Too young to be a mom
I have a daughter that just turned 15 years old. She goes to school. She studies French, German, math, chemistry, and physics. She plays on a soccer team, studies piano, and gets extra sleep on the weekends. I cannot imagine my daughter as a teenage mother. My daughter is pretty responsible. She has her own room. She has food and medical care. She has the total support of two loving parents. But even with all the support and resources, I could not imagine her as a mom right now. But in Kampala, we have moms in our group that are 15 years old. And some of them are struggling. They do not have the education, resources or family support my daughter has. They do not have the room or medical care. And trying to come to copes with this reality of being a mother is hard. A few of our younger mothers are basically doing a bad job. They are neglecting their infants. They have spent the money we give them for food on clothes instead. And what can we do? If we had social workers or foster care systems we would actually call them. In one or two cases it has been serious neglect. What do you do when you know they are too young and too immature to be raising a child? Orphanages only accept children that have no parents. The leaders of the teen MOPS group need a great amount of wisdom. Tomorrow we are introducing reward charts. I used these to toilet train, my kids. We will use them to train our moms to feed their own children. If they sit down and breastfeed their babies they get a star on the chart. If they do it at least 3 times a day they will get a can of soda on Fridays. I know it seems patronizing but unfortunately, it has become necessary for some of our younger moms. We also need to stop giving them money to buy their own food. Now they will receive bags of food. This again is only necessary for the very young girls. And finally, we may need to send them back to their families. Basically, kick them out of the program if they continue to neglect their infants. Life with their abusive parents or grandparents was hard. Having the chance to learn a trade and escape poverty was wonderful. But at least at home infants will get fed by someone. If our very immature moms continue to neglect their baby’s the consequences can be extremely bad. And we cannot continue to support them if they neglect their babies. 100’s of women are on the streets praying for an opportunity to change their future, for themselves and their children. I cannot express the anxiety and sorrow I have felt in the past few days. These are babies left to raise babies. They want to play. They resent being moms. They are being immature. Not all our moms, just two or three. But what can we do? There is no foster care. There are no orphanages. This is the reality. And they can either accept this reality, and make the most of it, or return to their dysfunctional families. This would be tragic for these moms, but it may be all we can do to save the lives of these babies. I need people willing to pray for our leadership. We have compassion. We understand how difficult it is to be a young mother. But we also know how unsafe it is to neglect infants. One of the babies has been to the hospital twice for malnutrition. Malnutrition can lead to lifetime learning problems and brain damage. I feel very sad about this situation, but hopefully, we can turn this around.