Q. I have just finished reading a copy of your 1981 article on a teen-age girl and sex. I wish that you had written it a year before you did and that I had read it and listened.
I was 15 in 1980. I decided to go ahead and have sex with my 18-year-old boyfriend. Two months later, I was pregnant. I am against abortion in most situations and refused my parents' plea to abort. Our families were economically secure and we agreed on marriage.
We were married in the summer of '80. I was 16 years old and 4 months pregnant by then. I am now trying to juggle a 2-year-old girl, my so-called college education and a 9-5 working husband.
In some ways I am, and have to be, more mature than other girls my age. On the other hand I am so naive.
I feel I have missed something. I have been pulled away from the regular happenings of an 18-year-old. I find myself preparing dinner parties for groups of eccentric old business associates of my husband. I find myself using my calculus to figure out our family budget.
I often suffer from emotional and stress "breakdowns" and need to talk to someone or have someone take care of the baby so that I can be alone. I must stay within an 8-mile radius of my mother's home.
My husband's lifelong dream of being a doctor has been squelched. He would, normally, be spending Friday and Saturday nights with his buddies. Now he must stay home with a complaining wife and an energetic 2-year-old. It is a blessing that we still love each other and are very devoted. Otherwise things could not go on as is.
I was always the strong one and the one who could handle anything. God help the girls who must make the choice and guide them toward the wisdom that I had to acquire the hard way.
A. You're obviously an interesting, responsible, daring person. But did you know you belong to one of the world's biggest organizations? It's the Cudda, Shudda, Wudda Club.
I Could Have Done Better
I Should Have Done Better
I Would Do Better Today
The first two are worth thinking about, but only if they help you do better next time. All the wishing in the world won't make you a virgin again and it surely won't make parenthood go away. If that was what you wanted, you would have chosen abortion or adoption.
Instead, you made a tough, adult decision that you're standing by with grace, but the cuddas and shuddas and wuddas are getting in your way. Yes, you have problems and perhaps you have more than most people (but don't bet on it). Because it is the solving of our problems that is what living is all about, it does no good to gnaw at the past. Unless you can do something about a situation, you have to come to terms with it. This is when you say, "There are no yesterdays."
You say it about the birth control you didn't use at 15; the college you didn't attend at 18; the way your husband behaved at a party last week. The more ammunition you toss around, the more wounded you're likely to be, because others will shoot back with artillery of their own.
Just to decide that there are no yesterdays will be a relief. Usually, the things you can't talk about become the things you don't think about, but if you still do, you need to exorcise your ghosts.
Any mother of a young child needs to talk with her own kind, to help her mind expand and her worries fade. These talks may be with the women you meet in the park playground or over coffee in someone's kitchen. But the most dependable may be in the formal groups you join or start: the baby-sitting co-op, play school, nursery school. Special-interest classes at the Y and neighborhood churches all are made up of potential friends.
Your anxieties are probably exacerbated by your young and precipitous marriage, but there's more to it than that. All mothers go through weeks and even years of despair no matter how much they love their husbands and delight in their babies.
Despite all the riches that parenthood brings, it is the most demanding job you can have and the most damaging to the ego. When you stay at home with a child, there is no such thing as a perfect day.
You seldom wake up rested and when you do your child probably doesn't say "Good morning" or even "Yahoo." Instead she may start her day with tears and you may be lucky to get your lipstick on before noon. Your toddler isn't apt to tell you you're pretty, or say, "Great lunch!"
The best you can hope for is a hug when you don't expect it; a kiss unbidden, a flashing smile when you walk into a room. In the long run--and usually the short run--this is more than enough to make you feel loved, but the tears and the tantrums keep you from feeling like the successful, competent person you felt a few years ago . . . or will in a few years, when you combine your talents with the skills you may not even know you're learning now.
The more you realize how much your emotions are shared by other mothers--no matter their age, education or reasons for their marriage--the more your situation will fall into place. Many will be your friends for life, because you're sharing the same problems and helping each other solve them.
You could draw on these new friends to blend into your dinner parties, which will help you remember that people are people, whatever their ages. A one-day-a-week job (paid or not) also may help. Although your mother has been your mentor, she is not enough. You have been reared to be an independent person; it's time to get back on the track.
If you don't, your resentment will probably grow and it will show itself in anger, directed not at your parents, your child, or yourself but at your husband, which could sour your sound, if hasty, marriage. That's why you and your husband also might profit from short-term family therapy, so you can get on with the business of growing up.
You got off to a tough start, but you handled it with toughness. Now it's time to build on that strength.
Questions may be sent to Parents' Almanac, Style Plus, The Washington Post.