“The Exception To The Rule”

I recently scored what I thought was a victory for the name of young parents everywhere. After having my daughter at the age of nineteen and halfway through university, I found out I would be graduating on time, with no less than a first class honours degree. I thought it was another step of progress; another step towards people realising that young mums don’t fit the stereotype they’ve diligently believed for all these years.

But apparently, I’m ‘the exception to the rule’. My achievement means nothing in the grand scheme of things, because I will always be a young mum, and young mums will always be incapable of achieving.

I don’t know what the ‘rule’ is, but I think it goes something like this – young woman, no matter how clever, ambitious and ‘normal’ (although in the majority of cases they must be uneducated and perceived as promiscuous) gets pregnant and must immediately conform to society’s idea of what a young mum is – a layabout with no intention of working, who claims benefits and spends it on alcohol and cigarettes, before having several more children with different fathers. The young woman must follow this formula to keep society happy. Society then criticises the woman for scrounging, for being a ‘slut’, for wanting kids for the free council house (excuse me while I wet myself laughing; they don’t hand out keys to a three-bed semi in your Bounty Pack, you know…).

When a young woman defies or breaks free of that cycle, as so very many of us have done and continue to do so, it’s too difficult for society to wrap its pretty little head around the idea that maybe, just maybe, they got things wrong. Each and every successful young mum is an ‘exception to the rule’.

It’s easy to read this and think nah, she’s just perceiving herself as being seen this way, but people have told me as much. It’s clear that they think I have broken some kind of ‘Young Mum Commandment’ in continuing with my education (FYI, we don’t have commandments. Or a club, or some kind of chat page where we rub our hands with glee at all the money we get and all the men we sleep with. Sorry to burst your bubbles).

The honest truth is that I’m not an exception to the rule, because there’s no rules in the first place. Young mums and young parents are exceeding expectations every day. Take the general perception that young mums can’t parent properly – their children are neglected, or the grandparents do all the work. My partner and I have lived away from our parents for the last two years; we raise our daughter alone – we are doing that every single day, and I know that we are far from alone in that.

When a young parent makes the decision to have another child, I consider that a victory for young parents too. It is a young person making the conscious decision to have the family they want, at the time they want, without bowing to these pressures put on us. To have one child young is considered careless, to have another at a young age is more often described with words that aren’t suitable for a post like this. But there’s nothing reckless or stupid about it – I have so much respect for the young parents out there who are confident and make the decision to expand their families, putting what is right for them ahead of what society thinks they should do.

The same goes for young parents who continue with their education. I know I’m biased, as I did that myself, but it took so much gritting my teeth and forcing myself through it when all I wanted to do was get out of a lecture and run to the nursery, pick up my five month old daughter and cuddle her, but I did it, and it is one of my proudest achievements, and is paying off now that I am working and bringing in money for her.

And for those who choose to leave education – that’s a victory too. It is young people, the young people society makes out to be so reckless and irresponsible as to get pregnant and have children young, making responsible decisions that work for their family. These are victories, each and every one, because we are young parents, not waiting around for life to throw our next opportunity at us, but going out and finding it ourselves, each in our own way.

And do you know what? Being a young person is tough. Being a parent is tough. We’re combining the two and dealing with a whole barrage of ‘tough’ – and if we stumble, we’re failing, exactly what everyone expects us to do. If we succeed, it means nothing – we’re not like those ‘other’ young mums. What they don’t realise is that these ‘other’ young mums don’t exist. They’re fictional caricatures.

The reality of being a young parent? Trying to write an essay while your toddler taps the + key incessantly to add unwanted symbols to your critical analysis of Ibsen and Ayckbourn. Juggling a baby and a toddler in the supermarket and trying to avoid the dirty looks all around you. Trying somehow to please everyone, when your friends want you to be ‘the old you’, and your baby needs ‘the new you’.

We do this all and more.

We aren’t exceptions to the fictional rule. We smash the rule each and every day. To voice your pride is taboo; you aren’t supposed to be proud of being a young parent. It’s supposed to be taboo; something you suffix with ‘ – but I stayed in education’, or ‘ – but the father and I are still together’, in order to convince people that you’re not one of those usual teenage mums – you’re an exception to that rule.

