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The Youngest Parents
February 24, 2009 9:00 AM   Subscribe

The Youngest Parents by Jocelyn Lee.

The set of photographs that comprise The Youngest Parents is safe for work. Some other parts of the site contain some nakedness.
posted by chunking express (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
HAHA! You had sex!

Seriously, that's how I got to be a parent, so I can laugh.
posted by Xoebe at 9:12 AM on February 24, 2009


See the youtube version of this in the UK: Alfie (13, going on 8) and Chantelle (15).
posted by MuffinMan at 9:12 AM on February 24, 2009


For once, a fine art photographer has a website that doesn't have some atrocious Flash- and/or frames-based navigation scheme. Powerful photos, too.
posted by silby at 9:15 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


And the thumbnails are in a <ul> tag! O joyous day!
posted by silby at 9:18 AM on February 24, 2009


Needs the Nobutyeahbutnobutyeah tag.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:26 AM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Those look just like all my childhood pictures (with my sister and I as the babies).
posted by resurrexit at 9:33 AM on February 24, 2009


The conventional narrative about teen parents is certainly reinforced here. No photos of parents or children smiling. Little connection is documented between the parents and their children.

Throughout history and in much of the world, having a child at a young age is the norm. Physically, a parent in her late teens is probably at her most capable of carrying a baby, giving birth, and then sustaining the late nights and long hours of parenting a small child. Its not that I can't see any downside of parenting as a teen, but I'm troubled by the ideology that there is NO positive side to it. I'd love to hear some folks who actually had kids as teens chime in here...
posted by serazin at 9:35 AM on February 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Serazin, the positives you mentioned are largely irrelevant today.

Being able to pay for the child is the most important qualification a parent can have, today. Rightly or wrongly.
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 9:55 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd love to hear some folks who actually had kids as teens chime in here.
My gran was 17 when she had my dad, and brought him up alone for his first five or so years because me grandad was a prisoner of war (he never even set eyes on dad until he got back months after the war had ended). She and the extended family (she had loads of sisters) did a fine job by all accounts.
posted by Abiezer at 10:03 AM on February 24, 2009


Well, I'm a parent who is also a full time student and I have no income besides loans. We are basically flat broke most of the time, we can't buy a lot of toys or the latest clothes or go to the movies much or whatnot, but I love my kid, and I can provide her with structure, discipline, support and encouragement without spending a dime. Money makes life a lot easier, but it doesn't make you a good parent.
posted by serazin at 10:06 AM on February 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


There is an artist statement where she says what she was going for.

I think teenage pregnancy nowadays is far different then it was say 30-40 years back, when people could get good jobs without university education, etc. It's trickier to raise a child in the West as a teen. I mean, my friends find it hard enough find places to live and work with university degrees and no children. There is more than biology at work when it comes to being able to raise children. No doubt lots of people still manage.
posted by chunking express at 10:21 AM on February 24, 2009


The real 'youngest parents' are the children who, due all kinds of adverse circumstances like drug addiction, poverty and physical or psychiatric illness, are forced to attempt to parent their own parents as well as themselves. Most of these young parents aren't even old enough to procreate.
posted by grounded at 10:42 AM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Its not that I can't see any downside of parenting as a teen, but I'm troubled by the ideology that there is NO positive side to it.

Is it the artist's responsibility to show all sides of the issue? Hell, even Bristol Palin is against teen pregnancy.

"Everyone should wait 10 years," Miss Palin said. "I hope people learn from my story. It's so much easier if you're married, have a house and a career. It's not a situation you want to strive for."

Physically, a parent in her late teens is probably at her most capable of carrying a baby, giving birth, and then sustaining the late nights and long hours of parenting a small child.

