Fans of reality television might be surprised to learn that the rates of teen pregnancy in the U.S. are at historic lows, despite the number of shows on cable showcasing the difficulties of being a teenage mother. The trend was kicked off by the MTV’s popular “16 and Pregnant,” a show that turned school girls featured on it into minor celebrities, and the even-more-popular spin-off “Teen Moms,” which followed some of the same girls as they struggled to balance their babies and high school/college.
The latest on the scene is TLC’s “High School Moms” which will premier this Sunday. Featured on the first season will be Denver, Colorado’s Florence Crittenton High School, a magnet school that caters only to teen mothers or mothers-to-be. Overall, the show will be covering a similar ground trod by the ones that came before: mainly girls talking about failures of birth control, the challenges of dealing with unexpected pregnancies, and what being a young mother means to the hopes they had for their futures.
Considering this is the network that specializes in creepy oddities — “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” “19 Kids and Counting,” “My 600 lb. Life” and too many more — “High School Moms” is relatively straightforward. The tales are involving without being sensational.
“The school is almost a character itself,” according to Wendy Douglas, senior director in production at TLC and an executive producer of “High School Moms.” She hopes this show offers a broader perspective on the girls’ lives than the competition.
Douglas says that High School Moms will fit perfectly into TLC’s slate of human-interest and female-centered shows, calling the genre “real reality.” Although it is a little unnerving hearing the girls featured in the first season, who all fall between the ages of 14 and 18, called “characters,” Douglas is quick to reassure that the six-episode run that will showcase both setbacks and triumphs will be a long way from glamorization of teen parenthood.
“Their stories are so compelling. Sure, they are on TV, but they tell you being pregnant and being on TV is not an easy thing. They are dealing with hormones, problems with boyfriends, school, a lot of them have challenges at home. They do show it’s beautiful having a baby, but they show it is not glamorous. One character shows her stretch marks.”
Far from conforming to the stereotype of schools that cater to pregnant teens and mothers, Florence Crittenton offers its students a supportive and judgment-free environment. The school nurse is always happy to talk up the joys of her job, and quickly cuts off anyone inclined to cast aspersions on any member of the student body by revealing that she is Crittenton graduate herself.
Nurse Singleton first came to the school in 1993 and graduated in 1996. Her daughter, now 18, is nearing high school graduate herself and plans to major in nursing — just like her mom.