I think we’ve had just about enough of that. We should be standing up and saying no; actually, there is no rule. Each and every one of us isn’t ‘the good kind’ of young parent – we’re all young parents, and we’re all pretty damn excellent at what we do. It’s about time we stood up and took pride in what we’ve achieved – proving that anything other people can do, we can do it, have done it, and continue to do it every day, whilst simultaneously raising pretty awesome tiny human beings. That’s pretty exceptional, and makes me pretty damn proud to call myself a young parent.

July 2015

Maddy tweets at @maddyleigh1994

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You could offer me a million pounds and I will still choose young parenthood!

Hi! My name is Lettie and I am 21 years old. I am not your regular 21 year old. I am one of the luckiest 21 year olds as I get to be called Mummy by three beautiful children. Yes, I know the baby can’t talk but still!

I first became a mother to Zachary aged 18, back in 2012. Soon after came Henry in 2013, followed by Elsie in 2014. I am engaged to my children’s father and we are due to be married in August after 4.5 years together.

Recently life got a bit exciting. I saw an advert on twitter for a casting call looking for mums and mums to be aged 16-21. I thought why the hell not and applied for the TV show. I got a phone call later to fill in the application form and ask some questions.

I then didn’t hear anything for a few weeks and had another phone call from the TV company asking if we were still interested and if we could skype the next day.

So the next day we did our skype chat with the TV company. Throughout this I had Elsie (then 3 months) on my lap the whole time! The skype chat would then be shown to the producers.

A few weeks went by and we heard nothing. I honestly thought they hadn’t picked us, began to forget about it and move on with life. One day I was actually in the car coming back from the doctors when I got a phone call from one of the show’s producers. They said they would love to come and film with us and gave us a weeks notice!

I had a rough idea of what we were being asked to do and what they wanted to achieve. I personally feel as a young/teenage mum that people easily judge you and just class you as a statistic, when that is completely uncalled for. Everyone’s situation is different and I knew that this show was set out to prove that.

So we skip forward a few days and filming began. It was much more intense than I expected but the crew were such lovely genuine people, just like the casting team and producers we had spoken to so far were.
They basically followed us through our day but did ask us to talk about certain things and do certain things.

I wanted to make sure that we hopefully portrayed ourselves well. Showing that although we are young we are mature, good parents who are capable of supporting themselves and their family.

Friday and the second day of filming began. This day was more focused on me and the responsibilities that come with being a young mum and how that makes me feel along with the stigma. I personally feel judged against as even though my partner works a full time job he works shifts so is around a lot in the day depending on what shift he is working. I feel that people seeing us walking down the street and just automatically assume that we are young parents on benefits popping out kids for money/house or whatever reason they are thinking. When it’s not like that at all!

In this day of filming they sent me and my partner on a date. This was the first time we had been out since November 2013! We had such an amazing night and it made us realise that we need to take more time for ourselves as a young couple rather than ‘mum and dad’. It was lovely for one night to feel like a young couple just enjoying some food and drinks like most 21&25 year old couples do! Of course, mum and dad duties were still going on though. This was the first time I had left Elsie and after messages to the baby sitter I began to relax.

It’s really hard to try and get some time away from the kids especially when some months money can be tighter than others. They are my top priority so they always have what they need and more. If we can’t have one night for a meal that month then that’s fine. As long as my children are happy, healthy and not wanting for anything then that makes me happy.

Sunday was day three of filming. During interviews in previous filming we had talked about me wanting to work my way back up and be a midwife. So we took the boys to the library and I wrote out a CV while looking after a 3 year old and a 2 year old! Let’s just say they were being ‘lively’ and I actually found the whole scenario really stressful. Trying to do 100 things at once is really hard!

Overall though I found filming the TV doc a really really positive experience and I do not have a bad word to say about it.

I’m hoping that by allowing the camera and crew into our lives it will show the true reality of what it is like to be young parents in Britain today.

Yes, it is hard to be a thriving young parent, it’s very hard when you face a constant battle of trying to defend yourself from a constant stream of judgement, critical opinions and being labelled as a ‘ statistic’ but you know what? I would not change anything for the world. You could give me a million pounds and I will still choose young parenthood, my three beautiful babies and my amazing supportive partner over everything. I have no regrets about that path I took and we are only getting stronger better and more wise.

