October 28, 2010

My Fascination with Teen Mom

todd_S_2010b By Todd Schoepflin

If someone were to tell me I would watch a reality television show on MTV called Teen Mom at the age of 38, I would have called that person crazy. But it happened. I watched several episodes of the now completed season two. Why was I drawn to the world of teen moms?

First of all, I actually relate to a lot of what happens on the show because I’m a parent too. Obviously I’m neither a teenager nor a mom, but I strongly identify as a father. I consider my self to contain three major identities: college professor, father, and husband (not necessarily in that order). Sure, there’s more to me than those parts, but those are the three statuses that dominate my life. And the father part of me likes to watch how other people parent.

In sociological terms, the teen moms portrayed on the show served as a reference group for me. They provided a host of parenting behaviors to which I could compare and contrast my own style of parenting. I’m not saying they were a highly influential reference group. I’m only saying they were a group of parents that I could use to evaluate my own parenting ability—like when I make note of what parents do when I encounter them at playgrounds, grocery stores, parties, and anywhere else I see other people parenting.

I find it interesting to take a moment to think about the title of the show. The two-word title imagegets right to the point. Though the characters on the show have several statuses (they are females, daughters, girlfriends, friends, students, and employees), the title of the show indicates that “teen mom” is their master status. Above and beyond everything else, they are teen moms. In other words, their status as teenage mothers trumps all their other identities. We watch them in a variety of capacities—on the job, interacting with their families, socializing with friends—but ultimately we viewed them in their societal position as teenage moms.

I’m intrigued by the coverage these young women have received from the magazine industry. Lately I’ve seen them on several magazine covers, including a recent issue of Life & Style. Notice that Amber is described as an “out-of-control monster” who is prone to violent outbursts and someone who associates with a convicted felon. Such disapproval signals that Amber is deviant.

The message is clear: “normal” people don’t date convicted felons and they aren’t violent. The rest of us can distance ourselves from Amber by assuring ourselves that we would never act like her. Though I was appalled by some of her behavior on the show (especially when she repeatedly hit her daughter’s father during one episode), I was perhaps drawn to the Jerry Springer aura she brought to the show.

I find it fascinating that these women have become de facto celebrities for being teen moms—pretty amazing when you think about it. Though in Amber’s case, the fame comes with a price—harsh judgment that she’s the parent none of us would ever want to be.

I should point out that one teen on the show is a different kind of mother. Catelynn gave her baby up for adoption, and so we watched her ride an emotional roller coaster as a birth mother who keeps in touch with the adoptive family and her biological daughter. I have to say I was often impressed with the maturity exhibited by Catelynn and her boyfriend Tyler.

In the episodes I watched, they handled themselves in responsible and dignified ways (regular viewers would probably agree that Catelynn is more mature than her mother). Farrah and Maci are also presented as mature mothers, for the most part. We had a glimpse into Farrah’s life as a working teenage mother who is raising her daughter without a father to help her (as viewers know, he died). And Maci (my favorite person on the show) always impressed me as wise beyond  her years, a usually composed mother who seems to take very good care of her son while being caught in a battle with her son’s father over the visitation schedule.

I also paid attention to the young men who were featured in the show. I’ve already brought up Tyler, depicted as Catelynn’s supportive boyfriend who takes great interest in their biological daughter. He seemed like an all around good guy who wants a life that’s very different from his own father’s (his father was in jail during some episodes).

Another young man featured on the show was Gary, who initially struck me as a lazy and unhelpful father but who later gained my sympathy after enduring verbal and physical abuse from Amber. Over time, he seemed to put more care and concern into being a father. And then there was Ryan, who seemed the opposite of Maci in terms of maturity and parenting ability. Whereas Maci seemed capable and engaged as a parent, Ryan usually seemed to lack passion and energy as a parent.

Part of my fascination with the show comes from the fact that I became a parent for the first time at age 35. I’ve described in a previous blog how parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had. And so, whenever I watched the show, I was interested in how these young moms dealt with the stress and challenges that accompanies being a parent. I honestly can’t say with certainty what kind of father I would have been in my teenager years. My guess is I would have been overwhelmed and not altogether fit to be a good father. My current vantage point is that of a married man with a secure job and supportive family. I came into parenting in a stable phase of my life with a host of emotional and financial resources. It would have been a very different story in my teens or even in my twenties.

