I remember the summers of early childhood with my mother. She would take me with her to visit friends and buy me sickly-sweet raspados con leche that I drank so quickly that I’d get a brain freeze. The sound of the Cure and Prince still bring back memories of watching her get ready for a night out. I was fascinated by her grown-up youthfulness, and I wondered what she did while she was gone for months a time.
I was raised by my grandparents, but born the daughter of a woman only sixteen years older than me. When I was three she left for school, and still lives in Phoenix, Arizona to this day. Our relationship is odd, often pushing the boundaries of maternity into something that more closely resembles sisterhood or friendship, but it is no less significant. The situation that has resulted in my existence has given me a different perspective on family, one that is valuable and shared by many that have been told to keep age gaps quiet.
My personal history has compelled me to discover the stories of families that were formed under similar circumstances to my mother’s. So often represented by statistics as teens and forgotten about once reaching adulthood, many women who had children at an early age have faced adversity because of decisions made during their adolescence. While our society is not built to make raising a child while still growing up themselves an easy task, many mothers have done it, and quite successfully in their own right.
Through conversations and image making, mothers and their children have allowed me to learn from their experiences to create a narrative that furthers our perception of family structures from what many currently understand it as. While many young mothers have faced social and economic hardships, they have also overcome adversity, and far surpassed the expectations of the stereotypical teen mom.
These photographs allow me to communicate a different side of a story that is not often heard. They interrogate assumptions and give a face to the numbers that young women are reduced to when becoming pregnant before it is considered acceptable. Finally, they allow me to better understand my own past and examine how being so close to my mother in age has affected as an individual, and who I am in relation to the rest of the world.
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