Me, Raise a Child?
My mother and I, both of us big talkers, would have long, ponderous discussions on why, exactly, teenage mothers often did badly. We didn't know many of them at all, and none intimately. We came up with theories, some more crackpot than others. We took our cues from novels, from people around us, from pop psychology. Of course, there was the money thing and the education thing. But we wanted to understand the psychology of teen parenting. One of us -- I'm not sure which one -- came up with the idea that teenage mothers were often emotionally stunted at the age when they first became pregnant, because, as we decided, they hadn't "gone through all their developmental stages."
It was an arrogant pronouncement, one that certainly revealed that neither one of us had much experience with any situations that fell outside the range of typical family life, the kind of life we had just agreed that I was going to have.
I took it to mean that, at 16, I should act like a 16-year-old; at 18, like an 18-year-old; at 25, like a 25-year-old, and so on. The danger, as we saw it, was that if I gave up too much of my own identity into being a mother at a young age, I would resent my child and that would be a bad thing.
In other words, being a good mother, for me, was entirely dependent on how good I was at taking care of myself. I not only gave myself license to be selfish, but following my selfish instincts also became a moral imperative.