Overall, Teen Mom takes us inside the worlds of women who’ve been impacted by a life-changing circumstance. The experiences of getting pregnant and giving birth at a young age have influenced their life chances.

If you’re a high school student or college student reading this blog, and you don’t have a child, think about this: How different would your life be if a baby came into your life? Would you be able to maintain your current routine of school and work? And if you follow this show, what is your opinion of these teen moms and dads? Do you respect them? Admire them? Dislike them? Feel sorry for them? Does watching the young women influence your thoughts about being a parent? In other words, does watching the show make you more or less interested in having children? Finally, what is your ideal age for having your first child?


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Catelynn and Tyler likely have a rough road ahead of them for their "mature" selfless decision. Adoption is a long term solution to what is often a temporary situation. It is a choice to damaged the entire family constellation in ways that may not be seen for generations. Catelynn and Tyler will never ever be the same.

I could have been a teen mom but conservative family values, Catholicism and baby brokers urged me to abandon my child to strangers. I wish the show had done a better job of showing the negatives of adoption (even an open one). It should not be glorified or encouraged and should be the last resort. Children deserve to grow up with their family of origin.

I wish we lived in a society that valued family preservation over adoption.

I think that the author did a very good job with this. I also watch this show. He's very right about how Teen Mom is now their master status. No matter what else they do with their lives, they will also be first and foremost a teen mom. I feel sorry for these kids. While some people will say that they made their own decisions and it's their fault, I don't feel that way. Everyone's been a teenager at one point or another, and they should understand that sometimes kids just don't want to wait any longer. They weren't asking to get pregnant, it just happened. I'm also very impressed though with both Catelynn and Maci. They have handled their situations to the best of their abilities, and they're doing a good job.

This blog successful portrays the interesting insights Teen Mom portrays. The blog makes readers more aware of the responsibilities of teen mothers, and it also makes people more aware of themselves and their roles as parents. It makes one reevaluate their parental roles, and relate to the mothers in the show on a more substantial less superficial basis.

I don't watch Teen Mom, but from what I've read you painted a good picture of the show. This post reminded me of a unit we're working on in Sociology about gender and age inequality. The characters in this show are being judged based on their gender and their age. To answer your questions as a High School student, I am rather disgusted by the idea of being a teenage mother. I haven't seen the show, so I cannot judge the characters, but from what I know, I can't approve. I don't want to have children until I graduate from college and have a stable career. Thanks for the great blog!

I watched every episode of teen mom, and I recorded it so my friends could watch it. When I was 15, I was almost a mom myself, but I didnt make the choice that these wonderful mothers made. I did what the father of my baby wanted me to do, and that was to abort it. I deeply regret it now, because even though my life would be completely different, I wish that I would have kept it, because I would make a good mom, and because I see that it is possible to survive through the hard times, even with a baby.

Maci is my favorite on the show, because she doesnt deal with Ryans BS. He is a good father now, but in the end of her episode of 16 and pregnant, and in the beginning of the episodes of teen mom, he didnt seem to care what happened to Bentley, and he didnt think that he needed to be there as a father, because he was to young to notice. I think that that is how my life would be if I would have kept mine, because the father of mine said that he was leaving me if i didnt abort it. Which broke my heart, and never made our relationship the same. (We ended up breaking up anyways, because of other reasons). And now I regret the decision more than ever, and I view myself as a bad person. I admire those who have the courage to do what they want, or feel they have to do to be responsible. I was just a young and immature child, that thought that the ground that my boyfriend at the time walked on was heaven.

I believe that the best age to have your first child is at the point where you have a stable career & have ENOUGH money to raise a child.
I really like the maturity of Maci & the way she handles different situations as well as Tyler & Catelynn's bravery in putting their daughter up for adoption! But in my opinion, they should have thought about things twice & stayed abstinent. Like i say "God doesn't give you more than you can't handle!" This was a big wake up call for them all: it's not that simple to raise a child!

