Momlogic: At what age did you get pregnant? And what were the circumstances surrounding your pregnancy? Was it someone you were dating?
Tina Murdock: I was 17 and engaged to marry (my now ex-husband) when I became pregnant. I actually had my daughter 2 months after I turned 18. While pregnant, problems arose with the relationship and we decided not to get married, so I became a single mother. We got back together when Lindsay was 4 years old. It was a poor relationship decision and I likely felt obligated to marry the father of my child and try to make it work, but it did not and we are far better off divorced. We actually had another child together when I was 28 and then we separated and divorced about 10 years ago.
ML: As a pregnant teen and teen mom, did you face any obstacles or challenges? If so, what were they?
Tina: I was 18 and my parents were supportive but made it clear to me that I was on my own now and had to make it work. College? I wish. I graduated from high school but I had to get a job that provided health insurance and sufficient pay to support myself and my child and pay child care. I worked for a bank and went to college part-time at night 2 nights per week and cared for my family. I did not finish my degree because it just became too difficult to pay for college and juggle a family, full-time job, and school. In spite of the lack of degree, I have had much success professionally and took advantage of opportunities that came my way, so I really can't complain. I have to say that in looking back, I have been a parent my entire adult life and to be quite honest, I am looking forward to 3 years from now when Caitlyn is 18 and heads off to college; it will be the first time as an adult that I will truly be on my own and won't have minor children at home. It is a time most adults experienced in their early twenties that I never did because I had to be home taking care of my family. Relationships and dating is quite difficult, but it is for any single parent at any age.
ML: Did you fear your teens would become teen parents?
Tina: My daughter, Lindsay, was 16 when she became pregnant and actually gave birth at 17 to a son. She is pregnant again now, and is due in September, but is self-supporting and lives on her own.
I'm not sure if I believe it is a repetitive cycle. My mother was married and close to 30 when she had me, and although Lindsay got pregnant as a teen, I don't think it was because I did. My younger daughter, Caitlyn, is 15. Having seen the difficulties Lindsay has gone through, she has no plans of having children until she's much older. In fact, she only wants to adopt and does not want children of her own; she says there are so many children in the world that need a good home that she would rather adopt (after she accomplishes her goals in ice-skating and goes to college and establishes a career -- she is very focused and knows what she wants). In this case, I can see there is an impact possibly on both of my children.
I think me having been a teen mother and single mother likely influenced Lindsay in that she had seen me go through it, and so was not fearful of her ability to raise a child and provide for that child; however, I want to be clear that I do not advocate teen pregnancy in any way. I was not happy with the situation and was clear about it, but I was supportive of Lindsay and left the decision to her; after all, this was her life and her child and her course of action had to be her decision.
ML: MTV is premiering a new reality show on June 11th entitled "16 & Pregnant." The show follows 6 pregnant teens, showing the "real life" of a pregnant American teen. As a former teen mom, how do you feel about this show? Do you think it's a positive or negative concept?
Tina: I think it depends entirely on how it is portrayed during filming. If they truly show what the girls have to go through, then I think it's a good thing. I think teen pregnancy is a reality that we cannot ignore, it's nothing new, it's been around throughout history, and ignoring it will not make it go away. There is no "type" that becomes pregnant, it happens to teens from all family situations and backgrounds; it is a choice they are making to become pregnant. I just think you are seeing more single parents out there and more fathers who are not stepping up to care for and be responsible for their children.
It goes back to my comment about teens, male and female -- they are not prepared to be parents and not willing to make sacrifices as a result of their actions. Perhaps if teens could see what really happens beyond just having a cute baby, then they would think twice about using protection, which they should do anyway. I am very open in discussing sex with my children; whether they see it on MTV or in the halls at school, teens are going to be exposed to teen sex and teen pregnancy and they must be able to openly discuss it with their parents. Educating someone does not make them do something; it just gives them more tools to make an informed decision. We can't be with our teens 24/7, but we can communicate with them and prepare them for the tough decisions they will be faced with in life.