What’s the truth about being a young parent? That’s the question YR's Adult ISH podcast team asks this week, and folks with direct experience answer.
Through perspectives from young adults raised by young parents, and conversations with young parents themselves, we are digging beyond the stereotypes that media like “16 and Pregnant” call to mind. Instead, Adult ISH is talking about what it’s like to parent as you continue the journey of growing up yourself.
If you are a young parent and looking for resources, we've collected some to get you started:
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Office of Child Care
(Special thanks to Neva French for helping with this list!)
Adult ISH is produced by YR Media and brought to you by PRX’s Radiotopia. Be sure to follow all our socials @yrAdultISH!
Nyge: Welcome to Adult ISH produced by YR Media and brought to you by Radiotopia from PRX. I'm your host, Nyge Turner. On this episode, we wanted to really dive into what it's like to be a young parent outside of what media like “16 and Pregnant,” Hallmark movies, and “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” might show. So we spoke to young parents and their kids to highlight the full and honest picture of this experience in hopes of providing some perspective that can help all of us learn and grow. For the first time, we wanted to have multiple generations of a family on the show to provide their different points of view on today's topic. So we spoke with Autumn Beaudoin and their parents, Rich and Casey.
Nyge: So could you introduce yourselves, your name, age, and if applicable, when you became a parent?
Casey: My name is Casey. I am 45 and I became a parent just before I was 18.
Rich: My name is Rich. I'm 44. I became a parent, early 17 year old?
Autumn: My name is Autumn. I am 27 and I have no children of my own.
Nyge: Nice to meet the family. Um, for the first question, can — can somebody please just explain the family story? I think let's, let's start with Casey.
Casey: Sure. It's kind of a big question. So, Rich and I met actually in high school. We were friends for a while. Then we started dating and then got pregnant between my junior and senior year. And we had Autumn in May of ‘95. And then we decided to get married in November of ‘95, that year after she was born. And I guess the rest is kind of history. That's how our family began.
Autumn: There's another member who's not here. She was born two years after me.
Nyge: Rich, do you remember what it felt like when you found out you were going to become a parent?
Rich: It was a shocker, of course, but not a terrible surprise. I felt like I needed to be very supportive of the whole situation and Casey and I felt an immediate responsibility to, like, “Oh, shit, I gotta figure this out.”
Nyge: Casey, what — what would be your, your thoughts on that?
Casey: Oh, I was very scared. (Nyge: Right) Terrified. I was confused. I didn't know what to do. I wasn't sure where to go for help or if I even was going to ask for help. Yeah, it was, it was very overwhelming time, full of lots of big, scary feelings.
Nyge: Did any of those things change or shift once Autumn was born?
Casey: Oh yeah. Actually it changed and shifted as soon as I decided what I was going to do. As soon as we decided that we were going to have Autumn and we were going to try to make a go of it, um, try to start our little family. Then it all shifted to be, you know — just for myself — I was, I was very excited. I was reading lots of books about pregnancy and infants and mostly just looking forward to having a baby and helping her to grow.
Nyge: How do you feel people perceived you as a younger mother, maybe as opposed to a young father?
Casey: I was actually — I was still going to school as I was growing my belly. (Nyge: Mm hmm.) So in terms of kids, I felt a little bit, I guess, like a freak show. You know, they point and stare and whisper behind my back, that sort of thing, and then be nice to my face. But I knew that there was, like, gossip and rumors. In terms of adults, I felt they saw me as still a kid, you know, not capable of making decisions, big decisions like this or caring for or being responsible for another human. I did not get a lot of support from my family at all. Richard's family was more supportive of us, but still it felt a little condescending.
Nyge: I'm sorry you had to go through that. Rich, what would be your, your perspective?
Rich: Yeah, there was definitely a stigma with the young parent. I think we had seen one or two of our classmates go through it and kind of just disappear off the face of the earth. Yeah, you definitely had that stigma there. I was a year behind Casey, so I jumped out of high school a year early. And it was hard to finish things up. I felt like there wasn't a whole lot of resources to help.
Nyge: That's the exact reason we wanted to do this episode. It's almost like it's a certain amount of advice that is allotted for young people. And if you go off of the typical course that's like set for, for young people, then you automatically don't get the same advice or you don't get the same resources. But you're still young, you're still growing, you're still adulting. Autumn, what was it like for you growing up with, with young parents?
