Posted by Prymface on Wednesday, November 5, 2014
I'm aware that I've neglected this whole blog post feature lately so I thought I should do a quick post on our first Young Mums Meet Up back in July! Hopefully you're all aware of the amazing Young Motherhood Project by Jendella. The preview exhibition was launched in July and we managed to raise some funds to pay for a number of young mums to travel to London and meet up before the launch and then attend the event.
It was amazing to finally meet Sophie and Emma, Sorayah, Laura, Natalie, Lucy and Isra, even the bit where we accidentally got on a train to Luton instead of London Bridge! It was also fab to be in an atmosphere that was so positive about young mums. My talk wasn't well prepared as I was hoping Jendella had forgotten about asking me to say a few words but this is what I think I said! (In reality it may have been more like....blah blah blah Young Mums Rock!)
"My son turns 18 this Saturday so I've not technically been a young mum for a long time now but I still class myself as one because I still get the funny looks and the looks of sheer disbelief that I have somehow been capable of raising a child to adulthood when I still don't look responsible enough to purchase scissors! I still hear the derogatory comments about 'teen mums' that make me want to stick pins in my eyes. But I now look back with pride rather than the shame I know I'm meant to feel.
When I was 17 I didn't know there was an alternative. I knew what people thought of teen mums so I kept quiet and got on with it. I didn't thinking about whether it was easy or hard, it was just my life.
People often ask when I first started ranting about the whole 'teen mum thing'. I remember at 21 someone I knew was in a national newspaper for having 3 children by age 17. People at work joined in the mock outrage which I thought felt a little too smug and unsettling. I heard at the school gates she'd been promised a media career from the paper. I made a mental note never to be fooled into sharing my story.
I then slowly talked to more young parents and I saw the pathways they'd made, their refusal to accept the limitations that society put on teen mums. And so I started writing and tweeting and sharing this concept that young mums deserved respect, that young mums aren't a problem to be solved, that we aren't a Sex Ed drama, we aren't doomed.... and I soon found that other young mums were doing the same, and were much more articulate than me.
Every young mum is an individual but we are all aware that we have something to prove, to the doubters and haters! But what if those people supported us instead of waited for us to fail, if they believed in us instead of belittled our aspirations, if they wanted us to say when we needed help because they know everyone needs it sometimes, rather than to say "I told you so"?!
Some of you may know people who really did listen to your story and didn't try to 'fix you' and if you do, its likely you will remember them and the difference they made to how you felt. Jendella's project has enabled young mums to tell their own stories in their own words, rather than through the lens of a moral campaign that we didn't sign up to!
Being around so many young mums today reminds me of MP, Tom Harris's, concern when he said that he 'can no longer pretend the army of teen mums is anything other than a national catastrophe'. Well, if this is what a national catastrophe looks like then I'm proud to be part of it...."
And then I got told that I sounded like a preacher and I decided to perhaps alter my style of public speaking in future!
I'm really looking forward to meeting up again soon as its through getting to know other young mums and hearing your stories that I am constantly inspired and determined to challenge the low expectations and negative perceptions that society has of young mums. Next time I'll leave the speeches to the experts!
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