DEAR HARRIETTE: I totally put my foot in my mouth. I was talking about the horrible things that often happen to women who have babies in their teens. I know I sounded high and mighty because I don’t approve of teen mothers. I think it’s way too difficult to provide a healthy life for the baby. Still, I never have meant to insult anyone. It turns out that my co-worker had a child when she was 16. Now she is 40-something, and her life is great. Her first child is healthy and productive, as are the rest of her kids. She glared at me when I made my comment. What can I say to make amends with her? I did not mean to offend her, but I know I did. -- Loud Mouth
DEAR LOUD MOUTH: I was at a women’s conference a few years ago when something similar happened. There was someone on a panel talking about the perils of teen pregnancy and how horrible people’s lives usually are when they have children too young. The speaker went on and on, using statistics, to explain why having a baby when you are a teen is a horrible idea. When it came time for questions, a well-dressed, professional woman stood up and blasted the speaker. She said she was tired of listening to people bad-mouth her. Yes, she had a child at 15. No, it wasn’t ideal. But she has built a great life for herself, and so has her now-grown child. She cautioned people about passing judgment and said that we all have struggles, so we should be careful about how harshly we condemn others.
I never forgot that moment. Of course, it can be difficult and often financially debilitating for a teenager to have a child. But we should be mindful that plenty of them do, and those children and parents need support, just like the rest of us.
Go to your co-worker and apologize for expressing your thoughts. Tell her that you are learning from her the harshness of your own views. Assure her that you didn’t mean to offend and that you realize that teen pregnancy, like so many other topics, is multidimensional, and you are no expert on it. Ask for her forgiveness.