It's like clockwork. When there is a new episode of 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom (or the upcoming Teen Mom 2) coming- facebook is all a buzz talking about the show. But my friends on facebook are definitely not 16. Frankly, most of them are older than 26. So what's the appeal? Is it like a car accident you can't look away from? Yes, obviously. But I think there's more to it than that.
Teenagers don't have the worries that adults do, like making rent or paying a mortgage. They don't always even have jobs ::cough:: Ryan ::cough:: but if they do they're probably not expected to be entirely self-supported. So getting pregnant as a teenager is a huge change: skip all the growing up that goes on in high school, college and your early 20's. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
If you're like me you hope they succeed. I root for each of them, hoping they finish school, work things out with the guy and get their lives together.
But teenagers are inherently selfish. They are impatient and they live with their heads in the clouds. They are not unlike kid-free yuppy twenty and thirty somethings. These teens are brutally honest about how challenging it is to give up the things they once loved and totally changed themselves and their lives for their babies. The moms show the same starry-eyed love for their babies that we 'grown up' mommas do. But when it comes to how frustrating parenting is we're tight lipped where they're willing to talk about it.
Is this because we have outgrown the ability to be torn between love for our babies that's so deep it feels like it's splitting us open and the inevitable frustration that each stage of parenting brings? I don't think so. I think most of us are just about as frustrated by lack of sleep, husbands who don't understand what we're going through, crawlers who get into everything and toddlers who can throw the mother of all tantrums.
I think we grown women watch because these teens feel what we feel but they're willing to verbalize it.
16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom: one part "it make my life feel easier because this is a train wreck", one part "I want to see them overcome adversity" and one large part "vicarious catharsis- they say how hard parenting is so I don't have to."