A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Student Life

“Just keep doing the best you can do, putting your child first in everything.”

Everyone assumes they understand the difficulties of being a teen parent, but Monique Mugg, a teen mother and former West Ottawa student, knows it’s more than what meets the eye.

 Then 16-year-old Jr. Monique Zandstra was in band and collected baseball cards. She was featured in the yearbook because of how many cards she collected. Her gym class, though, is the class she remembers most in high school. It was where she met the father of her child. He was a year older than her, and they fell for each other right away.

   Unlike most stereotypes, once Mugg found out she would be a mother she still had support. The father postponed going to college and worked tirelessly to help provide for their son. Mugg’s parents also helped by allowing her to live at home and having insurance that covered her medical bills.

   It was far from easy for her, though. Many people assume it’s hard to be a teen parent but they don’t understand the real life implications. She wanted him to have the best life, and she made it happen through many sacrifices. She set her dreams aside so he could have a devoted mother and a happy life. “I worked two jobs while in high school and until the day before I had Dalton. I worked jobs, but never had a career,” Mugg said. Not only did she have two jobs, but she completed school work and eventually attended college.

  Mugg remembers that while other students stared occasionally, the teachers caused problems for her in school. “We had 90 minute classes and a couple of my teachers would not allow me to go to the bathroom during class, which resulted in me getting bladder infections. My own doctor recommended walking out of class when the teachers said I could not leave class to use the bathroom. So that is what I did.” She realized that she needed to stand up for herself.

  A lot of being a teen parent is about putting in the work; Mugg was no stranger to the idea. After nine months of school, working, and planning for the baby, the day came. She chose a natural birth which brought unimaginable pain. The pain would be short compared to the years she would have to laugh and smile with him.

  Her daughter, Sr. Ryleigh Hyma, has grown up hearing Mugg say she was the only one he would have to count on. Mugg took that seriously. “I was a mature teen and was ready to have a child. I took all responsibility for Dalton.”  She brought him to daycare at her school every day, went to school every day, and stayed awake with him every night. Eventually, Dalton became sick from being around so many children every day. Mugg worked harder and found other care options for him.

  Part of putting in the work meant that Mugg missed out on many school activities. Every parent loses freedoms when the constant responsibilities of having children consumes all of their time, but having constant responsibilities while your friends are having fun makes it harder. Mugg’s advice, “Enjoy being an adult and the freedom you have as you get older. Those freedoms will go away when you have kids! Being a teen mom didn’t ruin my life, but it definitely made it more complicated and I missed out on a lot of things.”

  Even though she missed out on a lot, Mugg knows she couldn’t imagine her life being any different. “I wouldn’t change the course of my life, as I am happy where I have ended up. It wasn’t easy, but the hard work pays off! He is now 22 and I am quite proud of him!”

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