Mom, Dad & Me
For the first two years of my daughter's life, my parents insulated me from the usual consequences of teenage motherhood. There was no question that I was my daughter's parent, but I certainly was not a single parent. My mother did the childcare from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; my father earned the income. My job was to do well in school and to enjoy my baby. And since my job was also to be a "normal" high school girl, I also went out with friends and to punk rock shows on the weekends after my daughter was asleep and to poetry club at the coffeehouse every two weeks. I was too busy to date much until the end of my senior year, but if I'd wanted to, I could have done that too.
Testing the Limits
Because it was so easy, I got bolder. The first major conflict between my parents' generosity and my own ambitions came around the time I started to apply to college. My parents, who had both gone to state schools, had once been perfectly happy to send me to whatever private school I wanted to attend. They still agreed that I should go to college, but they wanted to keep me close to home where they could help out. I saw no reason why I should scale back my ambitions just because I had a child. I applied to all the same schools I would have anyway and finally chose a very expensive one 3,000 miles away from home.
My parents were horrified, but in the end, they didn't stop me. I don't think anyone could have. When they said it was too expensive, I asked for their tax returns and suggested ways they could meet the expected parental contribution. When they worried about how we would live, I called the dean of my school and came back with childcare, a two-bedroom apartment, and a meal plan for us both. Two years later, when they told me they could not afford to pay for that school, I took a year off and went back as an independent student. My daughter and I moved to Connecticut when I was 18, and, except for brief visits back, I have never gone home again.