Maybe, but emotionally, in this society, most teens are not. Are you actually advocating that more teens become pregnant? There may be some small minority of teens that are good at it. But I would suspect that most teenage moms have it much more difficult than moms in their twenties or thirties.
posted by cjets at 11:39 AM on February 24, 2009


Back in the day it wasn’t just that you could get a decent job without a degree and all that. It was that your home was your support structure. Typically you had grandparents that either lived with you or close by. Your parents, most certainly were close. You had extended family in some cases living nearby, in the case of urban areas either a few doors down or in the same building.
People died at home. Usually in their own beds. Wakes were held locally. Typically in one’s house. You had a lot more familiar support for raising a child then.
Now you’ve got, what, day care?
The hardships of the pioneers weren’t just that they had to walk a long way. Native Americans toted their whole villages all over the place. The tough part was raising a family without any help from siblings, cousins, mom, dad, grandparents, etc. and still bringing the crop in.
Well hell, a lot of people are doing that today.
My wife is an ivy league grad and one of the most resourceful people I know, but our two year old can reduce her to tears. As it is, my mom lives nearby, we’ve got family around us, all that, so she can call them up and get help, catch a break, go get coffee or something and calm down (or revitalize) while someone else deals with a child going through a wild growth spurt, major hormonal changes and has molars coming in. At least for a few hours. Then they can trade off again. Or by that time I come home and help.
(Which, really, is tough, I’m the heavy ‘cos I’m daddy, but I’m pretty much a marshmellow. Most things yeah, I’m a disciplinarian, but cuteness is my kryptonite.)

We don’t have those structures so much today. We might have the family. They might even live proximally, but the social order is such that there isn’t that expected support.
I don’t know what people are doing instead. Watching t.v. or something.
There are some families that do help with child rearing as a natural course, but it’s not really reinforced by the current mores.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:15 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it the artist's responsibility to show all sides of the issue?

Oh, not at all. I'm just more drawn to art that provokes me to think in new ways rather than art that simply repeats what to me seem to be problematic or simplistic stereotypes. I thought the photos were visually interesting but clearly seemed to reinforce a simplistic and negative message. The photographer says that she thinks the issue is complex, but I didn't see that complexity in the photos.

Are you actually advocating that more teens become pregnant?

Not at all! Is there something I said that indicated that? It's just that, having known a few moms who had kids while they were teens, I can also see some advantages that teen parents bring to the challenge.

And I agree with what everyone has said here about the collapse of the traditional extended family and social network. I think that loss is damaging to all families - actually. Because even older parents with money end up relying on institutionalized childcare and a lot of TV to provide the support that in the past would have been provided by grandparents, cousins and neighbors.
posted by serazin at 6:39 PM on February 24, 2009


I don’t know what people are doing instead. Watching t.v. or something.

Maybe they live across the country. Or are elderly. Or are dead. A combination of moving away from home after college, marrying relatively late in life (and having a kid even later) means that my son has no local family from my side, and one elderly grandparent on my husband's side who lives two hours away.
posted by pinky at 7:06 PM on February 24, 2009


My mother was seventeen or eighteen when I popped out. My parents were delighted. They did a good job raising me and my sister. It all worked out in the end. Plus, at age forty they had an empty house, which is surely one helluva big bonus to starting out young. And until things crashed last year, they were sitting very pretty for rest of their retirement.

I'd hate to have a kid at home at the age of fifty. Let alone give birth to one at age sixty. WTF, Mom?! Those high school years are going to be so much fun when you're seventy-five and spend as much time sleeping as awake. Bringing home a date to meet you and help change your Depends. And every young boy wants to be Ruth Westheimered!

Those teenagers who are willing to go into trades can probably swing parenting young. Trades offer the opportunity to advance by getting more education. Get a ticket and ten years professional experience, and you'll be solidly middle class. Meanwhile, the guys who went to be doctors are still going to school, are in huge debt, and still don't have kids. Their lives suck!