Autumn: I think when I was, you know, a child, I really didn't know that my parents were young. They were my parents, just like everybody else's parents. That changed slightly going into my teenage years. I remember a moment, I think, where it really kind of clicked for me, where Mom and I were going out on like, you know, mother-daughter date night and we were at a Cold Stone and getting ice cream. And we were asked at the end if we were splitting the bill. And I think, like, that kind of hit me as like, “Wait, I guess we do kind of look close enough in age where we could just be friends.” And I was 12 or so and I think that was kind of like one of the first moments where I realized that my parents were younger than my friends’ parents. (Nyge: Right.) But I would say outside of that and then doing some growth myself and like figuring out how to, you know, how my parents being young might have impacted the fact — you know, some of the decisions that they were or weren't able to make, or resources that they weren't able to access, because of their age. When I was young, I think that, that was stuff that I needed to realize and work through as I got older. I would say that my parents being young, didn't actually feel like it was impacting me as it was happening.
Nyge: Right. What about as you, as you've gotten older and just in ways that they relate to you and things like that. Like how do you think that that's like played into things?
Autumn: I mean, it's not not played in. (laughs) I think as I got older and as we were talking about like the stigmas, or the rules that are prescribed, were more pushed on to me, I started to, you know, kind of internalize them as one does. I think, like, you know, there was a phase, I'd say, right about undergrad where I was trying to do a lot of sense-making of what having young parents had — like how having young parents had impacted me. And I internalized and kind of reacted to that as like: there weren't financial resources all the time. There wasn't, you know, a super tight bond to their parents, like my grandparents. And so I wanted to do some navigating through that in undergrad, but I think more recently what that has turned into with like, you know, conversations with my sister and my parents has been like this really deep and rich relationship where we've kind of started to grow together and we have a much better understanding of ourselves, but also each other, because of that shared experience.
Nyge: That's that's kind of what I was what I was wondering, too, is like, from the outside looking in, you would think that, okay, like they might be able to relate to you better or they might be able to — I don't know. What do you wish people knew about being a young parent?
Rich: I wish, you know, they present to — they present to a normal high schooler, like your life is going to play out like this: You're going to go from high school to college. You're going to get a good job and get cars and houses and work in this general format. But when you get pregnant at such a young age, that format is blown out of the water and it's just kind of like, “Fend for yourself.” I wish that there was somebody that would have pushed us to go right into college or to continue on with our education. It took me like four years to finish up my high school or to finish my graduating high school. I wish someone would have pushed us right into college at that time. It would have been easier for the rest of our lives, I think. Because we didn't go to college until we were in our thirties or whatever, after the fact. There was no time for our — there was nobody telling us to focus, to focus on ourselves a little bit. We focused 100% on the kids and surviving day-to-day.
Casey: I would want young people who find themselves in that situation to know that it's actually not bad. It's not a bad thing, that it's okay. Really, there's no wrong way to have a family. And it actually is the best thing that happened to me. It worked out really well for me in my life. My kids are my whole, my whole heart, my whole life. So I would want them to know that even if they're in a situation where they're, they're not supported, they don't have a lot of familial support, that there are people and programs out there that can help them. And it doesn't have to be — I mean, it's going to be hard. It's hard no matter what. No matter when you have kids, it's hard. But it doesn't have to, you don't have to carry the extra weight of whatever, you know, society or other people are throwing on to you about being a young, young parent. Does that make sense?
Nyge: It makes a ton of sense. If you could go back and tell yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Rich: I guess take time for yourself and challenge yourself more. Challenge what your limits are, what you can and can't do. Like, 15 years later or 10 years later, going back to school ourselves, we figured out that, yeah, we can work full time and go back to school, with the support of everybody involved here in front of me. But we were able to go back to school with a full-time job and full-time hours, plus part-time jobs and able to fit it in and get it done. It's not impossible.
Casey: When the kids are little and babies, it, it really is hard to do anything. But once they get a little bit older and are able to communicate and, you know, eat and sleep, it becomes a little bit easier for parents to be able to do other things. It really is fairly all-consuming when, when kids are babies. So there's - there is that. A piece of advice that I would give my younger self? Uh, that's a great question. I haven't really thought about it in that way before. I really and truly and honestly believe that I — I did the very best I could at every instance. You know, I gave what I had at any particular time. I guess, I guess a piece of advice that I would give myself is to not be so hard on myself.
Nyge: I love that. I love that point. How have both of you balanced your aspirations in life while being a parent?
Rich: Without teamwork, it was probably impossible. Each other caring for the kids when the others were doing whatever needed to get done. Casey's a good teammate.
Casey: Thanks, you’re a good teammate too. (Nyge laughs) In terms of my own aspirations, I guess when I became a parent, my perspective changed. My aspiration at that point was to be the best parent that I could. I came from a real crappy childhood and family history. And I knew that I did not want my kids to have to go through that. And I wanted to be a really good mom. So when the kids were little, that, that kind of was my aspiration. And that did a little bit come back to bite me when they got bigger, because then I didn't really have any aspirations for myself, when they, you know, grew their wings and started to fly. I guess my challenge has been trying to learn what it is that I want and what are maybe some of my aspirations other than providing a good family life for the kids. But I'm getting there, definitely working on it and, and making moves.
