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Teen Mom: Helping or Harming

Updated on August 20, 2011

When I heard that MTV was going to have a show with teenage moms living out their lives for the world to see, I didn't know what to think. Were they going to actually show what these girls really went through or were they going to sugarcoat it? I was intrigued, so I watched. It actually all began with the show 16 and Pregnant, and the outcome was this: Not only did they keep it real, but I think they showed how all these different everyday normal girls had their lives change all because of an unplanned pregnancy. Every girl on the show was completely different from the other and all of them had their own obstacles to overcome when they got pregnant and after they gave birth to their children. Nothing about the show was sugarcoated and there was nothing glamorous about what they were going through. They were going through what most people go through after they have children no matter what age even though most people act like as long as your married and at least in your twenties everything will be so much better and that's not necessarily true.

My favorite teen mom out of all of them is Maci Bookout from Chattanooga, Tenn. She was engaged to her then-boyfriend, Ryan, and later had their son, Bentley Cadence Edwards. She was described as popular, athletic and successful in high school. Even when she was pregnant everything seemed to still be going great for her--sort of. I noticed that her boyfriend Ryan wasn't that bright almost immediately. He is handsome with his chiseled face and dark features, but he didn't seem to have any communication skills. A part of me thought that maybe it was editing and they just weren't showing him in his best light, but after Bentley was born and we got to see even more of him, I honestly couldn't understand Maci's attraction to someone as dull as him. You can tell that Maci is bright and she is very articulate and has one of the most upbeat personalities of all the girls. She is the one who you'd most like to chill with and probably be your own friend in real life. In fact, on the show, you can tell that she and her friends truly love and care for one another since some of their conversations were shown on the show. As time went on, not only did Ryan exhibit signs that he was five cans short of a six pack, but he didn't seem to care that much about Maci's feelings or Bentley's. Anytime you saw Bentley at his parents' house it was his parents taking care of Bentley. You can barely even understand anything Ryan says he mumbles so often and he sits there with these blank looks on his face as if he never knows what's going on. Ever. Before the first season was over Maci had ended it with Ryan and I was glad for her. She seemed to somewhat shut down when she would try and express herself to Ryan and I hated that and I never understood why she reacted that way to him, but I was glad when they ended it because he wasn't doing anything but adding negativity to her and Bentley's life while they were together. Some people co-parent better when they're not together and in this situation I agree. On the other hand, I was surprised when so-called psychiatrist Dr. Drew was trying to recommend that these two get back together. I couldn't believe a psychiatrist would actually recommend something like that and I wondered if he was watching the same show as I was! This just goes to show that psychologists and psychiatrists definitely do NOT have all the answers. After seeing the way that Ryan would treat Maci and his own child, I don't see how Maci being with Ryan would be a benefit to Bentley at all. Ryan is just a shiftless lazy person that couldn't seem to manage to get up and give his own child a bottle during the night (that's what was shown and that's what I'm going by and I have no problem with that in this instance). As a person that grew up in a household with parents resembling Ryan and Maci's behaviors, I am living proof that you shouldn't subject your children to that kind of behavior. Not only does it scar them, but that would be reducing Maci's own self worth to nothing. Why should she settle with someone like Ryan when she doesn't have to just because she had a child by him? If he's not going to be good to her and he's not going to pull his own weight in raising the baby they have together, then what's the point?

During the second season Ryan began showing his true colors. All over again and he was worse than ever. He couldn't follow simple instructions to not give Bentley his pacifier because Maci was trying to wean him off of it. It was reported that he would go on his twitter and tweet about the face time he was getting on the show that evening and telling people to tune in and watch him. By the end of the season he was fighting for more time with Bentley, not because he wanted to be in his son's life more, but because it would reduce his child support payments. And now in this third season he seems even more adamant in making Maci's life hell by petitioning for joint custody--and you can tell it's all motivated for more face time on MTV and to get his payments down even further. If the cameras weren't there filming I have no doubt he wouldn't be in Bentley's life at all. It's his parents that would've been trying to get in touch with Maci to see their grandson, not Ryan. If you watch the show you can see it in his demeanor and I know plenty of other guys like him in real life. I suppose that MTV had to cut Ryan a check just as well as the others participating in the show and now he seems to have obtained a rather grimey attorney that has his guns out for Maci. This is one girl that I truly feel for. I know she chose this guy to have a child with and it's nobody's fault but hers, but it doesn't stop me from feeling sympathy for her in this situation. I hope just hope Ryan gets the crap he deserves for putting her through all of this because you can see that she truly does it on her own and she's dedicated to her child in every way. But in her words, I really do hope that the only thing Bentley gets from his dad are his looks, he can keep all his personality traits.

