We support disadvantaged young mothers in developing into healthy, educated, self-sufficient women who are actively engaged in community life.

Do We Choose to be Mothers?

I have been reading a very interesting book titled “Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution” by Adrienne Rich, and have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a mother in this day and age. I received my degree in Parenting and Family Studies from New York University, and currently teach the parenting class at Brooklyn Young Mothers’ Collective titled ‘Nurturing Skills for Teen Parents’, so I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what it means to be a parent and how to parent effectively. That being said, Adrienne Rich proposed an argument and a way of thinking about motherhood that my education interestingly overlooked: motherhood is a misogynistic institution forced upon womankind by the dominant patriarchy.

Sounds kind of harsh, right? Rich herself is a mother to three sons and explains that she loves them each unconditionally, but that does not mean she isn’t operating in a system of oppression and a servitude. She argues that from birth females are groomed to become mothers, whether this grooming is intentional or not. Thinking back on my childhood, I can definitely see this, but I’m sure as a person slightly obsessed with babies that I’m a bit biased. I have always known I would one day be a mother; there was no question about whether or not I would have children. And if I ever said or thought or even ALMOST thought that maybe, just maybe, I might not have children, the booming voice of society inserted itself saying, “You’ll change your mind. You’ll definitely want children. Everyone wants to have children!”  Being a naturally care-taking and nurturing person, I gripped onto this notion and ran with it all the way to a degree in Parenting and a Doula certification. But for the women around me, this was not the case. One of my closest friends has always said that she doesn’t want kids; she doesn’t like children and has no intention of ever being pregnant. I spent a lot of our friendship arguing that she would change her mind, that everyone wants children and she would see the light, it was only a matter of time. I can now say that I was wrong, and that I played a strong role in reinforcing the misogynistic, mainstream societal message that the ultimate role a woman can play is that of a mother. I know now that I was wrong.

Interestingly enough, that same friend has changed her mind. As we have gotten older and adult life has become more real, she has felt more strongly the pressure to conform to the path we are constantly being told is the right, acceptable, and successful way to live: the path of education –> career –> marriage –> children –> death. The problem with this trajectory of events is that it entirely overlooks the capacity, interest, individuality, and life circumstances of each person, like prescribing the same medication for 100 different diseases. While I still plan on having children later in life, I no longer encourage others to do the same; I don’t even recommend it! In fact, I might even discourage those who are unsure. In this day and age when we have the science and ability to prevent pregnancy and parenthood, there is no reason to become a parent without choosing to become a parent.

Unless, of course, you don’t believe you have a choice. A lot of the young women that come to the office of Brooklyn Young Mothers’ Collective believe they did not have a choice when it came to motherhood. Some young women have religious beliefs that make contraception and abortion unacceptable, while some were unaware that they could prevent pregnancy with contraception. The most upsetting for me to see, however, is the young woman who believes that motherhood is her sole purpose in life. The young woman who walks into the office and at 15 felt she had reached her full academic potential, had achieved adulthood, and made the choice to fulfill her life’s purpose of having a child. Absent are the dreams of a career, having an apartment or home, traveling the world, or even living on her own. The young woman firmly believes she is doing what she was put on this earth to do: get pregnant, have a child, raise the child, repeat. I don’t want to shame anyone who chooses this lifestyle; you are as entitled to choosing young parenthood as I am to choosing the opposite. What I am critiquing here is that girls are very often unaware that they have a choice. I will continue to support young parents, older parents, single parents, gay parents, ALL PARENTS who are in need, because I recognize the intensity of the need. But I will not support the societal message sent to little girls as they unwrap their very first babydoll on Christmas morning that they are not complete or fully “woman” until they have conceived, nourished, delivered, and raised a child. Motherhood is a choice; it does not have to be the life sentence of every XX chromosome developing in utero. So let’s keep personal choices where they belong, with the person.

- Michela Crowley

 


Learning about Sex Trafficking

Suzanne Tomatore a lawyer from The City Bar Justice Center came and spoke with our ATL interns about sex trafficking. We discuss a lot of topics in our Advocacy & Thought Leadership internship, but discussing trafficking was a new topic for everyone. I met Stephanie Urugutia who is the Immigrant Women and Children coordinator at The City Bar Justice Center at The Women’s Day Fair at Hunter College. She arranged to have her boss come and talk to us about some of the people they serve.

During the workshop, our young women learned about the some of the ways women and children are oppressed, pressured, and forced into being sex workers. Suzanne told us how many of her clients are not even aware of the rights they have because of  the language barrier and because they fear being deported or physically harmed.

The workshop lasted for two hours and was extremely informative. Our young women asked a lot of questions and one of our girls even hopes to intern at The City Bar Justice Center.


Street Harassment

A few weeks ago, some of our young women collaborated with Girls For Gender Equity. Together we were able to have a conversation about street harassment. Many of our girls have been harassed while walking home, picking up their kids, or just going out. So it was something they experienced first hand. At the event, they made signs and t-shirts for a rally that would take place that weekend. Our girls were very excited to participate and learned a ton about what the women at Girls For Gender Equity do and how street harassment has become an issue in New York City.

The protest was held that weekend in Washington Square Park in Manhattan. Women wore t shirts and held signs and rallied in the park. This helped to send out a message to people who are street harassers that it’s not okay to cat call, touch, and make people uncomfortable.


Intern’s Reflection

For the past eight months, I have had the privilege of interning at Brooklyn Young Mother’s Collective. In my senior year in college, BYMC has given me the opportunity to share with the community what i’ve learned throughout my four years at Dominican College.  As a Social Work Intern, I realized that my passion remains in working with the community and sharing my knowledge with the young women in our society.  In return, I was able to learn so much from the young women I have worked with.  They taught me the issues they faced battling the stereotypes as young mothers.  They shared with me their frustrations, as society labeled them instead of motivating them into becoming the prosperous young women they believe they still can become and will become for their children.  The young women let me into their worlds, sharing with me their fears, struggles, and, most importantly, their successes.  Their success was a mere indication of my own success.  It was almost a surreal experience, being able to bond with the young mothers at BYMC and support them in becoming better parents and stronger individuals.  May it be continuing their education, graduating from High School, or completing their GED, they have shown me that barriers are meant to be overcome.  Their gratitude combined with their drive to becoming the best parent they can be only inspired me to continue to be the best human being I can possibly be.  Moving forward, I will remember the importance of respect and integrity while working in the community.  If it is one thing I learned through my “Judgement Free” Parenting Classes, we all seek to be respected.  When working with others, subtracting our preconceived perceptions and judgements gives way for bonds to be built.  We all live life with one purpose; to make a difference.  I strongly believe that becoming part of staff at BYMC has allowed me to affect the lives of these young mothers positively.

Irannie Dones BSW


HRA And Their New Teen Pregnancy Campaign

The Human Resources Administration has backed a new campaign  that speaks out against teen pregnancy. You might have seen the ads in the subway and on buses. They all depict a baby crying with a facet about teen pregnancy rates and the costs of raising a child as a single teen parent. The ads are harsh and do nothing to prevent teens from getting pregnant. While they do supply small facts about the actual financial costs, they mention nothing about actually preventing pregnancies. There is no mention of condoms or birth control. One ad even insists that before a girl even gets pregnant she should consider marriage.

These ads aren’t effective in the slightest. Instead what they seem to do is shame teen mothers. The ads are attacking choices that have already been made. Instead of warning all teens to practice safe sex, HRA is pointing fingers at parenting teens. The best way to educate adolescents and keep them from having children is to provide them with viable information. Better sex education and open dialogues about sex is what keeps teens safe and aware. Not shame.

TL

 


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