I believe that stability leads to good parenting. Both the mother and the father have to be ready for the challenge. You can see the gender differences in the show, especially between couples like Maci and Ryan. Having such unequal parenting styles really puts the child in an awkward situation and i'm interested and hopeful to see how these children grow up and act when they are older. I wonder how being raised by teenage parents will influence their own lives in the long run.

This is an interesting way to look at the show "Teen Mom", before reading this I thought this show was trivial and not worth any attention. I see now, how you identified these teen girls as the role of mothers, primarily above everything else. This is as it should be because they brought children into this world and its on them to raise them.

I have watched the episodes of this show and it's like train wreck, you cannot keep your eyes watch it. Like the author has stated, these girls do have a master status of being a teen mother. Although, in this society it is looked down upon for being pregnant while still in high school, the numbers are rising. I connect with this show and this topic because i have a friend that got pregnant at age 17 and another one who is 18 having a child. My friend is an amazing mother who has had to go through a lot of hurdles like these girls on the show. My friend who is having a child has also come through a lot of obsticles has come along way, just not as much as the other. She has the father, his family, and her own family while the other does not. She has her family and her friends to help her through the day and her son is advancing in his learning stages quite rapidly. I think people should not judge these women for the master status that they because it is something that they have to live with the rest of their life. With Maci, she doesn't want to deal with Ryan but she has because of her son Bently and along with Amber who has been labeled many things because of her appearance on the show.

I personally enjoyed this article for many reasons. It gave me more insight to not only the challenges of raising a child as a teenager, but to the challenge of facing that stigma on top of everything else. It seems that many people overlook the obstacles that come with being a teenage mother and this blog is eye-opening to that. This blog has also given me something to think about while thinking about my own life.

As a viewer of this show, and the show 16 and Pregnant, I find it interesting to see how both the mothers and fathers handle themselves during the pregnancy and actual parenting. Usually the people I watch with (my family) take bets on who will be the best/worst father, best/worst mother, and how long the relationship will last. I’m disappointed that the blogger didn’t go into just how much the rearing of a child can drive apart two teenage sweethearts. In most of these shows, the relationships don’t last long and usually just degrade into the father making child support payments and the mother taking the workload of raising the baby. Still, it was an interesting post and a good reason not to get pregnant until you’re settled down!

This is a great article! Teen mom also reminds me of a unit we are doing on families in sociology. These young mothers are dealing with their original family, their new child, and the family of their childs father. It is admirable that they can juggle so much. I wonder if the chlidren will be affected by being on the show or not? Also, how does being raised in that type of atmosphere effect a childs attitude toward life? Great idea for an article, thanks!

This blog shows that we can all take something in which we are connected to each other. Because Todd is a dad and can relate to the struggles of being a parent, he is a fitting author for this story. Although most people would consider these girls to be devious, most of us can understand and relate to what these girls are going through.

After reading this informative, well-educated written blog, I stopped what I was doing and sat for a second. I thought to myself for a couple of minutes what it would be like for me, at this point in my life, to become a teen mom. Obviously I am too young for this position and do not feel it is appropriate for someone of my age to have to deal with it, however, as much as one may try to prevent this from happening to themselves, it does happen. I know that if I became a teen mom i would not be able to keep up with my school work and I might even have to drop out of school alltogether. This frightens me, seeing as I am a person who would like to go far in life and get a good job in the future. Having a baby at my age would completely impede on the progress I have made so far in my life. I really enjoyed the author's take on this article. I always viewed the show for entertainment purposes, but never really stopped to think about the mom's parenting abilities or what it would be like if I was in their position. I am not a person to judge, which is why I really dont have an opinion for the parents on the show. Yes, they made a decision to have sex which led them to the position they currently have to deal with. However, everybody makes mistakes whether they be big or small, and these parents just happend to make a big one which will affect their futures. All in all, I enjoyed reading this article and it fit in with the chapter I am studying currently in my sociology class which has to do with inequalities of gender and age. The teenagers in the show are judged everyday from people they don't know all around the world based on the fact that they are teenage parents.

