So earlier this year Kylie Jenner, youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, gave birth to a baby girl at the age of twenty. And we all know that she isn’t any ordinary teen becoming a mom, she is a model, reality television star, socialite and social media tycoon. And with her lip kits and self-branded cosmetics business, also a multi-millionaire.
Now she, having a baby at an age when most people are busting their backs getting degrees or working (and paying off their starter loans) might seem a little odd. Funnily though, it seemed only ‘a little’ odd, if not completely normal after a while when the news first broke in the media. And now look at us, talking about it as if nothing really major happened.
But the other day, I was at one of my friends’ house, just chatting about the news, when her mom tells me she too was a teen mom. And I look at my friend with an almost shocked and disbelieved look. I couldn’t believe that my friend, who would be twenty now, had a mother who was just eighteen years older than her. And suddenly a presumed mental image of their lives popped in my head, complete with all the society’s pressures, expectations and resentments. But then I also could see my friend sitting next to me, so happy and relaxed, and her mom so full of life and humour, I couldn’t help but wonder, what was life like for a regular person who became pregnant during their teenage years.
Did she get the same level of acceptance from the society as Kylie does today for her early pregnancy? What were the circumstances that lead to it? How did her family react to the news? Who supported her during the time and along the way? Did she feel alone? Did she feel ready? How did she manage to provide for her daughter when she herself was practically so young? Did the stress of a different (and a significantly difficult) life, make bonding with her daughter difficult? Have they reached to the point in their lives now, when they feel comfortable with their life’s story despite all the stigma attached to this bigger idea (and how)? How do they make this unique bond between them work amidst all the pressures and responsibilities?
All these questions, but the question that surprised me the most was the one that I asked myself, why did the idea of my friends’ mother being a teen mom shocked me when I felt next to normal when I heard Kylie Jenner’s news?
So, I sat down with my friend and her mom, for a day of storytelling and revelations.
“I was young when I got pregnant. And my family was very religious. My mother was understanding, but my father and the society [were] not so much. So, when they found out [about it] they demanded I marry *Margo’s dad. I knew he wasn’t ready but since that was the only option we were left with, we went for it. Eighteen years old, in love, married and with my baby on board, I was quite happy. And one of my sisters was also expecting her baby around the same time, so I was excited to have our babies grow up together.” **Lily says with a rueful smile on her face.
And I think to myself, well that’s a good start. Mostly everyone’s happy and there are no mean blames thrown here, like that would ever be in case of Kylie and her family, them celebrating this change instead of being worried about future.
Kylie Jenner at her Babyshower, November 2017
“But life works in unexpected ways,” continues Lily, “and shortly after a year of marriage, me and Margo’s dad separated. He wanted different things in life, [things] that no longer included room for his family. So, baby Margo and I went back to living with my mom. Suddenly single and with complete responsibility of my little baby but no real work experience, I felt like I had somehow further failed in life.”
I can see that on outside, Lily looks relaxed as she goes down the memory lane, though a pained expression plagues her face, as if she could almost physically feel all the stings and stigma of her past again.
“But my mother was there with me, supporting me still, and pushing me to not give up hope in life just yet. So, I studied to become a teacher, and later started teaching at this place called ‘Kumon’. See Kumon is a kind of an after-school in Brazil, where kids go to improve their English and Portuguese skills. But my earnings from [working] there weren’t enough to support my family. So, in year 2008 I decided to move to UK to make a better earning and life for us.”
So many twists and turns in such short time, I feel my own heart sinking a little for all the problems Margo’s mom had to face in her youth. Social stigma and financial security, now that’s something Kylie Jenner would never have to worry about. After all, she is a celebrity worth millions.
Reality television star, Owner of self-branded cosmetics, Multi-millionaire
“Coming to UK was not that hard, we came through our EU citizenship. But after that things again got tricky to manage. No job, money or even a proper place to live, the only thing I felt like I had was a little piece of my family here, in this foreign country. My sister and her husband were already [settled] here, so Margo and I simply moved in the same house as them. Getting a roof over our heads felt like a huge blessing I received after such a long time. Shortly after that I picked up job as a nanny, and since I already had teaching experience I was good at looking after children.” says Lily, looking proud of the bravery her younger self showed at the time.
But now a troubled, and sad look came upon Margo’s face.
“Ever since then mom has been working as nanny. In our first year here, mom worked so many hours that I barely got to see.” says Margo. “Sometimes I felt really bad, I was young you know, and I missed my mom so much. We never had enough time to spend together. But it got better with time, and I think I too adjusted with my new life.”
I see Lily exchange a subtle look of deep understanding with her daughter. And Margo continues, “It’s similar in the present, she is working until late but since I’m older now so I don’t really mind anymore.”
“But during the time when she worked a lot and I was young too, it was difficult. But then it all got better once we started travelling together. We went on our first vacation to Brazil in 2010, which was great! But we really started bond when we travel more after 2014, and we visited Spain, Italy, Scotland and many places around England. Travel became our thing, it became the activity which truly brought us together.”
“And I think the best moment [between me and mom] was in Spain, where we just played cards by the beach. In that moment, I could feel all our worries and responsibilities drifting in the back of our minds, and we could just focus on spending our time with each other.” says a glowing Margo, looking happy to relive that moment.
“I guess in hindsight, I think we got lucky a lot of times. I know it’s [life after teen pregnancy] not all the same for everyone, but I feel quite blessed and content with how my life turned out. I am happy now, with only a few regrets, but who doesn’t have some [regrets in life] anyway.” says a broadly smiling Lily.
Margo and I were still sitting in Lily’s living room, but Lily took her leave to prep some tea for everyone after sharing her life’s story. And I can’t help but think to myself, even though they feel comfortable in their lives, look so happy now, and boldly accept their story, but overcoming all of that pain and struggle must take a lot of hard work and constant effort every single day. We all know by now that not everyone who walks down this path gets a happily ever after. Society makes that possibility perfectly clear and unforgettable, but only for the ordinary people. The rich and famous have the privilege and means to break free of the social boundaries that most of the world has to live in.
So, my only hope is that girls out there who are now in a similar position, transitioning into teen moms, don’t go into this life naively thinking it would all be rainbows because of what they see of celebrity lives on social media.
(Names of *daughter and **mom have been changed to maintain their privacy and anonymity)