“Ay pobrecita, she’s so young to have a child!” Those comments come on a daily basis, whether I’m sitting on Amtrak, waiting for the bus, or at the pediatrician’s office. The stereotypes fly as soon as my son is in tow. I’m automatically placed in the she-must-be-a-poor-single-Latina-mother category. These thoughts are not just assumptions, as my friends and even my own mother agree they would think the same if I were a stranger.
It started during pregnancy when I noticed the puzzled looks of the other parents in the birthing classes. I attended many classes alone, stuffing my face with free crackers and cookies at the back of the class because I was always so hungry.
When I told my sister of the looks she laughed saying people probably thought, “Poor girl must be starving! They must have a new program allowing unwed teenage mothers to join the class.” It wasn’t until my own grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s asked my mother “Why is that little girl pregnant? She’s too young! Que lastima!” I was horrified.
I gave birth to Kai at a hospital where its average age for a new mother is 37 years old. I was merely 25, which in Bible times is nearing death. In Northwest DC it’s apparently 12 years too young. All of the hospital nurses insisted we were the youngest couple ever to have a child at the hospital! I laughed thinking it was an exaggeratory compliment. But now it seems as though it had a slight hinge of truth.
Going against me is I look young. I am very petite with a young face. It’s in my genes so what do you do, right? I ordered geeky chic glasses, grew out my hair, and now wear less revealing clothing. I refuse to list my resume when someone second-guesses my age, but the experiences keep building.
I was strolling Kai at a neighborhood festival when a man handed me a pamphlet for Unwed Teenage Mothers automatically speaking Spanish with this empathetic look to my “situation.” Let’s review my “situation” so to speak. I am 27 years old, have had the same partner for many years, have a dual college degree, a steady job, and a side business. Far from the narrow-minded stereotype mentioned earlier.
Parents and caretakers on the playground have asked where Kai’s parents are thinking I am the nanny. Worst of all Kai’s schoolteachers had a going bet (which I later found out from one of the assistant teachers) on how old I was! No one thought I was over the age of 20.
It gets tiring explaining myself or trying to act a certain way around other parents. I am constantly excluded from conversations about children or spoken to in that you’re-young-so-you-don’t-understand tone about my son. Many times I do not receive the respect I deserve. The only positive I can think of is when Kai reaches high school I’ll be the hottest mama on the block!
Contributor Author: Tara Trinity,