Gloria Malone doesn’t have a favorite Mother’s Day memory, but she does have a passionate cause: standing up for young mothers.
At 15, Gloria gave birth to her own daughter Leilani, who’s now 8 years old, so she was personally offended last year by an array of anti-teen pregnancy ads produced during Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month in May. Some of ads were a part of the infamous celebrity-endorsed Candies’ Foundation anti-teen pregnancy campaign, that featured taglines like, “You’re supposed to be changing the world, not diapers.” “It was just an attack on motherhood overall,” Gloria says, and she wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
Gloria and seven other young mothers connected with each other through social media to figure out what they can do to address the ads that they felt attacked young mothers. The group eventually created the #NoTeenShame social media movement last year to eradicate the stigma and shame against mothers who have children at a young age. Gloria says, this year, the group hopes to continue their work of speaking out against problematic ads while also providing tips on how others can support teen moms.
#TeamBeautiful spoke with the #NoTeenShame member about the movement’s recent efforts , raising her own daughter, Kevin Durant’s emotional speech to his mother that has us all in tears, and more.
HelloBeautiful:: What has been the #NoTeenShame group been doing this year to educate others on teen motherhood?
Gloria Malone: We started a Thunder Clap this year where you set a goal and have people sign on with their support on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr and pledge to uplift whatever tweet we have. We reached 141 supporters and it was great to see people all over the country signing on and understanding shame isn’t necessary when talking about sex, especially when talking about teenage families. We have a visual of five ways to be an ally to a teen parent. It got 315 notes on Tumblr alone.
HB: What are some of the ways to be fair in your language when talking about or talking to teen mothers?
GM: First, you have to ask yourself where did you get the knowledge of teenage parenting. I also think it’s important for people to realize that teenage pregnancy is also caused by no comprehensive sexual education. It’s caused by poverty, it’s caused by a lack of access to affordable birth control options or a lack of access to accurate medical information to how to find birth control. Even people who work within the social justice system tend to default to teenage pregnancy as bad.
HB: What do you think is the biggest misconception of teen mothers?
GM: There’s this really big perception that teenage parents are extra terrible. Your whole nine months of pregnancy, you’ve heard that you’re going to amount to nothing and your child’s gonna hate you and your life is over. A lot of people don’t even know that teen mothers have the highest rates of postpartum depression.
HB: What advice do you have for other young moms who deal with others trying to tell them how to raise their children?
GM: My advice would be to listen to your child. Listen to yourself. Acknowledging that people who are older may have useful information and deciding when to take that information and how to take that information. Often times, information is given in a very “I’m gonna tell you how to do this” way. People may say something to you and it may sound super sideways, but they could just be telling you your kid’s shoe fell off. You’re so used to always having to be turned on and on the defensive, but definitely listen to yourself.
HB: Kevin Durant spoke about his mom also being a young mother in his MVP speech. What were some of your thoughts on it as a young mom yourself?
GM: It was just super honest and really real. It helped me realize that the struggle I’m going through that I don’t want my daughter to see, she is going to see. It’s not necessary, but it’s a part of life. My daughter has seen me go from a junior in high school to a senior in college. I really think it shows how much you’re children are watching.
HB: Do you have a special Mother’s Day memory from your daughter or can you remember something special she did for you?
GM: She has a field trip coming up (to the Lincoln Center) and I haven’t been able to make any of her trips. It’s not really a great time for me to make it and I said that to her. This morning, she gets up and goes to her birthday money – she just had her birthday in April – and says, “I’m gonna use my birthday money and pay for you to go on my field trip.” She wants me there and she saw a way to take a situation in her own hands. The day before, I saw her money all over the place and I was like, “what is going on?” and she was like, “I don’t know what I want to buy you for Mother’s Day and I wanted to see how much money I had,” and I was like, “girl, put your money away” (laughs). That was really sweet.
HB: What’s the best part of you watching your daughter grow up?
GM: Being a young parent awards me an in-between space of being someone’s child and having your own child. I think it definitely helps me as a parent and it’s brought (my daughter and I) closer together. She being so smart on her own is great. It’s great that what I’m trying to say is reaching her. To see her becoming her own person is great.