July 2015

Lettie tweets at @head_lettie

A Young Mums View on Support in 2014

Recently I was due to attend a conference as a representative of young mums. I had to fight rather hard for an invite. This was a conference about the support of young parents (anyone parenting under the age of 25) yet, NO young parents had been asked to attend on the panel discussion, let alone talk. Sadly, my son was ill and I couldn’t attend. I wrote this article for the delegates pack.

This was seen by CEO’s of charitys, social workers, support workers, police, midwives and the head of the UK teenage pregnancy strategy.

My name is Emilie. I am a young mum to four children. I was a teenager the first time I fell pregnant and I am still a young mum at the age of 24. I’m single and my children’s dad is not involved in their upbringing, I live on a council estate and claim benefits. If ever there was a cliché young mum – I am it!

It can be (very) frankly claimed that people, like myself, are government funded breeders and that my situation is seen as a lifestyle choice with living expenses and a free house thrown in. However, a young person who chooses to or ends up parenting at a young age doesn’t always fit the uneducated, poor, promiscuous or thoughtless stereotype. Some young parents have chosen to be parents at a young age. Some young people have found themselves in that situation. People don’t plan everything that happens to them.

I think for some, youth pregnancy and parenting symbolises a breakdown in society, innocence, stable families and the idea of marriage. Is being a young parent the end of the world? Well, if you’re asking me, it is the end of life as you know it, but definitely not the end of the world. The years spent on personal development during those early adult years are different but any parent, of any age who parents their child, will tell you that parenting brings huge personal development.

Professional Support offered for young parents who need help can range greatly. In a professional supporting role you may aid a parent in completing university studies. You may teach a young parent to cook a meal with fresh ingredients. Both are achievements with positive outcomes. Support is such an individual thing. It is about making that young parent the best version of themselves. Often support can be given by a stable, loving family. But that isn’t always possible. If you don’t talk to your family or your family has broken down; statistically if you haven’t done well in social expectancies, such as school or have emotional attachment needs that haven’t been met, that’s when the young parent and their child may have more difficulties. These are likely to be the young parents that need extra, more specialised support.

Reading this, you could be supporting young parents professionally, on the other side of the supportive spectrum you could be a lone voice who simply choses not to judge or somewhere in between. Collectively though, I believe we all know that one of the biggest, fundamental problems are the stigmas that young parents face from society, media, their peers and sometimes even themselves. I think the social stigmas come from society’s collective dislike of children under 16 years old and even young people over this age who may not be considered mature, having sex. Young parents, sadly, often receive negative reactions.

For young people who are becoming parents, the foundations of a positive pregnancy need to be aimed for early on. If a young woman is insecure about her pregnancy she has the potential to become a home bound young mother. It is a fact that disadvantaged women, either socially, emotionally and/or economically are more likely to get pregnant at a younger age and go on to have a baby. As a consequence there are higher rates of social exclusion for young parents and their children.

However, I believe that young parents, when supported, can be very good parents. When I say supported I don’t mean every young parent needs a social worker and strict monitoring. Support, of course, can be that and there’s nothing wrong with it but, support can be as little but, hugely significant as when you see a young mum at a group you attend and, you say hi! She’s a mum who has got out of the house in one piece! Hurrah to her and hurrah to you. See? You have something in common!

I believe that the poverty within young families is real. Whilst many young parents go onto achieve great things, that they may never have done if they hadn’t become a parent at a young age, there is no denying the immaturity in development and education could cause a deficit in met care needs – even if just for a while! This is true though, of many new parents in today’s climate – we’re all struggling in our 20’s, our 30’s, my parents are still struggling in their 50’s. However, we can’t be complacent about the need to encourage young parents to succeed and break the cycle of children being born to young parents in poverty and becoming young parents in poverty themselves. By encouraging change in the social structure parents in poverty allow themselves to live in and the society of which they deem themselves worthy of this would have a huge influence on the outcome for each young parent and their children. A person’s self esteem needs to be supported when they are pregnant and through parenting for achievements to be accomplished. Then, often, those achievements will bring new and higher standards.