This blog goes along with exactly my views of this show. I also am a frequent viewer of TEEN MOM and I think it is a very educational show and highlights a part of our society that is looked down upon. I would have had a lot of trouble with being a parent at my age. I am young and still have not gotten out into the world yet and seen some things that I want to see and done some things that I want to do so being a parent right now in my life would be very hard for me. I would have to drop out of school and get a job which would not be very hard to do but knowing that I was not going to be able to move to a different job or up in the rankings without a diploma, I would be extremely frustrated. I would also have to quit all of my sports in order to save money. This would take a toll on my as I am very active in sports and it is where I am most passionate.

I thin k that this post has a point. I think that the shows on the TV are a joke now they are advertising teens to have babies. I feel like they are showing that it is ok to have a baby this young and that everything will be fine. But the truth it is not real. They do no know the truth behind been a young parent. Getting pregnant at a young age is no joke to feel cool just because you are pregnant. Your first baby should be special and at the right time.

I watch teen mom even though I am a 46 year old mother of two sons (1 25 year old and the other 23). when I watch this show I am amazed at howm many young people in our society, with alll of the necessary education from school and learning experiences from others still has not provided them with the insight to either abstain from sex or at the minimum use some form of protection each and every time, not just once. I personally believe birth control is the womans responsibility no matter what and if she plans on egaging in sexual activity then she should be prepared. I am still amazed at the number of teenage pregnancies that still ccur in this countyr every year. There is no reason why these children should become parents well before they are ready, yet they have not taken the subject of birth control seriously enough to involve it into their relationships. Here they are now with children who they certainly love but are struggling each and every day to care for and to care for themselves. Some are doing much better than others based on the type of support they recieve from the father and the families of each. I imagine as long as we have boys and girls and raging hormones and lapses in judgement we will always have teen pregnancy even if it is 100% preventable, there is always that small % whojust won't remember or think they'll be OK.

I myself am an avid viewer of Teen Mom. It has been suggested by many critics that Teen Mom is a series of inaccurate depictions, glorifying teen pregnancy. I do not agree with this thought. Although after watching an hour of cute baby Bently and strong mother, Maci, I do have a huge longing for a baby boy, but the core moral of the T.V. show reinforces the general consensus that teen pregnancy needs to be put to a stop. The show shows the trials and tribulations of teen pregnancy, it does not glorify it. The viewer experiences struggles from visition issues to unsupportive fathers. I could not imagine my life as a teen mother, I cannot put myself in their shoes because I have never been put in a situation even close to a teen parent's, I cannot judge their actions as mothers. Premarital sex during teen years is inevitable, and that is a harsh reality everyone must learn to accept. The human body is mature enough to partake in sexual activity around the age of 14, but in no way does that mean the child is READY to have sex. A better solution to our "teen pregnancy crisis" is not to shelter the world of the problem, but to address it and provide safety, and that means providing forms of contraception.

I have never watched the show Teen Mom, but I have heard of it before. I think this is a really good article. Even though I have never watched Teen Mom I got a pretty good explanation from this. I think that it is ridiculous having a baby that young. If I ever had a baby that young, I would defiantly not have the time to take care of the baby and also keep up on my school work. It is already a little bit of a challenge for me between school work and sports; I defiantly couldn't do all that, plus a baby. I think that you shouldn't be having kids until you are finished with college and have a good paying job that you are going to be able to keep and are making enough money to support a child.

