; she's far from perfect, and as a result she's subject to making mistakes and being, you know, human.

 

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