“Baby Wipes” Terrence Howard proudly walked his 18-year-old daughter Aubrey Howard down the aisle. Shortly afterwards, Aubrey revealed to the world that she is expecting her first child via twitter. Call me a cynic, but this is not a good start to a young life. Motherhood and marriage in one year is a lot for a mature woman, let alone a girl who isn’t even out of her teens yet, because both require work and endless patience. Aubrey has not necessarily set herself up for failure, but she most certainly has chosen a difficult path, which could indeed end in serious consequences and a lot of pain.
Aubrey is attending college at Howard University, but according to The YBF, she is not particularly keen on people advising her to work.
“I can’t stand when people tell me or my husband I should be working. If we decide that I’m going to stay home and raise our children then that shouldn’t be up for discussion. I grew up with my mom in the house always there for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way for my children,” Aubrey explained on Twitter.
What Aubrey needs to understand is that people are attempting to advise her because she has already shown a stunning lack of good judgment. If she chose to get pregnant at eighteen, clearly she has no idea the responsibility she has set herself up for. The moment you become a mother, your main job is to sacrifice and support your children in whatever fashion they need. This will constantly conflict with her personal wants and needs. While her contemporaries are traveling, partying, learning, and generally exploring the world, Aubrey is going to be surrounded by dirty diapers, pacifiers, and baby food. This lack of freedom could potentially lead to feelings of resentment, no matter how much she loves her child. Young mothers are absolutely capable of being good parents, but they have to negotiate extra challenges that more mature and established women do not face. This is really important to note because motherhood is, without a doubt, the hardest job a woman will ever have in her life.
If this child was — shall we call it, a happy surprise — Aubrey has shown that she cannot even use birth control properly. The chances of getting pregnant using the pill or condoms and foam together are exceedingly small. Just because you get pregnant, you don’t need to tie yourself to a man and such marriages often end in divorce. When she is thirty, the girl that she is today will be almost unrecognizable to her. This is why making life decisions so young is a problem. Getting married because you got pregnant is compounding a problem, not solving it.
Aubrey is right that it is her decision to be a stay home mom, but such a decision would be a mistake. Before you lose your mind and lecture me about how women should have a choice, keep in mind that Aubrey has not finished college yet. Unless she plans to live the rest of her life on daddy’s money or dependent upon her spouse, not having a college degree will greatly impact her future earning potential, should she desire or have a need for gainful employment. Yes, staying home to cook, clean, and raise your kids is a legitimate choice, but it also comes with many consequences.
Relationships like these are extremely cemented in gender roles and for women; this means there is never a separation between work and leisure. It means being expected to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week because as the old adage says, “housework is never done.” It also introduces an uneven power dynamic into the relationship. Despite the fact that the public sphere is very much subsidized and maintained by the private sphere, work in the home is not counted and it most certainly is not valued. The work done in the home is extremely important; however, the one who actually earns the money, inevitably feels like they have the right to determine how the money is spent. It puts the woman into the position of having to ask for money. It further puts the family into a precarious position, especially in this economy when long periods of unemployment are becoming commonplace. Even assuming that she has a good partner who respects the work done in the home, what happens if he should die unexpectedly and the job of supporting the family suddenly falls on Aubrey? A car accident, a careless moment, or an act of God could irrevocably change one’s life. What will Aubrey do then?
There is also the issue of what happens in an abusive marriage. Without money to escape, the ability to leave is greatly hampered. It’s no accident that abusers constantly restrict a woman’s access to not only people but also money. I am not suggesting that Aubrey’s husband is abusive but pointing out that in this situation — her options would be limited — if she needed to leave. Many women continue to stay in abusive relationships because they lack the economic capitol to leave and realize that, upon leaving, they lack the ability to support their family.
Aubrey is right, choosing to stay home and parent is a valid choice but that does not mean that it’s always a good choice, particularly in this case. In women’s circles, there is much conversation about the importance of having the ability to choose, without any acknowledgement that being a woman does not suddenly make one infallible. People are going to make mistakes and some of them will have long ranging consequences. The importance of an informed decision is also visibly erased. If Aubrey chooses to stay home and raise her baby, I support that choice, but I hope that she has thought through all of the consequences of this decision. Life very rarely follows a neat path to the house, 2.5 kids, and white picket fence; it’s more often a winding journey with moments of joy and plenty of strife.