In honor of Mother’s day this weekend, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my childhood. I was raised in a house where giggles were contagious, hugs were expected and family came first. My mother created an environment in which we supported each other and challenged each other to reach our goals. Don’t get me wrong, our house was not exactly reminiscent of “The Cleavers”. We had our fair share of fusses and crocodile tears. But at the end of the day, my mother was always there for us and loved us unconditionally. I believe my mother was able to provide this environment because she planned for us. She wanted to give us a lifestyle that fostered communication, trust and support.
This makes me think, are teens today thinking about the type of parent they want to be when they are engaging in unprotected sex? We are all aware of the negative implications of teen pregnancy for teen parents, but what about the implications of unplanned pregnancy for the children of teen parents? When adults plan their pregnancy, they are more equipped to deal with the stressors of being a parent and more prepared to support the child financially, mentally, emotionally and physically.1 According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, children born following an unplanned pregnancy are significantly less likely to be raised in two-parent families and significantly more likely to experience negative health and developmental consequences.1 Infants born to unplanned pregnancies are also at an increased risk of being born prematurely and at a low birth-weight.1 Conversely, children who are born to planned pregnancies are directly linked to decreased poverty and increased educational opportunities.1
I am sure that teens are not necessarily thinking of the type of parent that they want to be but the fact of the matter is this: if you are engaging in unprotected sex, you need to be thinking about being a parent because you are putting yourself at risk for an unplanned pregnancy. Teens are most likely planning for senior prom, high school graduation, college or their future career path….not for parenthood. Parenthood is not an accessory and rather than just thinking about it as just another “responsibility”, think about it being the “ability to respond”. Parenthood should be something that is thoroughly planned for within a loving and committed relationship. It should not be an afterthought after a night of “ooops, I forgot a condom”. Simply stated – you may be able to have sex, but are you able to be the type of parent that you want to be?
At 26 years old, I am still not prepared for parenthood. Although when I am prepared and ready to take on the responsibility of a child, I hope to be the type of mother that my mother is to me. But for now, I am perfectly content being a mother to an 80 pound Labrador retriever and two loving cats!
By: Sarah Kershner, MPH, CHES; Research and Evaluation Specialist