The Stigma Teenage Mothers and Young Mothers Face.

If you've been a reader of Unique Young Mum for a while, or if you've ever visited before, then chances are you know already that I had my son when I was 15, a month before my 16th birthday. Although I'm not a teenage mum any more, or a young mum, I am a young mum to have a 13-year-old child.

Author of Unique Young Mum, Jade Lewendon and her son

Although I've got older, and I thought the stereotypical views and stigmas would stop, sadly, although they've got better, they still appear. I still get the judgemental looks when people do the math and realise how young I was when I had my son. The looks of disgust when they realise I have a teenager and I'm not even 30 yet. 

Sadly, I'm not alone when it comes to judgemental views and opinions, and with thousands of young mums becoming parents every year, I wonder if it will ever stop? Will there ever be a time where we're not judged because we became parents ''at such a young age''?

I have lost count of the number of times I've been judged for being a 'young mum', as I said they have got better, but when the parenting days were new to me and even when I was pregnant, I was told that I'd never be a good mum, I was told my parents would end up bringing my baby up, I was told how I'd be on benefits for the rest of my life, living off the state and not working, I was told I'd have five kids by the age of 21, and loads of other nonsense. 

Thankfully I've always been strong-minded, the saying sticks and stones go to mind, but I fear for that young mum who lets things like this get to her. I fear for the young mum who has post-natal depression. I fear for the young mum who's already ashamed and scared to ask for help in fear of getting judged. Age is just a number, it doesn't define who you are, nor what kind of person you are, or the parent you're destined to be.

This week I've been crowdsourcing to see what other teenage parents thought on stereotypical views, and sadly but not surprisingly every single one I spoke too was judged - mainly because of the age they became a parent at. The comments below are REAL, they are from real young, or fellow young mothers, these have been said to young/teenage mothers, and it's cruel, the judgement needs to stop!

Michelle from Essex told me 'I fell pregnant at 17, I had him before my 18th then had my second son at 20, and I was told the dad would leave me, I'd be a shit mum the kids will be scruffy, I won't be able to keep them blah blah. They are 22 and 19 now, and still with me and so is their dad, we have been together 23 years, it pisses me off when people say stuff, if I was that bad of a mum why did no one call social services?'.

Beth a fellow blogger from Life As Mum told me 'I fell pregnant at 16 and was told that I'd be on benefits for the rest of my life and my life would be ruined for having a baby so young. I was a single parent (long story), but I am now nearly 27 years old, living with my current partner of 8 years, 2 other kids and work self-employed and an employee in a retail store 20+ hours a week'.

Donna from Berkshire said 'I fell pregnant at 16 and had my daughter at 17. When I was pregnant we went camping and a lady said to me “you don’t deserve that baby, it will have no life.” The number of horrible looks I got was unreal. It really upset me. I'm still with the same partner 17 years later and I’ve worked since my 15th birthday. Age has nothing to with the way a child is bought up'.

Lauryn from Wiltshire said to me 'I was told that I’ve ruined my life, I’ll never live my life and be able to do things people without kids do. I will never get a good job or go anywhere in life. Me and my daughter have visited many places around the UK, we've been on many days out which I have never done before, and I’ve almost finished my first year of uni studying a psychology degree! I’m 19 and my daughter will be 2 in August!! Go young mums!!'.

Kelsey from Berkshire said 'I still get judged and looked at and I was not a stereotype. I was 16 and pregnant but when my daughter was 3 months old I went back to college, I studied for 2 years and I had my own business, I also married the father. Now aged 27 I still get looked at funny “is this ur first child “ I say, no it's my 4th and I can see me getting judged straight away, I hate going to baby groups as I still feel too young and get judged, there is so much stigma it’s a joke'. When I told Kelsey about my own experiences she replied with 'I’m deffo the youngest mum at our school but it’s a Catholic school and everyone is lovely but at other schools, I have not been welcomed'.

Tia from London heartbreakingly told me 'I was pregnant at 15, she was due a month after my 16th... I lost her on my birthday... family and everyone said it was God's sign I wasn't ready... yeah 14 hours of holding her before she passed really showed me God didn't want me to have her... I'm 21 and scared to start a family in case it happens again, it totally sucked and people don't know how it can destroy a persons outcome on life and family planning'.

Annie told me 'I had my baby at 17 (I'm now 34, he's 16) I got everything, you won't amount to much, you won't be able to cope, you won't be able to raise him right, his dad will leave etc etc.... So I now run my own business, my son's in the top set for everything at school (currently doing exams) and I and his dad were married for 10 years. My son is also mixed raced so we had a lot of comments on that as well. I still get judged now the moment I say I have a 16-year-old. But if people want to judge then screw them, my son has been housed, fed, clothed and more importantly loved to infinity which is more than some kids with older parents get'.

Cathy from Clackmannanshire said 'I was 17 when I had my son who is profoundly handicapped, he is 36 now and still lives with us, he's not in a care home. Age doesn't make you a good mum it's knowing that the life we brought into the world is now more important than our own lives and their needs are our priority. I grew into the person I am today because of my kids'.

Sam from Berkshire said 'I had my first born aged 17 and she made me the women I am today, she's 18 soon. I also have 2 sons who're 18 months and a 6-month-old! I think age doesn't make a difference'.

THIS NEEDS TO STOP.
The judgemental opinions.
The judgemental views.
The stereotypical views.
The stigmas.

For the 10th year in a row, the number of conceptions and the conception rate for women aged under 18 years have decreased. In 2017, there were 16,740 conceptions to women aged under 18 years in England and Wales, a 7.4% decrease compared with 18,086 in 2016 and a 61.1% decrease compared with 2007. A similar pattern is seen with the under-18 conception rate, which was 17.9 conceptions per thousand women aged 15 to 17 years in 2017. This was a 5.3% decrease compared with 2016, and a 57.0% decrease compared with 2007.

Although statistics have fallen, young mothers are still falling pregnant, and things need to change. We need to stop focusing on the bad, and start celebrating the good. Thankfully not all bad things come out of the judgemental opinions people give, because many young parents strive to be the opposite of what you said they'd be.

Myself included. My son's 13 and I raised him alone for the majority of his life. Yes myself and his father called off our engagement and split up, but I honestly think that was for the best. We were young, we thought we were in love, but thankfully called things instead of pretending things were fine, like a lot of older parents do. Staying with someone for the sake of the children has proven to be more damaging than good. 

Alongside bringing up my son without social services, or my parents, I also continued my studies, finishing my exams at college and taking on even further courses leading to qualifications then I needed, just because I had hopes and ambitions, you see because a strong woman no matter her age, will make herself successful. 

I have also worked from a very young age, helping my mum with different business ventures before heading into the world of retail, dining and tourism. Eventually, I started Unique Young Mum and I've now been running my own business come seven years in August.

People need to open their eyes, and realise that young/teenage mums don't automatically make them an AWFUL parent who's destined to give their children a terrible life. You get bad parents of all ages, young, old, the 'norm', it sadly happens. Comparing teenage/young mums to some of society's most hatred is not okay, nor is the name calling, the judgemental views and unwanted opinions.

For karma's sake, these young mothers could be more successful in life than you!

Author of Unique Young Mum - Jade Lewendon


Until next time,
Jada.

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