Many of the most vulnerable young parents don’t want or think they need the help. Whilst, as professionals, you (mostly) can’t force it, the excuse of, ‘they don’t want help’ ect can be very dangerous in aiding the stigma that many are working to abolish. When you’re finding it hard to engage a young person it is often important to step back and go ‘back to basics’ that, you might skip past because of time constraints, for example. What life has this young person lead? Is testing boundaries being perceived as being difficult and not wanting help, consequently continuing this young parents socioeconomic pattern? Any person who doesn’t complete a developmental stage, such as learning boundaries, will often, subconsciously, repeat the same patterns again and again. In your role, is your perception of that person aiding stigma or can you see past it, even when you’re being pushed to your limits?

As a young mum, what key things do I think need implementation for best practice in today’s rapidly evolving modern world? Language spoken and body language when in a supportive role is highly important when initialising first and subsequent contact. I can tell, quite quickly, if someone is supporting me as a young mum who has to have intervention or as a mum who is receiving support and just happens to be young. The difference is huge. The first may conclude in me not feeling supported and ending up quite frustrated. This frustration, no matter how hard I try to put it to the back of my mind, then impacts on the children in my care meaning the support has been counterproductive. The second may result in me feeling understood and in turn my positivity, making a happier, more productive household for the rest of the day.

The importance of the way you, as a professional, present yourself, your attitude, openness and clear explanations cannot be under estimated. Again, going back to basics is fundamental as not everyone understands abbreviations, for example, that you use without thinking about it! Your knowledge is often secondary. Listen to that person. If you don’t know, tell them, ‘I don’t know but I will find out and let you know,’ and do follow it through! You cannot expect a young parent to understand their limitations and accept help if you don’t understand your limitations of knowledge and when you need to gain greater understanding to help that young parent. I believe a person in a supportive role knows two things. One, the person you are supporting is the expert of their own situation. Two, you and the young parent can never stop learning from each other.

I think supporting bodies also need to make the best they can of their continuity in care policies. Personally, during a five month period, my son has been assigned two different social workers. This can’t always be helped and support should be about moving along and being present in the ‘real world’ but do bear in mind that the people who are in need of support are often vulnerable people who can be adverse to change. If there needs to be a handover of support what could you do to aid the transition as smoothly as possible? A joint visit for handover? A telephone call update rather than an email? A face-to-face meeting rather than a phone call? Every little step forwards makes change and improves best practice and thus raises the standards for those you are handing over to.

I further think it’s important to understand where young people find their knowledge too, then to look at what you could also engage with to empower this young person. A lot of the people you come into contact with may not have a support network. These days, though, young people can access support through seach engines, Facebook, Twitter and watch TV a lot of the time through their phone or on smartphone apps. Texting is fast, easier and often cheaper and emails are accessed quicker than it takes to dial a number these days. At 3am support is found on Twitter #NightFeeds, through apps and Facebook. If I need to contact someone I text them in the evening, when I’ve finally sat down, as they will pick it up in the morning and I’m less likely to disturb them. A text or email fits into daily life even when the children are screaming and I don’t have time to make the call before the office shuts. If you can recognise and, actually embrace, that social media, apps and typing forms of communication are a good thing, then you will be benefitting your services. This is the way the world is now, if you don’t embrace it, I would go as far as to say that you are not fully satisfying your duty of care.

Young people have whole support networks spanning miles with overseas connections becoming the norm. There are great examples of support that have correct information such as a new app for young parents in pregnancy and through early stages of parenting that the charity Best Beginnings have made called Baby Buddy. Social media isn’t all about worst case scenarios, panicking parents with incorrect information that you have to reassure against anymore.

Now, I would like to revisit my first paragraph with you. Whilst true, it is not the full story. I hope that it will reiterate that the brief synopsis you may receive of a person needing support may not always give you the full story: I am Emilie, I do have four children, two are alive and two are not. The two that are alive were born very prematurely at 27 weeks and 28 weeks retrospectively. My son, born at 27 weeks, is categorised as disabled and I had to stop working my consistent and set hours to become his carer. I have gone from being totally self-sufficient, supporting myself, my children and home on my wage (on which I paid tax) to now claiming disability benefits and spending my days, normally in some hospital waiting room whilst working hours that suit my family, when I can. I do live on a council estate by fluke and I live in an ex-council property, I wasn’t ‘given’ it because of my situation. My husband couldn’t handle the loss of two babies and the health needs of the others and his path in life, unfortunately, took him on a journey away from his family.

