Meet Gloria Malone, an advocate for teen and young parents. She was a teen when she had her daughter. She says that while being a teen mom wasn't easy, it didn't stop her from going after the life she wanted for herself and her daughter. She graduated from high school and college and moved to New York City. She also runs a blog called Teen Mom NYC that gives teen moms the support and information she wishes she had when she was younger, because all parents — no matter their age — need support and encouragement. Gloria talks about some of the challenges she faced being a teen mom and what others can do to support young parents.
How old are you?
I'm 25 years old.
How old were you when you became a teen mom? How old is your daughter?
I was 15 years old. She is 9 years old now.
What was it like being a teen mom?
It was and continues to be a really complex situation, like many things in life. I think the most difficult thing was having adults in my life doubting me because I was a teen mom. In my experience, adults can sometimes have a hard time giving young people the respect and credit they deserve. This happened to me when I became pregnant and a mom. I felt like the adults around me had this idea that one thing can completely define young people and their abilities. This idea is really hurtful. It made me feel depressed and scared about my future.
What kind of challenges have you faced?
Adults thinking I was incapable and/or “ruined" because I was a teen mom. The other challenge was continuing my education in high school and then in college. These are places that are supposed to be for kids, but they're not kid-friendly if you are a student parent. I've also had to deal with not being taken seriously when I make decisions for my family and me.
What was it like being a mom and a college student?
It was a struggle! It was a huge juggling act to build a different schedule every semester around my daughter's needs and ever-changing child care arrangements. I was also working in an office at the school, which meant I had to be on campus for longer hours. Finding the right schedule was possible, it just took a lot of time, tears, and asking for help.
But college was fun and great. Being in college gave me several opportunities that I wouldn't have had any other way.
How do you balance everything?
I don't. I wish I had a great answer to how I balance it all, but I don't have one. I tend to say “yes" too much, and I get tired and frustrated often. I'm trying to look at how many things I take on and decide which ones are important to help me meet my goals and allow me to be the mom my daughter wants and needs. I've started to master taking time for me when she has something going on. For example, when she's in her swimming classes, I go to the gym or read a book. It's a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.
Congratulations on graduating from high school and college! To what do you owe your success?
The biggest support was having a place to live. The reality is that many pregnant teens are no longer welcome at home once they tell the adults in their lives they're pregnant. For me, the main source of support at school came from my art teachers. They provided safe spaces for me and even let me use one of the rehearsal rooms in the art department to pump breastmilk before chorus class.
I also had a variety of friends. Some of them were not young parents and some of them were. Trying to maintain a sense of self while being a student parent is ridiculously difficult, but it is extremely important and necessary. One of the biggest reasons I have been able to achieve what I have is because I stayed true to myself. I'm a daughter, mother, student, employee, and much more.
Will you tell us about Teen Mom NYC and why you started it?
I started Teen Mom NYC because I was really upset and frustrated with how the stories of teen moms were being told and who was telling them. Unintended pregnancies are common in the United States, but the stories about teen moms were really negative. Telling the story in a way that is honest, unedited, and from a first-person point of view is important to me. I wanted teen moms to be able to tell their own stories.
In addition to telling parts of my story, I also wanted to share helpful information that I wish I had known when I first became pregnant and a parent.
Will you tell us more about your advocacy work and some of the highlights?
The most generous and amazing highlight is how I have been able to connect and learn from teen parents and those who support them. Another huge highlight was getting an op-ed published in the New York Times. I discussed why I thought ads against teen pregnancy were hurtful. In terms of policy, speaking to the White House Council on Women and Girls about addressing the needs of pregnant and parenting youth was mind-blowing.
However, my biggest highlight is forming #NoTeenShame with six other women who had children in their teens. We created #NoTeenShame to act against campaigns that put down teen moms and to inspire other pregnant and parenting young people. We also work to provide resources for groups, organizations, and policymakers supporting teen parents.
What's your advice for other teen parents?
Educate yourself about your legal rights. Be mindful of your mental health. Follow your gut when it comes to parenting your little ones. Make sure the relationships you have in your life — romantic, family, friends, educators, doctors — are safe and healthy. And above all else, remember that you are amazing and capable, so surround yourself with people who know, believe, and embody this.
What can girls to do support teen parents?
Don't judge us. Honestly, that is the biggest thing. As girls, we all know what it's like to be judged for simply being girls. Please don't do this to us because our reproductive and life choices may be different than yours. Talk to us in a way that shows us you care and are interested in our friendship — not just for our “How did you get pregnant?" story. When you hear people talking negatively about pregnant and parenting teens, speak up. Tell them that not all teen parents are the same. Just like older parents, we love, we care, and we want the best for ourselves and our children.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
All girls are strong, amazing, and capable. Don't be afraid to seek out information about your body, sexuality, schooling, and your human and legal rights.
Content last reviewed December 11, 2015
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