My other favorite is Catelynn Lowell who decided that it would be best to give her daughter up for adoption, along with her boyfriend, Tyler, at the time. It was so painful for these two and I felt for them and even cried along with them. They knew their situations weren't ideal and they also knew that bringing their baby into their situation with Catelynn's mom and Catelynn's stepdad (who is Tyler's biological dad) would have been disastrous. Not only is Butch, Catelynn's mother's husband, constantly in and out of jail, but he was not there for his own child when Tyler was growing up. One thing I will never understand is the two most messed up individuals on the show, Catelynn's mom and stepdad, were the ones that gave the two teens the hardest time about their decision. I think that if those two were halfway decent individuals they wouldn't have given up their daughter, honestly. I didn't know whether to laugh at this statement or cry for Tyler when his father berated him for not keeping his daughter and went on to say, "I was disappointed because you didn't man up. My son wasn't the half the cowboy I thought he was..." If that's not the exact quote, it's close enough. That came from a man who wasn't even there for his own son as he should have been! With those two's behavior and their appearance (Catelynn's parents) my first thought was they were recovering crack or meth addicts. I wasn't sure what their deal was. I'm not saying Catelynn was/is the perfect daughter, but the way that her mother would go off on her with such anger you could tell that it was more because she gave up Carly for adoption (after seeing her mother, could you blame them?). Not only was she going through the feeling of loss (and possibly regret) of giving her daughter to another family for all of their own good, but she had to deal with many family issues during that time. Many tears were shed by both she and Tyler and I honestly felt for them. I've seen people make hurtful comments like she took the easy way out, but in no way do I think that she did. That was a difficult decision, giving your child to another family to raise because you felt that you weren't adequate to do the job; how could making a decision like that be easy?

Later on they seemed to be in a good place until Tyler found out a secret that Catelynn had been keeping from him. Okay, this is where it looks like the producers of the show might've stepped in to give their situation/relationship more drama on the show. They made a huge deal out of Catelynn with some ex-boyfriend she had in when she lived in Florida and that she had sex with him and had Tyler so upset and seemingly jealous and hurt that he wanted to go through her phone bills. Honestly, I believe a lot of the parts dealing with Catelynn and Tyler right now are staged just to keep them on the show. It's just the network wanting to drum up drama to keep people interested in them so they keep watching. I don't think they've broken up or anything, but I also don't believe there's as much drama surrounding them now as it appears on the show. All in all, they look like they're in a good place as of now and I'm happy for them.

The third mom on the show would be Amber Portwood. She was whining as soon as the show aired. She and her boyfriend seem like the best dull candidates to film next to Ryan. Gary is very much overweight and can't seem to find any clothes that can fit him--everything in his wardrobe seems to be too tight and his shirts are always riding up showing his gut and he's usually pulling at his pants. This is not an attractive man in the least. Amber is spoiled, or she's really really stupid. After moving out of wherever she was living, she moved in with Gary and suddenly expected him to take care of her as if he was one of her parents. Most of the time when she was screaming about what she wanted I wondered what world of disillusion was living in apart from the rest of us, but Gary seemed like a trifling mess as well. He got her what appeared to be a bubble gum machine type engagement ring while she was still pregnant and the naive girl was happy when she saw it, I was hoping she was happy for the simple fact that she was getting proposed to and it had nothing to do with what he put on her finger. He seemed selfish and lazy despite having a job, but she seemed the same way. It should've been a match made in heaven, right? Wrong! They were arguing from the first episode it seems.