Originally I knew I was a young mum but I didn’t feel like one as I was married to someone older with my own home and a job in the social services field, I was offered help but I was determined I had it all sorted, and I did. When I was on my own with a son who had complexed needs I realised I needed help. It took six months for me to accept it. I fought on saying, ‘I can cope.’ Eventually my son’s health took a turn for the worst and I was in a bad place emotionally and also with my employer for being off work so frequently. Like most young parents I wasn’t a bad mum but I needed help to be the best version of myself and I had to accept and embrace it, or carry on and ultimately end up having it imposed upon me. So, my family helped in practical ways by cooking me meals for the freezer etc. Before I finally gave into flexible working I received anti-depressants, counselling and financial help with childcare so I could try and continue to work set hours. My health visitor would visit at home on my day off to make life a little bit easier for me. Support for my children was very much at the forefront. Support for me became secondary. Upon giving up work I set up a website: http://www.MummyMai.com and started to blog about premature birth, loss, parenting a child with complexed needs as a single and young parent and everything inbetween. I also took to Twitter, @Emilie_Mai_ to gain wider support and to fill the loss of company from work friends and colleagues. But this didn’t help completely and I felt isolated. So I searched for people who I could talk to about my experiences with an aim to improve support for young people like myself.

I was signposted to and became in contact with the charity Best Beginnings (info@bestbeginnings.org.uk). Six months later I have talked at three conferences around neonatal provisions using the Best Beginnings Small Wonders DVD. I have tested the Baby Buddy app, and have been filmed for videos going into the app and I have even spoken at the launch night of Baby Buddy. I’ve been on BBC radio, in many national newspapers and Pregnancy and Parenting magazines and I’ve been invited to talk in secondary schools, at Hertfordshire university and also at Bedford university. I have been empowered to talk about my story using social media and to, hopefully, help others with ex-professional and personal insight.

The help that I have received has made me happier and that impacts positively on our family life. I have been enabled to be the best version of myself as a person and a mother and empowered by the knowledge that I’m helping others too. Initially, I may appear to be a cliché young mum but that isn’t my full story and I am proud of who I am and of where I am going.

However, I could not have been the best version of me without help. Help ranging from my sons disability team Social Worker to the elderly lady from over the road who helped when I had a screaming child in each arm and I was trying to shut the boot of my car!

By Emilie-Mai first published on Mummy_Mai.com

Becoming a Teen Mum

This is not a topic I speak about a lot, maybe a part of me is embarrassed or worried what people may think, but I am getting to the stage of life where I actually not too fussed what people think. So here is my little story of how my life got twisted up side down… hang on I am not Fresh Prince, No I was just a normal teen who really had no clue.

They say that teen mothers is a trends in families, my mum was nearly 30 when she had me so I did not copy too much. As a teenager I had such low self esteem, I thought I was ugly and fat and that I would die alone. These were far from it and after a boyfriend who told me these I was a full time low. I met my eldest Sons dad when I was 15 and we dated for a few months. Then one month I realised I had missed my period and little did I know who much that would change the course of my life.

Back in the days of camera flip phones and no instagram

I had no clue what a baby would entail or what I would need. I kept it quiet as long as I could and then had to tell my mum and dad. At the ripe old age of 16 sitting down with my parents was a hard thing to do but I carried on, my family in true style ignored it for awhile until I was massive. My mum brought me lots of maternity clothes and off I went getting bigger and bigger. I also had awful fluid retention and was massive (this is why there is no pictures of me when Pants was born I seriously was the size of a house). In this time I lost most my friends they were busy with life and I was stuck with Family and partner at the time. I went along to pre natal groups but a lot of the Mums did not talk to me. I was too young and they just ignored me. I remember it being hard sometimes people often so judgmental and I always felt like I had to justify my self all the time.

Baby Pants

The time came to have my little baby and after waiting 7 days overdue and 24 hours in labour I had Pants. The labour I can not remember any off it but knew it was long. I did not feel love straight away I suddenly felt a huge overwhelming sense of pressure. I felt as if I would never be on my own again. The responsibility hit me very hard and all of a sudden I was scared. Scared I would muck it up, scared I would never have freedom again. I was 17 no college qualification just a waitress. It was then I knew I could not do nothing in my life I needed to get a career show my son to be a better person His Dad sadly never grew up and for that reason we split and then I was on my own. I had my family and my mum was a massive help, the first few nights she sat up with me with a colicy baby who did not sleep and brought things for me when I needed it. She was really amazing.

A teenage me and my Pants

I lived with my mum for a few years whilst I got on my feet, I went back to being a waitress a month after Pants being born a few hours a night just to get a little cash, I did not claim anything except child benefit and relied on my mum. I had no clue and probs would have wasted the money anyway but least I earned the milk and nappy money and that some how justified my decision. I then started university at 18 studying for 6 years to become a nurse. Meeting my husband on the way and having two more children. I would not have had it better if I tried.

Its funny really looking back, for years I suffered this judgement feelings. Even now people look at me with the babies and think I am a teenager in trouble. For years I would always bring into the conversation I was a nurse and married because did not want people to think bad of me, but now I think so what. You know if I did not have a baby at 17 I would not have my life now. I am blessed beyond belief and have done so much more than I ever imagined. My Son saved my life from heading nowhere and helped me find myself. I then joined a church where for the first time since becoming a mother people accepted me for me and there the empty feeling was filled in. My hard layers where brought down and I learned to accept love and to not care if people judge me. I am loved and that’s so so amazing. So if you may think some body is young you never know what life has in store, having a baby brought me determination that I did not have before. I love being a mum I know no different really.

By Sara who blogs at Mummy’s Little Blog

10 things you shouldn’t say to a young parent

Being a young parent comes with so many good points. Being able to watch your child grow older, understanding some of that new fangled fancy lingo they are coming out with, surviving on no sleep.

But it also comes with a wealth of judgement and whispers. You get people come up to you on the street, ask you questions and be negative about your situation.

Unless you know that young person you have no right to make those judgements. So here are 10 things to not say to a young parent.

1: “What a waste of your future, didn’t you want to travel/get an education/get a good job?” Oh how fickle people are. Having a child does not waste your future. It simply changes the course slightly. Having a child young doesn’t mean someone can’t travel, get an education and a good job. Many young mums are teachers, business women and even politicians! Some even have degrees!

2: “Did you do it for the council house and benefits dear?” Wow, yes. I definitely chose to bring a child into the world so I could secure a house and benefits on the state. Umm if you didn’t realise we are in a housing crisis! Less than 1% of council homes are occupied by parents under the age of 25! I definitely was expecting a council house with those statistics.

3: “Is the father still around?” I mean that’s not something that is said to a 30 year old mum so why does it get said to a young parent? So what if one parent is or isn’t involved? Yes there is a lot of single parent households. Not all of them are young parents though.

4: “But you look so young, you’re only a child yourself!” I think my reproductive system says otherwise. I’m old enough to get married, vote, drive a car, live alone, have a job. I’m pretty sure I’m old enough to have a child.

5: “You don’t do it like that, you should really do it like this” When it comes to parenting everyone does it differently. As long as you are not hurting or putting your child at risk then you should be left alone! WE DONT ALL PARENT THE SAME.

6: “I bet you leave your child and go out each weekend” First of all, what a parent does in their spare time is none of your business. If they want to go out, then as long as their child is being cared for and they have some spare money then why shouldn’t they! I know personally I’ve not been out for so long I can barely even remember it. But I do enjoy a good glass of wine and a movie.

7: “Didn’t she know about contraception” This is a touchy subject for me. I was on contraception when I got pregnant. Many girls and women are. The one thing that needs to be noted is education. Sexual health and awareness education is so low for young people that it’s barely non existent. I didn’t know about contraception, stis, implications of pregnancy. I didn’t even know wheat to do when I found out I was pregnant. What these girls need is an education. Not a lecture.

8: “Why don’t you get a job instead of rinsing the benefits system” In a world where it’s hard to get a job for a graduate, it’s even harder for a young parent. With rising childcare costs, lack of support and minimum wage not being a living wage, it’s easy to see how a mum can get lost and not know where to start. A support system for young parents, from education through to the workplace needs to be there in some capacity. They need help as much as the others wanting a job.

9: “You look young enough to be her brother/sister” I’m going to take that as a compliment even though you meant it as an insult. If I can still look young with these eye bags and this saggy body then I must be doing something right honey?

10: “You’re doing so much better than the other young mums, at least you are doing something with your life” See there is my problem. All young mums are doing something with their life. Whether that be working, studying or something else. They are still doing something. They are raising children! That is a bloody hard job and that needs to be applauded too. So if you’re going to give me a pat on the back can you give a pat to all the young parents?

Laura tweets from @maxandmummyblog
Originally posted on Max and Mummy

A young mum. My story.

I never expected to be a young mum, damn I never imagined myself even being a mum. I was one of those girls at school that everyone said wouldn’t be a teen mum, I was too good for that. But at 19, I fell pregnant.

Most people see 19 and think, well you are old enough to get married, have a house, have a job, why not a baby. But I was at the end of my first year of uni, had been with Scott less than a year when I realised that I was pregnant.

We were being safe. I was on the pill, I had been on it for years. Religiously taking it as if it was an extension of myself. But for one week I was also taking some tablets for a chest infection. The doctor never told me that it could mess with my pill so I didn’t think anything of it. 5 months later and I started getting horrendous headaches and stomach cramps. After thinking things through I tell Scott that I’m coming off the pill and we would need to use alternate contraception.

A month had passed and I still hadn’t got my period. So I thought I would pick up a test. Freaking out that I had messed something up as I was coming off the pill. When those two blue lines appeared I broke down. I didn’t know what to do or say. I called Scott in tears and drove all the way down to Portsmouth to tell him. His family guessed almost straight away and within 24 hours my mum knew too. We were both 20, at uni and pregnant.

We decided to go to the family planning clinic with my mum, talk things through there and decide what the best thing for us to do was. When they got me up to give me an ultrasound they gave me the shock of my life “You’re about 6 months pregnant, did you know that?”. Cue another breakdown from all of us. Not only was I pregnant. But I had 3 months to decide what the hell I should do. None of us knew how we hadn’t noticed. I’d gone up a dress size but put that down to eating rubbish and going out at university. Not being pregnant!

After sitting with Scott for what felt like days we decided we had to keep this child. it was given to us for a reason and we would love it and bring it up as best as we damn could. It took both sets of parents a while to come to terms. Of course it would, we were young, in our prime and all of a sudden expecting a child that was going to change our lives. I remember my mum coming home one day with a packet of baby grows and giving me a hug. Chatting with her friends at work they had reassured her that it wasn’t a bad thing, amongst all the death she dealt with, we were bringing new life into the world and it was a blessing.

Next thing we knew we were in a whirlwind of appointments, scans and checks. Thankfully everything was perfect. We got told we were having a girl, but still picked out neutral stuff. I’m definitely not a pink girl! (we all know how that turned out!)

Within a fortnight we had deferred a year of uni, sorted out maternity/paternity leave and found a place to live. It was as if we were on fast forward and it was only getting faster. We went on a long weekend to Disneyland Paris which did us the world of good. Our last chance at being us before we were parents. That’s not to say we didn’t still do what we wanted. 2 days before Max was born we went to a gig. I’m pretty sure that put me into labour.

I’d already decided that my mum and Scott were to be in the room with me. I didn’t know how he would react to all the pain I would be in and I knew that my mum would be a calming influence on the room. Luckily I had a swift labour and he was born in a few hours. When we all realised our little girl was actually a boy I think we were just as shocked as when we found out I was expecting!

It’s been tough being a young mum. I’ve had jeers and stares, comments and murmurs about how I’ve done it for benefits. What surprises most people is that we are both working, have degrees and not in a council house. Yes we get help but 99% of it is done ourselves. Having Max made us more focused and determined to succeed.

I ended up in a deep swing of postnatal depression. Looking back now it was because our life was on fast forward. It’s only been since I was out of uni that I’ve managed to slow it down. Take everything in and relax. I’ve learnt to love being a mum, be proud to be a young parent and want to empower more young mums to feel the same. We aren’t the stereotype, in fact none of us are. We are all banishing those stereotypes in one way or another.

Honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way now. We have our own family of 3 and we are perfect that way. Being a young mum was one of the best turning points in my life. I love Max and I can’t wait to see him grow up.

Laura tweets from @maxandmummyblog

Originally posted on Max and Mummy

Young Mums go to the House of Commons!

Yesterday The Young Motherhood Project was shown at the House of Commons, and a number of young mums went down to the engage with MPs about challenging the myths around young motherhood!

