March 2022Vol. 23, No. 2There Is No Age Requirement for Loving Your Children
Written by TK Cross & Madison Iokennoronhawi White, IMPACT steering committee members
Listen to young mothers. As we continue to learn the value of lived experiences throughout our work with children, youth, and their families, it is important to acknowledge the perspectives and experiences of the young mothers who are often left to struggle without a support system. The writers of the following article are working hard to bolster support for these young women and their families.—Aysha E. Schomburg, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau
Over the last 2 years, IMPACT (Invincible Mamas Pushing for Action and Change Together) has been working to elevate the voices of young mothers and raise awareness of the issues impacting young families. IMPACT is boldly advocating for freedom, opportunity, and equity for young families, communities, and the mamas that unite them. Through advocacy and organizing, we are working to change the narrative around young parenthood.
We are young mamas from across the country, from diverse backgrounds, including various tribal communities all working toward the same goal—raising our children with love and respect for our communities. As mamas of color, we recognize the systemic oppressions we have faced by systems designed to support us, which initially create barriers and contribute to the cycle we are working to dismantle.
We have been beaten down, criticized, restricted from adulthood, and shamed for enjoying motherhood. While being stripped of the "rites of passages" into adulthood, we were expected to own a systemic view of parenthood. Being young does not denote a mama's lack of ability to be committed, smart, capable, and/or loving. Being a young mama means we're strong, energized, and full of life.
Our IMPACT community rallies to support our children and create a support system for young mamas. This is done in addition to, or in lieu of, the young mama's multigenerational familial/community supports (grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) where elder relations may or may not still be alive, present, or involved.
Our lives are at the intersectionality of age, race, and social constructs of "adequate" parenthood. We are here to celebrate our expertise as parents and work on dismantling the barriers (intentional or unintentional) created by systems such as child welfare, health care, housing, and foster care. We are here to tell our stories of intimidation by foster care, to create a platform for young moms who need housing and are turned away, for those who need child care but are presented with barriers, documentation, and endless excuses to get the benefits they need.
IMPACT uses a modest approach to parenting in which we collaborate and learn from each other as we grow together. It is ok to not have life figured out just yet as we figure it out together. We are the experts in our lived experiences, and we need you to listen. Young moms are here to show our strength to say we are no longer invisible. Motherhood is not one size fits all. Since when did loving your children have an age requirement?