The Show Teen Mom is just a spin off of the show 16 and Pregnant. Yes, it shows some hardships of being a teenage parent, but in the same since it also seems to be glorifying instead of discouraging the situation as the goal of the show is suppose to be. Of course all stories are not going to be the same there are going to be those who parents come in and help and those who parents put the out and want nothing more to do with the teenager. The teens from this show are getting modeling deals, and having help finding jobs, but in real life that does not happen. so to the child or teen that sits in front of the television watching these shows, and the next day see one of the girls on the cover of a magazine may look at that and think its okay, but its not. And I don't think MTV is doing a good job in handling this situation. The only African American female they had on the original show was Ebony, she dropped out of school, why was she not brought on to Teen Mom? Is it because she dropped out? Well maybe that’s something that should be depicted being that the show is suppose 2 discourage teen pregnancy. You see the girls graduating from high school. But what about those other girls in the world that didn’t have their parents to watch their children while they were in school and had to drop out and struggle to provide a life for their child. Some of theses girls are still living with their parent. What about the girls that parents put them out. And they didn’t have a place to go? Honestly there should be a disclaimer at the beginning and end of the show that states this program is for "entertainment" purposes only!

I believe there is know ideal age for having a baby.I think it is a matter of being ready and have a healthy relationship with your partner. Also being ready financially so they can support that baby.

I enjoy watching Teen Mom frequently. Every time I watch it I cannot help but thank myself for not
getting pregnant as a teenager. All these teens go through so many hardships, because
of having a baby so young. I agree that you that their master status will always be, a teen mom.
Of course they will get older and no longer be a teen, however having a baby so young
will effect their life forever. They will always be known as the "Teen Mom" girls and will
have to look back on life knowing they missed out on the normal activities teenagers get to experience. A question that raised in my mind during this article was that, you became a father at 35 and felt it was the hardest experience in your life, yet these girls as teenagers are going through parenthood and it is the hardest experience in their life, too. When is the right time to have a kid? I know being a teenage mom is not the time for that. It just makes me wonder if in your late thirties isn't a great time, then truly what is? For most people neither being a teenager is much too soon to have a kid and late thirties is sometimes, too late.

I enjoyed reading your article because I also found myself interested in this program about Teen Moms. I think want interested me first in watching the show was because I am a mother of two teeanage daughters and I wanted to get an insight if one of them were to ever become a teen mom. I found myself relating to some of what these girls went through. I had a child at the age of 21, I know that that is not a teenager but my husband was not very responsible and I had to face a lot of the responsibility of being a parent on my own. I think these young girls are curagious and I feel for them. I was also surprised to see the a man like to watch the show, mainly be women are supposed to be the care givers in a relationship, ususally men find it hard to relate to a show like this. It is usually referred to a women's show not one men would be interested in watching because it deals with relationships and teens. I enjoyed reading your view point as a father and not only did you focus on the moms, but you also focused on the fathers. I hope that more fathers would watch the show and take on the responsibiliy of realizing that teen pregnacy involves not only the girls but the boys as well. As parents we need to teach our children, both male and female how to be responsible when it comes to having sex with each other and the consequenses that comes with it.

I personally love this show, just for the entertainment. I was watching Good Morning America this morning and they were talking about the show Teen Mom. There was a mom from the show on there and she was talking about how girls from her school were getting pregnant because they wanted to try to get on the show. That is insane to me. Having a baby, I think, should be based on a lot more things than wanting to be on a TV show.

This show is horrible for TV, it looks at these struggling teens as low-class adolescents with problems with authority, no in home training exist, farthermore, without even knowing Mtv has created a wave of teen girls trying to get pregnant , so they can be suedo TV celebrities.

I am a high school student, and i can not have a baby now but if i have made the mistake i think i will ask my mother to help me right now i have a girlfriend i found her on a dating site http://www.online-dating.cz and she like a child soon she are 24 years old and i understand her but she have to wait if she want some kid whit me, she are not so young anymore so no problem in that she have experience in her life and she also have some money this two things will help her and the child if she desire to get one now.

I have only seen one of the half part of one program so i can not answer so much about these teens but i think i feel sorry for them, i am interested in having children but later my ideal age for having my first child will be about 28 years i will like education before then i more easy can give them a better life and this time of my life i also have some kind of income i hope.

It is sad that when one event happens in your life it takes over every aspect and becomes the thing that defines you. I am glad that there are those like Maci and Catlynn that handle the event in a very mature and respectable way. But there are those like Amber and Ryan that make me dissapointed and makes me think of how easily this one event can break you and harm those around you; even if you thought that would never happen to you.

So cool i love this i guess many people will love this

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