In 2017 a whole load of young mums did some amazing things, and some amazing organisation and allies helped to promote their voices:
In March, Young Women’s Trust published research they carried out with mothers aged under 25 to find out what was important to them, and what they thought about work, children and employment support. They found that one in four young mothers in the UK has experienced discrimination when their employer found out they were pregnant. They also found that one in five young mums feels lonely all of the time.
In April, I was invited to speak about teenage motherhood at a conference in Tours (yep, France!) on Mother Figures and Representations of Motherhood: Contemporary Perspectives. I highlighted the research and voices of young mothers that often get ignored, summed up by the author of the study on the effectiveness of the teenage pregnancy strategy, who in the Guardian concluded with pride that getting pregnant used to be a mark of status to some young women but “now it’s considered totally uncool” 🤦🏻♀️ Was great to also get to know Professor Ros Edwards (also former teen mum!) and hear more about her research with Val too!
In April I also attended Little Lullaby’s event on “Working with Young Parents: Sharing the Learning seminar” There was a great session ran by young parents and we made some fab new contacts!
In May, Jendella’s book, Young Motherhood, was published, showcasing the stories of many great young mothers. Read this fab interview with Jendella by ‘forever teen mum’ Nina Packebush.
Nicky Brennan also wrote a piece for the guardian about being a young mum. She had her first child at 16, and works for a domestic violence charity specialising in helping young women – Despite a number of barriers she has now been selected as a labour candidate and I can’t think of anyone better to represent those who struggle to have their voices heard.
Sophie, Laura and I also met up with Joeli from Pregnant Then Screwed – an amazing campaign tacking maternity discrimination – and Helen from the Guilty Mothers Club. Together we wanted to do more for young mums who may face specific discrimination.
Young Mums Collective was born and Helen wrote a amazing blog on discrimination while studying. We had a young mums chat to discuss the various issues and the type of support needed.
I also met up with the lovely Kyla Ellis, former teen mum and senior lecturer at Brighton University, who also has written some brilliant things about teenage motherhood and stigma
In July, Angela Rayner talked more about her experience of being a teen mum and shared the news that she would be a grandma at 37!
“When I was pregnant at 16 I felt ashamed, I felt embarrassed. Growing up I was always made to feel I wasn’t good enough. I was called a scrubber. People said: ‘That’s it, she’s going to have loads of kids with different dads and be in a council house all her life and amount to nothing.’
Jendella and Emily Morris were on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour talking about young mums. Emily’s book ‘My Shitty Twenties‘ was also published and I was lucky enough to attend a reading at the Big Green Bookshop with fellow young mum Hayley!
Action for Children published a report on young parenthood which acknowledged that “Young mothers often have to face up to negative social attitudes about young parenthood, which can affect both their relationships and their engagement with support services”
I also met up with Dr Sue Black who is aiming to reach 500 mums under 25 through her #techmums course. Sue left home and school at 16, married at 20 and had 3 children by the age of 23. A single parent at 25 she went to university, gained a degree in computing then a PhD in software engineering. We got a toilet selfie and I acted like a total fan girl!
I randomly tweeted about the fact that young mums under 25 will receive £780 a year less under universal credit and it got 449 retweets! So we wrote about it a bit more and even got some people to sign a petition! The impact on young families was finally picked up in CPAG’s report
In November, we had another Young Mums Chat on young motherhood and Mental Health, ahead of the Mental Health Summit in Blackpool. Lots of young mums’ voices were heard at the event including the brilliant Stacey Solomon who became a mum at 17!
Young Women’s Trust also published more research into young women out of work and the barriers for those with caring responsibilities who are all too often written off.
Clearly writing young mums off is the last thing we should do and 2017 has been proof of that! There have also been loads of other positive stories about young mums this year:
- Katriona O’Sullivan, Trinity College lecturer
- Heather O’Neill, my fave ever author
- Naomi Thompson, lecturer at Goldsmiths
- Karon Monaghan QC
I’ll end with this lovely interview with Kay Mellor
“The morning after we told my mum I was pregnant, she said: “You’ve ruined your life. That’s it now, you’re a mother …” I remember her saying: “You were so clever …” I felt terrible, as if I’d let her down. At the same time, she was doing me a boiled egg and saying: “You’ve got to eat right, now you’re pregnant.” She was torn. She wanted the best for me. I promised I’d go back into education when my children went to school.”
Kay Mellor’s new series, Girlfriends, begins on ITV at 9pm on 3 January.
Ok, I lied, I’ll actually end with this amazing picture of this lucky baby boy and his family of matriarchs (4 generations of grandmothers aged 37, 55, 76, 102) :
Happy New Year!
For previous annual reviews see: