2016 has been an interesting year for young mums.
In May there was the high profile campaign; Power to the Bump. Laura and Sophie did some great work with the Young Women’s Trust, doing media interviews and such to highlight the issues for young mums. It’s great that this campaign was founded on strong research highlighting the discrimination young mums face, and was then made real by young mums talking about their own experiences. We need both education providers and employers to support young mums to ensure that they are not adding addition barriers or stress to young mums at a time when they need the most support!
In June Public Health England and LGA published a framework for supporting young parents – there was some good practice highlighted but still the pathways didn’t quite show a full understanding for young parents’ journeys and contexts. The responsibility to provide flexible support to young mums in education is also left to each individual LA, risking LAs being able to provide support that meets *their* needs, rather than the young parents.
In November Teen Mom UK aired and while the reaction was mixed there was a good deal of positive support for the girls and overall the experience for them seems to have been positive. The show highlighting the complicated relationships young mums often have to negotiate alongside being a mum but it was clear throughout that being a good mum was always the primary focus.
A glimmer of hope in a depressing year of politics has been seeing Angela Rayner‘s rise to Shadow Secretary for Education. She was a teen mum at 16 with no qualifications yet she credits the support she had a young mum and is fighting against cuts to such support. She’s also not afraid of being herself and saying it how it is. In November, former teen Mum, Teresa Pearce MP, also wrote about the crisis in social care and the importance of investing in people, as she was supported as a young mum. Notice any theme here?
In other news there was some great positive publicity for the Young Motherhood Project this year with articles on Buzzfeed and huffington post, Maddy wrote an actual book (which is a great resource for young mums and anyone who might ever meet a young mum!) and I was asked to talk on the radio 4 show ‘The Pregnant Teen Vanishes‘ where, instead of getting into why the rate has decreased (meh), I talked about the impact of stigma on how young mums feel about themselves and how we should value young mums more!
Young Women’s Trust released a report on young women who are economical inactive. In total, 274,000 women age 18-24 are ‘economically inactive’ – 61% of these are caring for family. This term is a truly unrepresentative way to describe young mums caring for their children and potentially others too! While there is more to do in understanding opportunities to develop careers around families, we first we need to really value the job young mums are doing of bringing up their children. They are not ‘inactive’ and they are probably doing the most important job they will ever be doing! And yet by marginalising young mums at this time we risk de-valuing it and therefore not providing the support that anyone needs when caring for another human being. Having just finished reading ‘liberating motherhood’ by Vanessa Olorenshaw I realise we need to stop apologising for caring for our children! All mums should be supported in their choices but often it’s even harder for young mums to say this because we are made to feel that we don’t deserve to have that voice or to have any demands of society. It makes me feel uncomfortable just suggesting this! But we should be demanding a society that cares for those who are caring for others. It goes against all my instincts for independence but who really is independent? So often someone is caring for someone else to allow you believe you are independent. And that’s ok. We just need to acknowledge it and value it! I write this as my brother sleeps upstairs on a break from a locked hospital where he needs two people to just take him to the computer room. Yet here he is, perfectly happy and relaxed, for the best part of 2 weeks while I take a ‘break from work’. It’s taken me 20 years to get to the position I’ve always wanted at work and I love it. Yet I still suspect I could be of more value somewhere else! This requires a change, not only in how I think, but how society thinks and supports people.
Liberating caring is all about young mothers not having to apologise any more! We should be proud of what we are doing, but we also need to demand that we are cared for too, because that’s the kinda society we should want to live in! Here’s to 2017 – a long way to go but our voices are getting louder! And that is only ever a good thing!!