Autumn: Not to mention, I then became a teenager. Sorry about that. (Nyge laughs)
Casey: That does happen.
Nyge: For you, Autumn, how has seeing your parents balance these things influenced you?
Autumn: Oh. (laughs) I mean, probably quite a bit. Um, I think Dad alluded to it earlier, but like Mom now has a master's degree and Dad is like a nurse, an emergency room nurse and also a firefighter. And like, I don't know, they're — and they have their own passions, too. Like, you know, they are Ironmen and they have a community in Maine that they found. And I, you know, I look to them now, and like I know that they had me when they were 17. And it's, it's kind of like mostly the feeling is like pride and I'm so impressed. I mean, I was there right when you all were working your asses off to get to this point. And I know that that felt like, in those moments to like go, you know, at night to the school — to like mom’s undergrad classes and like sit in the lobby and that didn't feel like the best thing as in, like for me in that moment. But looking back, obviously — obviously that's exactly what needed to happen. And I'm really, really glad that it did. And that Mom and — Mom and Dad were able to balance that and figure out how to make that happen for themselves. And I think that that example definitely has — you know, it's a, it's a really great example. I would say, like, I can't speak for my sister, but I feel like she would, she would agree with me in saying that that example of Mom and Dad doing their best to like balance, and learn over time how to balance themselves, and, you know, the responsibility of raising children, has influenced us to put a great deal of emphasis on self-growth. And like, to center our own needs and articulating those needs, and working towards those, those desires and wants. They've just, they’ve set a really great example that I feel empowered to go and act for myself.
Nyge: Man, I think I think that's going to be so powerful for people, especially, you know, young parents listening to, to hear you say that, too. Just because that's, I think, a question a lot of people have in their minds is how, yeah, how their children would feel about it. Is there anything else that any of you would like to add or anything that we can plug?
Autumn: I mean, I like to plug my parents. (Nyge laughs)
Casey: I appreciate this opportunity, Nyge, and thank you for having us and listening to our story.
Nyge: We want to thank the Beaudoin family once again for participating in today's episode. We really appreciate you. This episode was a scary one for me. It's something I really don't have any experience with. So I came in so eager to learn, and I definitely did. Rich, Casey and Autumn taught me so much about the sacrifices that you need to make, both for your family and for yourself if you do become a young parent. You and your children will appreciate it in the long run. But don't take it from me. Take it from my friend, Ahnesti Robinson.
Ahnesti: To me personally, having younger parents is everything. Like, while I do understand that there's pros and cons to having younger vers older parents, in my experience, I have just really enjoyed having younger parents that I can relate to, being able to have parents who I know want the best for me but are still relatable, are still easy to talk to, whose presence I truly enjoy being around. I don't take that for granted. And they're not coming from a judgmental place. They truly understand what I'm going through. They've been there not too long ago.
And even just growing up, having younger parents who would take me and my friends to concerts, who would take us out, who, you know, who didn't judge me for the different stages of things I went through. Again, something that I just super value, especially as I grow up and I feel like it's been a real blessing. And I know that sometimes, you know, in the media or people's point of view, having younger parents like, you know, growing up with them, you know, sometimes people don't view that as a good thing. But for me personally, being able to have grown with my parents and to just really see them as real down-to-earth people, again, I just — I appreciate it so much and I value our relationship so much and I'm just so grateful for them.
Nyge: You can find more information and resources about young parenthood on our website at adultishpodcast.com.
Adult ISH is produced by YR Media, a national network of young journalists and artists creating content for this generation.
Our show is produced by Georgia Wright, Dominique French and me, your boy, Nyge Turner. Our executive producer is Rebecca Martin, and YR's director of podcasting is Ray Archie.
Original music for this episode created by these young musicians at YR:
Christian Romo, Anders Knutstad, and Jacob Armenta. Music direction by Oliver “Kuya” Rodriguez and Maya Drexler.
Art for this episode created by Kyana Early, a young artist at YR. Art direction from Brigido Bautista and Marjerrie Masicat. Creative direction by Pedro Vega, Jr.
Special thanks to Eli Arbreton.
We are also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX, an independent listener-supported collective of some of the most amazing shows in all of podcasting. Find them at Radiotopia.fm. And if you haven’t reviewed our show on Apple podcasts, please be sure to do so. Five stars is much appreciated.
You can follow us on all the socials @yradultish and on that note, we will see you next week for the final episode of the season. Thank you so much for taking this ride with us.