YES, I was a young mum and NO, you cannot judge me…
I was so grateful when the beautiful, Maya over @allthingspink21 reached out to me about doing a guest post regarding labels and stereotypes, which are associated with young mums. This is a topic so close to my heart because I became a mum at 19, and have experienced this far too often.
My name is Jen, I am 28 and I have a daughter called Kourtney who turns 9 next month. Over the years I have experienced judgement, and different people have stereotyped me in different ways. I got pregnant at 18 and straight away, I was subjected to sneering remarks and outrageous comments, despite the fact that I continued with my A levels and was in part-time employment. Unfortunately, even my own mother thought I was about to ruin my life, and that having a child so young would be a hindrance. I cannot tell you how much this broke me at the time, to know that my own mother lacked faith in me and put a label on my future.
I was very young and do not get me wrong, I had no idea how hard it was really going to be when I became a mother. However, I realised a long time ago that no matter what age you are when you have a baby, it is always going to be hard especially the first time round – so why is it only young people must be judged for having a baby? I think it is so unfair to assume that once you have a baby young, it automatically means your life and career is over. It could not be any further from the truth, as I have always been hardworking, ambitious and committed to bettering myself.
A couple of years ago, I remember I was at a festival with a couple of friends and I bumped into someone I went school with. The first thing they said was ‘wow.’ I looked puzzled, and she went onto explain that she could not believe how well I looked because I had a child. I was so shocked and I remember it putting me in a foul mood. How ignorant and stupid? I had a baby at 18, so she expected me to be scruffy; perhaps I should not have had clothes on my back because obviously, when you are a young mother you have no money, right?
I genuinely would have thought that as you get older, the judgement would stop, but this has not been the case for me. Most recently at my daughter’s primary school, I felt belittled and patronised by members of staff that often resulted in me feeling upset and irritated. I often felt like I was treated as a child as opposed to a mother, which left me reeling because I did not behave like one. I take my daughter’s education and development very seriously, and whenever I raised a concern, I was undermined or ignored. I would witness how staff interacted with the older parents; I saw a difference with how they treated me. Eventually, it took a toll on the relationship between the school and myself; which has resulted in my daughter starting a new school this month. This situation in particular demonstrates how labelling and stereotyping can have a serious impact on someone’s life, and cause drastic change.
Unfortunately, at work there have been colleagues that have made outrageous remarks in regards to me being a teenage mother, which I have learnt to ignore. They have laughed and said silly things like ‘did you stroll your pram through Pound land, shouting like a chav?’ or ‘Did you have a baby for a council flat and benefits?’ It really says more about their small minds than me, as I am at work just like them irrespective of having a child. It really is shocking to know that some people believe you cannot live the life you want just because you have a child – what a load of garbage! I work full-time, I have a car and I am saving to buy a house, I cannot and will not be stopped. The way I see it, we all have one life and it is down to every individual how they intend to live it.
Despite the judgements, labels and stereotypes, I graduated from university with a 2:1 and currently work full-time in corporate services. Am I where I want to be? No, but I am proud and happy of the progress I have made so far. Yes, it may take me a little longer or my journey may not be as easy because my child is my first priority, but I have no doubt in my mind that I will conquer my dreams. I love my daughter, she is my greatest achievement and biggest blessing and I would do it all over again, if I had to. I have not yet launched my blog, however I am over on Twitter (@LifeMilk2016) and Instagram (Lifemilk_) so please get in touch, if you would like to know more or want to share your story.