By the time their daughter Leah was born Amber was trying to get her GED and her fights with Gary had escalated. I always thought that Gary was a registered nurse when the show started, but by the time Leah was born he was unemployed and it was Amber who was looking for work and finally found a job at a salon. Doing what? I'm not sure. The interview she had with the woman at the salon seemed fake, but she reportedly got the job (if she did, I'm pretty sure the salon owner did it just so her business could get publicity because that did not seem like an interview where someone would get hired for a position). Later, things took a tumultuous turn between Amber and Gary and the courts decided to step in and give Gary custody of their daughter. We'll just have to see what's next for these people as the drama unfolds (and hopefully Amber will finally buy a bed frame mattress instead of sleeping on the blow up bed, at least that's what it looks like, on the floor of her room).

The last mother is Farrah Abraham. Not only did this girl seem to have absolutely no clue about life, but she was extremely disrespectful to her parents who were actually doing more than enough to help her with her daughter, Sophia. She tried dating while she was visibly pregnant with her daughter, and seemed more apt to going out and trying to find a new boyfriend than concentrating on the upcoming birth of her child. With a lot of the antics she pulled I couldn't believe what I was seeing and I couldn't blame her family for not wanting to be around her after she had Sophia. When they got back for the reunion it seemed as though Dr. Drew was trying to blame Farrah's mother for everything instead of Farrah being help accountable for her own actions. There were also the charges brought up on Farrah's mother, Debra Danielson, when Farrah called 911 because her mother slapped her. I know that in this day and age people don't believe it's okay to physically discipline kids (probably the reason why most of them are ending up the way that they are), but I think strangers wanted to beat the snot out of this girl for the way she was behaving towards people that were doing everything in their power to help them. So many girls don't have it as good as she had it, in a the sense that her parents were there always looking out for Sophia and she would talk back to them when all they would ask is that she respect their house and her parental duties and come in from time spent with her friends at a decent hour. Instead of complying this ungrateful girl responds with, "Yes, I'm a mom, but I'm a teenager, too!!" Honey, you relinquished the rights to your childhood/teenage years when you had sex without a condom, got pregnant at 16 and had your daughter, but none of that seemed to register with this girl at all.

Before Sophia was born, apparently her father, Derek Underwood, died in some kind of accident. I don't even remember it being mentioned during the show 16 and Pregnant when they were showing the episodes. In fact, Debra was adamant about keeping both Farrah and Sophia away from him. I don't know when they found out about his death, but I don't remember any of them having any kind of reaction to it when they aired the show. Then in later episodes of Teen Mom all you saw was Farrah crying over the loss of Derek. Maybe I missed it, but this angered me the most because it feels as if they're somehow using his death as fodder for her segment of the show; I'm not even any relation to the deceased, but it's upsetting to see when things like this happen. If her tears over him are sincere, then so be it and I apologize, but if she's putting on some kind of front for the cameras it's not right at all. At first all I heard her talking about was getting money for Sophia from social security or something like that but she needed his family's cooperation to do it, but they were unwilling (maybe it's because of the way she and her mother treated him when he was still alive). They eventually came around, though, one by one it seems.

I actually think MTV did a good job with bringing this issue to light. Whether teen pregnancy is up or down after this show has aired, I would hope it's down even though they made a whole new season with more young mothers. I don't feel as though the other mothers have the panache of the first group. Even if I didn't necessarily like the mothers themselves, their stories are learning experiences for anyone who wants children some day. We saw how Farrah struggled tooth and nail on her own (at least she seemed to be trying her hardest) and the way that Catelynn overcame adversity in her own situation, any girl with any common sense that saw this program wouldn't want to have kids so young and would think long and hard about becoming a mother in the future as well, not to mention she would think more than twice about choosing the father her child. People don't seem to understand that the person they choose to have children with are tethered to them for life; you've carried their DNA and given birth to a part of both of you, so it's impossible to be rid of them even when they're making your life miserable. If any teen finds being a mom appealing after seeing what these teenagers have gone through, then they should seek counseling. Even after collecting money from the network and any appearances it's not just them that they have to take care of, they have to think of their child as well, so more than likely if they're trying to be responsible parents that money won't be blown on shopping sprees and first class travel. Parenting is full time job and the benefit is seeing your child grown up happy and healthy. If that's not payment enough, maybe you shouldn't embark on the journey.


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