My name is Suzanne. I’m middle-class. I’m white. I live in the suburbs. I’m a high school graduate. I’m 19. And I’m a mom. But I’m not just an ordinary run-of-the mill mom. I am a Teenage Super-Mom. You may not have heard of us, but we’re everywhere. We’re so afraid that you will view us as unfit mothers because of our age, that we overcompensate by going to ridiculous lengths to prove our parental competency. Our children are always pristinely dressed, sickeningly polite, and amazingly well-behaved. Our homes are spotless, our diaper bags neatly organized, and our shirts spit-up free. We are always prepared with tissues for runny noses and snacks for cranky toddlers – even if the children in need aren’t ours.
I didn’t plan to be obnoxiously perfect. Far from it. From the beginning of my son’s life, nothing was turning out the way I had planned. Two days before I went into labor, my son’s father and I were forced to leave our apartment with 12 hours notice. At nine months pregnant, I found myself on my hands and knees, pulling up a laminate floor and loading my meticulously decorated nursery into a U-haul. When I woke up in heavy labor two nights later, I was so burnt out, physically and emotionally, that I gave up and had the epidural I had been so hell-bent against. I pushed my son out six hours later. He weighed nine pounds, nine and a half ounces, and we named him Elliott.
My choice to breastfeed Elliott, of course, had a lot to do with the health and bonding benefits. Mainly, though, I am too lazy to wake up and mix formula at three in the morning. As for our sleeping arrangements, I tried putting him in a separate room, in a crib, but he always ended up in our bed one way or another. I was too tired to risk waking him up just so he could spend the rest of the night in something that looked, to me, like a beautifully finished prison. And so Elliott claimed his place in the crook of my arm, where he lies his little head to fall asleep to this day.
Co-sleeping, I felt, gave me an edge-up on the moms at my local play group, some of them twice my age. I was really bonding with my child, where as they were all, I don’t know, pseudo-bonding. And I relished the look on their faces when I mentioned that yes, my thirteen-month-old was still nursing, and then smugly noted that the Global Academy of Pediatrics supports toddler nursing.
Of course, my child is clearly gifted and more attractive than theirs, which is reason enough for the other moms to be unfriendly. But their disdain was obvious when, at eight weeks post-partum, my nineteen-year-old metabolism had allowed me to lose every last ounce of pregnancy weight.
I know, all you older mothers out there are seething with jealous resentment. But understand, I have to be this way. I have too many strikes against me. It’s not enough that I’m a teenage mom. I also smoke. And trust me: Anyone who sees a woman pushing a baby carriage with a cigarette in her hand automatically assumes she’s a bad mother, even if not the slightest bit of smoke is going anywhere near the child’s precious lungs. I quit while I was pregnant, and that’s the best I can do.
Then there’s the matter of the multi-colored hair. I’m so used to it that I didn’t even think about it as odd until my ultra-conservative sister-in-law, a new mother herself, told me the PTA moms won’t be friends with me if I continue to dye my hair Flamingo Pink. I, of course, feigned a desire for the moms on the PTA to like me, and told her I would seriously consider it.
Finally, there is my extensive collection of mini-skirts. I can’t help it. I have sexy legs, even if I am a mom. Why not show them off? I know they’re not necessarily appropriate for the church bake sale, but I’m not buying a whole new wardrobe just so old Mrs. Lipton isn’t “uncomfortable.” I’m not comfortable seeing her lick her pruny fingers as she counts the bake sale money, but do I say anything? No.
And so, you see, I must be a perfect mother. I must iron sharp creases in my one-year-old’s pants. I must invite you over for a casual dinner, and then serve pan-seared scallops, roast duck, and homemade truffles. I must go to Sunday afternoon storytime dressed like Paris Hilton.
But don’t worry. Next January, I’ll turn twenty, hang up my Teenage Super-Mom cape for good, and enter the era of motherhood called “You Don’t Look Old Enough To Have A Three-Year-Old.” I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my latest adventures.