‘Age is only a number’: Young mums tell us what it’s like raising a child

‘I get looks from strangers but hold my head high’


According to the National Office for Statistics the number of teenage births in the UK is at it’s lowest level in 70 years. As an increasing number of young women place a stronger emphasis on further education and careers, the average birthing age of mothers is on the rise, with many women choosing to have children in their early thirties instead of their twenties.

Social media and our peers tend to enforce the kale-eating, travel-filled lifestyle of those we see on Instagram, and that’s fair enough; for many people our twenties are embraced as a time for self-indulgence, travelling and career furthering. But those of us in our mandy-loving, Stan Smith-wearing uni bubble forget that a lot of our peers out there have already begun the life that so many of us long to prolong, and a lot of us uni kids judge them for it.

Where are the girls who left school at 16, and who now have toddlers running around? Unsurprisingly, they’ve got their shit together more than most students. There’s still a lot of prejudice and assumptions focused towards young mothers, and frankly that needs to change. I spoke to three young mums about their experiences.

Julia, 20 and Elloise, 2

juliababy

How do you feel about having become a mum at a younger age than you expected?

I had Elloise when I was 18. She was unplanned, but the best surprise. I don’t classify myself as a young mum, just a mum! I’m glad I had Elloise when I did as it means I get more years with her. She is my pride and joy, words will not explain how much I love her, I have been blessed to have her. Your life begins when you have children, it doesn’t end. Enjoy your children and the life they make for themselves, you can drink and enjoy “you” time when they’ve moved out!

How do you think people perceive you, when they see you with your child?

I haven’t experienced many patronising looks, as I look a lot older than I am. However, I do receive “helpful’ advice from distant family members! There are a lot more younger mums now than there used to be.

Is it difficult to juggle work with childcare?

I work in funeral care three days a week to support them. At the moment Elloise goes to her grandparents or to my sister, but she starts pre-school in September! I enjoy my job but I enjoy Elloise more; however, I do have to work. She gets treats which she has all the time such as presents and holidays, and it’s great to do it off my own back.

Do you feel like it’s more of a challenge, having had children at a younger age?

Being a mum will always have it’s challenges, and because of work I feel I don’t always have enough hours in the day to do it all. Tantrums are hard work but you have to remember they are developing into their own people, it’s important to support and encourage that, not to punish them! I cherish every second as it goes too quickly, you have to love them and make sure they are happy. Don’t let the stress get to you!

Rose, 23 and Mia, 5 months

13814666_1665584390430475_1426290786_n

How do you feel about having become a mum at a younger age than you expected?

When I found out I was pregnant at the age of 22, it was the biggest shock of mine and my partner’s lives! I felt I was maybe too young to begin with, but age is only a number and it doesn’t mean a thing!

How do you think people perceive you, when they see you with your child?

As a hairdresser, I had to tell a lot of people I was pregnant and I got many different reactions. Some people asked, ‘How old are you?’ and, ‘Do you think it’s the right decision?’ I just ignored them but it did make me feel uncomfortable. I got some looks from strangers but I just held my head high, I was proud to be pregnant!

Is it difficult to juggle work with childcare?

I’m very lucky that I can work around Mia and take her to work with me if I need to. Childcare is very expensive! So if you can juggle work with family looking after them it’s much better!”

Do you feel like it’s more of a challenge, having had children at a younger age?

Rose is currently embracing the up-all-hours life with a 5 month old. She says, “Mia is my best friend, my life. When she smiles back at me it’s the best feeling in the world. Having said that, I’m not brilliant at waking up at night, I hate being disturbed when I sleep and I wasn’t prepared for that! Don’t listen to what anyone else tells you. You bring your baby up how you think is best, and if people judge you, ignore them! Go with your gut instinct, you’re always right! I totally underestimated how hard parenting is, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Cassie, 20 and Oliver, 5 months

13817185_10155018923098452_514199549_n

How do you feel about having become a mum at a younger age than you expected?

I don’t feel like a particularly young mum. I had to grow up quickly from a young age, so I have always been past my years and so have never really seen myself as that young. I guess falling pregnant at 20 was young, but I love it and wouldn’t change it for the world! I’m so happy that there is an age gap of 20 years so I can be there for him for longer in his life.”

How do you think people perceive you, when they see you with your child?

Not now that Oliver is here, but when I was pregnant a lot of people asked if it was a ‘good thing’ and were very judgemental about my future.

Do you feel like it’s more of a challenge, having had children at a younger age?

Although they love to, never let anyone tell you what to do with your baby. Don’t panic because everyone gets things wrong, no matter what your age. If someone says something unhelpful I’m not afraid to hold my own. If you have a good support system around you and do your research, you will be prepared for what is to come.

These young women are holding their own, they’ve got jobs and houses and their own families, and more importantly, no crippling piles of student loans. So why the judgement? Why do we assume that they don’t have their shit together? They’re already happy, and are living the dream that in a few years we’ll all find ourselves wanting too. They get to do it years before the rest of us, and for that, I am jealous of them.