Well, middle class by my standards.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 PM on February 24, 2009


I'll have an eleven-year-old at home when I'm fifty. I would have hated to be tied to my teenage boyfriend forever with a child, when I was really just a child myself.
posted by pinky at 7:25 PM on February 24, 2009


Neurotic people who have trouble with parenting don't get less neurotic with age, is my experience. The kind of people who can't handle one or two children when they've got money and societal privilege are always the ones the most judgemental about teen parents. And it's too bad, because maybe if they'd had kids to force them to confront reality early in life, they'd be less rigid and insistent that everyone has to live and raise children just like they decided to.

Raising children is just not the honking huge deal that people in the west make it out to be, unless you are massively freaked by the idea that you have obligations to other people and might not get to sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom at your ideal preferred times.
posted by daisydaisy at 9:20 PM on February 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Maybe they live across the country."

Implicit in the comment on proximity.
But there still isn't the kind of social support there used to be from non-family members.
For some reason, in the U.S. at least, in many places, there isn't that expectation that kids are to be taken care of generally.
Indeed, it seems to be quite the opposite. The whole 'man in the bushes' and 'stranger danger' thing is way way out of proportion to the actual risk.
I don't know that that is the cause, but it's something that makes it worse.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:51 PM on February 24, 2009



Raising children is just not the honking huge deal that people in the west make it out to be, unless you are massively freaked by the idea that you have obligations to other people and might not get to sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom at your ideal preferred times.


For real? I can't help but wonder how old your kids are. As a new mom finally catching up these needs, the words 'ideal preferred times' confound me. I'd say 'remotely as much as you need'.
posted by debbie_ann at 9:41 AM on February 25, 2009


I'd love to hear some folks who actually had kids as teens chime in here...

Ok. What do you want to know?

I had my first child shortly after I turned 18, a few months before graduating high school.

It probably did change the course of my life, as I decided to work full time to be able to support my new family on my own rather than relying on others to make sacrifices so that I could get through college.

However, to say that I was a singularly motivated student isn't quite the case. I'm sure I would have graduated with good grades eventually, but I was waffling between fields of study and afraid to commit what felt like the rest of my life to just one--your standard collegiate existential crisis.

When my daughter was born, I suddenly didn't have the luxury (or curse) of deciding just what would be the idyllic way to live my life. She was my life now, and my only real goal and purpose was her well being.

I have a feeling, in that regard, I am no different than many others who came into parenthood in a more traditional manner.

But to have my daughter enter my life at a turbulent time--when my future seemed to be fickle and fragile, unknowable yet shaped by the expectations of others--made me realize that "the future" comes one day at a time, and she was the only reason I needed to get through each one.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 1:55 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


So Mr. Anthropomorphism, what do you think? Would you do it the same way again? Do you have a sense of the benefits and drawbacks of parenting young for you and for your daughter? I'm curious!
posted by serazin at 3:31 PM on February 25, 2009


I have a feeling, in that regard, I am no different than many others who came into parenthood in a more traditional manner.

Seems to be how it went for my parents. Their lives started out as yours has.

Hint: keep getting educated; get educated on those things that will result in your employer paying you more. The more you learn to do or do very well, the more you'll make. Keep at the education.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:39 PM on February 25, 2009


I've got a 10mo and a 6yo of my own and varying amounts of responsibility for some children of other parentage. I plan on having more with my own personal uterus and I'm sure more will show up.

The lack of societal support cuts both ways. On the one hand, as people are whining on this thread, nobody feels obligated to help you. But on the other hand, you can run your life however you want - you're just the one who is responsible for it. What I observe is that people don't want to accept the tradeoffs that come with the help. Teenage parents really get up people's noses because they reveal very starkly that no one can go it alone. It's very obvious when you look at a 16yo with a baby that she needs help and will be required to accept the constraints that come with that help. But guess what? So does a 36yo with a baby, except the 36yo has a whole adult life of being able to run things her own way to think is normal.
posted by daisydaisy at 1:24 PM on February 28, 2009


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