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You can watch coverage of it here – We had a great Young Mums Chat on Twitter the night before where we discussed the myths, the difference made by sharing stories and what messages we want to get across to MPs. Here are a selection of some of the fab tweets:

ans 1: people tend to believe that having a baby at a young age guarantees a failed future for the young person which is wrong

that and also to ‘trap’ their boyfriends. Hate it when I hear this comment from people.

it takes a lot of courage for a 15 or 16 yrs old to be at school while pregnant because of all the judgement!

I also got told by my head of course as a young mum I should quit uni as I wouldn’t succeed. There’s no support.

young mothers =holy grail of scape goating because they usually tick more than one box in society’s stigma checklist

ppl get inspired by talking to ppl who have been in the same situation as them and think if they can do it then so can i

Support them in education.I had so little help when at uni&would have been better off at home.Makes no sense!

stop making out like young mums are the root of all evil?! Sick of being stereotyped & punished for being young!

need policy makers to have direct engagement w/parents & professionals to see what is missing

Jendella did such a brilliant job of representing young mums and answering some tricky questions! The two MPs, Teresa Pearce and Kate Green, were also pretty inspiring to listen to, especially hearing about Teresa’s own experience as a young single mum. Thank you too for giving me an opportunity to have a few words!

Here is a copy of my speech below:

“I was 16 when I found out I was pregnant. I had already left home to live with my boyfriend and had become quite isolated from my friends. When we found out I was pregnant the first thing my boyfriend  said to me was ‘well, you’ll have to leave college now then’

So I went into college to tell my tutor I was leaving – I could have easily just dropped out and not gone back, maybe a different tutor would even have encouraged this, but she gave me the confidence to go back to my boyfriend and tell him I wasn’t leaving college. She spoke to my teachers and adjusted by time table to ensure I could stay, she encouraged me to tell my parents I was pregnant who turned out to be my biggest support. And that was exactly what I needed at the time; someone who recognised it wasn’t the end of the world and that actually things would be ok.

After college I went straight to uni and later while working I studied for an MSc. I was lucky I’d had my tutor and my parents who supported me. But I knew the way people looked at me when they found out I was a young mum, and it does affect your confidence and how you see yourself and decision you make about asking for help or speaking up. Occasionally people said I was the exception to the rule, while allowed them to continue looking down on other young mums.

For my dissertation I wanted to study  transitions made by young mothers. The young mums I interviewed had all created their own different pathways, negotiating families and studying and careers but they all faced some levels of discrimination for being young either by professionals, or through being rejected by their friends and families, which made life harder than it needed to be. Yet my supervisor at uni told me that their stories weren’t true! A middle-aged white middle class male said that their stories were wrong, that there wasn’t a problem with how young mothers were treated, the implication being that the problem was young mothers themselves.

There can be an assumption that other people understand the lives of young mothers more than we do, that young motherhood must be the problem because that’s what the statistics say.  But that’s not actually what the statistics say at all. If you look at long-term outcomes of teenage mothers who were born in 1970, then by age 30 their employment, income and education are not significantly different for those who were teenage mothers to those who miscarried in their teens and didn’t become young mothers.

The proportion of births that are to women under 20 are now the lowest they have been since around 1947. But as numbers reduce the stigma seems to increase and there is a growing perception that parents under 20 are not emotionally mature enough to raise a child, despite it being quite acceptable a few generations ago (so long as you were married at the time!)

The young parents I know are now teachers, professors, midwives, social workers, civil servants. They are also amazing parents and role models to their children and others. If we share these real stories then we can challenge the myths that girls get pregnant so they can live their whole lives on benefits and that they are a problem to be solved. If we share our stories maybe other new young parents will know that their lives aren’t over too.

No one dares talk about how there are actually many positives of being a young mum, the fact we live longer with our children, we don’t interrupt a career, we are more responsible and focused and motivated from an earlier age.

Policy makers need to listen to young parents and directly engage with them about their aspirations  and the barriers that are being put in their way, from lack of childcare at uni, to bullying from peers, to being asked informally to leave college because their pregnancy doesn’t give the right message to other pupils.

It’s important too that we listen to those who were young parents to ensure that the pathways they negotiated are still available for young parents now, and we’re not writing them off before their journeys even began. Policy makers need to put aside their fear of promoting teenage pregnancy and instead recognise that supporting and believing in young mothers is probably the best investment you can make.”

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