The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral -- a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body.... The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God's creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other human creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation.... What on God's earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother.(Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty)
The Candies Foundation is a "non-profit organization that works to shape the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy and parenthood." Their current campaign sees them designating May as "National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month" and asking tweeters to join them in using the hashtag #noteenpreg. Take a look at the campaign ads:
|Think school sucks? Wait till you have a baby!
|Because what kind of loser has a crib like that? Boooring!
|Nah. A baby buggy isn't going to pull the chicks like your dad's Mondeo.
|Of course! Everyone else is "changing the world" 'cept you baby mama.
What a horribly misconceived campaign.
If the objective is to discourage feckless irresponsible parenting it fails miserably in my opinion. The message is pretty clear: Motherhood sucks.
This is the way they aim to 'shape the way youth in America think about parenthood': A buggy is a naff alternative to a cool set of 'wheels', and changing diapers is a dead end job for losers.
How does one 'change the world' anyway? Getting pissed in nightclubs? Becoming a rockstar? Having a string of 'partners'? Driving a nice car? Going to university?
Are these foxy poster girls and boys 'world changers'? Really?
Personally I can't think of anything more 'world changing' than raising the next generation.
Am I advocating for teenage motherhood? No, although frankly I can think of many things way worse than teen motherhood. Some of the most wonderful and devoted mothers I've known have started out young.
In my opinion the problem worthy of tackling is not "teenage motherhood" but a collapse of the ideal of marriage and family life. Instead of appealing to base, consumerist instincts couldn't we give young people a beautiful vision of family life to aspire to?
Instead of stigmatising young mums by ad campaign (yuk) couldn't we honour the dignity and value of motherhood?
Couldn't we help young men to envision themselves as noble and sacrificial husbands and fathers rather than players with a 'cool set of wheels'? Couldn't we?
It seems to me that what started out as a noble intention to remove the stigma suffered by 'irregular' families has seen the slow toppling of the ideal, that of a mother and father, committed to each other and to the children of their union, in a permanent bond of marriage.
Is it not possible to hold out marriage as a 'gold standard' for children without stigmatising those who through death, divorce or abandonment are raising children single handedly? I hope so.
But this campaign badly misfires on all fronts. Stigmatising teen mums by advertising campaign is nasty. Demeaning motherhood is a crappy way to encourage young people to wait until they are able to parent responsibly.
Teenage mothers are not "The Problem". Really. Age is not the problem. Fecklessness, cruelty and selfishness is the problem. Josef Fritzel was no spring chicken.
Let's be honest, the #noteenpreg campaign isn't about teenage pregnancy at all. It's about the cost to us of supporting mothers on state benefits.
Here's a delightful article about an orthodox Jewish wedding between two teenagers. If she has a honeymoon baby I don't think anyone is going to be tut tutting about #noteenpreg. Why? Because they're married, they have lots of family support and they have plenty of money. So we don't have to fret about them being benefit scroungers. Because that's the bottom line here: Money. Because It's the economy stupid. Always.
The truth is, there is nothing weird or bizarre or antisocial about teenage mothers. What is weird, antisocial and bizarre is our selfish, materialistic, hedonistic, me first, individualistic, lonely, anti natal, child fearing, commitment phobic, infantile culture, for whom the giant, atrophied, wet nursing teat of the State has become Big Mummy.
What is weird, antisocial and bizarre is our dismantling of the gold standard of marriage, the flattening of the family and the concept of the child as being either a quick jump in the queue for a council flat or the perfect cherry on the cake of the finished life.
Instead of this shallow, materialistic flummery we should be offering teens a vision for the beauty of family life and the good of marriage. How? By modelling it. Babies don't need fancy cribs and cool wheels, they need parents committed to them and to each other. We all need to grow up and start showing our young people how to live by example. Vacuous ad campaigns won't do that for us.