Welcome back to week #22 of the #YoungMumsProject this week we are joined by the lovely Leanne from The Trials and Tribulations of Parenthood.
Q1. Can you describe your personal experience of life as a young mum?
After Beard and I being told we may not be able to conceive it made us want to have a baby even more. At 20 we were both pretty young and had only been together a year but knew we wanted to be together so we thought we may as well start trying for a baby now rather than when we were desperate to start a family. As fate would have it, “Mr One Hit Wonder” managed to defy nature and I became pregnant pretty much instantly, so whilst we did plan and want to have a baby, the realisation of how quickly it was going to happen, for me, was a little bit, wow this is actually happening and its happening really quickly. Being a young Mum definitely had its ups and downs, its highs and lows and it was hard, really hard especially when I had just started university.
Q2. How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?
Really happy we were able to have a family. Really scared that I was actually going to have a baby. After the shock, the excitement and getting past the 12 week mark I then started to realise that we really hadn’t thought all of it through. We were still living at home and I was in my first year of a fashion degree, my boyfriend had only just started his job and we were 21 and having a baby in 6 months.
Q3. Do you feel like life has been harder because you had children at a young age?
Not at all. It was hard at the start because none of my friends had children but now they are older I love being a “young Mum”. There have been awkward moments, there have been tears, there have been regrets but I would have had those feelings regardless of my age, it’s called being a Mum.
The hardest thing for me was seeing my friends going out and having fun, travelling and generally doing whatever they wanted. I felt very left out and very very jealous. There were times when they couldn’t relate to me and I couldn’t relate to them, we had very different lives and it was hard to see friendships fizzling out – which of course led to me feeling even more alone!
Q4. Did you ever feel judged by anyone? If so, how did you deal with it?
Every day. Once we had the Big Quack we knew we needed to get our own place because at the time we were living with my Mum in the week and with Beards parents at the weekend. We didn’t have a “base” but the only place we could afford was a dodgy area 40 minutes away from our friends and family but we had to have our own family home. The place we moved to was horrible. We had a lovely house but the area was renowned for violence, theft and drugs. When going to baby groups I didn’t fit in anywhere. That was hard to deal with.
I wasn’t the stereotypical person that lived in that area; I didn’t talk like the other Mums from that area, I didn’t dress like them, I didn’t behave like them and I didn’t want to be part of “their” group because we had very different lives and nothing in common. But then you had the other Mums who clearly had a lot of money and a big house with a husband who earned lots of money and I didn’t belong with them either. They were the Mums that made it very obvious that I wasn’t going to be part of “their” group either. After being ignored the first couple of weeks I stopped going. I remember walking out before the class had even started after two Mums looked at me, whispered something and giggled. At the time I remember this being the lowest part of being a young Mum and I just took each day as it came using the internet for support. The Bounty Forums were my saviour as I could talk to Mums and get advice from home. It was pretty lonely those first months though.
Q5. Do you think there are any advantages to being a younger mum?
Loads. My eldest, now 12 has the same music taste as me. We go to festivals, I wear his trainers and I can kick his ass on the Xbox. He talks to me about anything and everything. He was diagnosed with Autism so we didn’t just have to deal with being young parents generally but also the young parents with THAT naughty kid. At the time, when we were going through diagnosis we took it all on our stride. Being told he had Autism was a relief and we dealt with it all really easily, if I was told it now, now that I’m older, I think i would crumble. Younger Mums also don’t worry as much as older Mums. I had my youngest at 33 and I worried about everything so much more than I did in my twenties with my other two sons.
Q6. What are the best and worst things about being a mum?
The best bit is when you go out with your 12 year old and get asked if he’s your little brother!! That’s a bit of a confidence boost!!! Obviously it depends on your situation and where you’re at in your life but I felt as if I had all the time in the world to enjoy all those little moments. I didn’t have a career so I didn’t have to go back to work, I could stay at home and enjoy all the things some Mums miss out on. All those firsts they do so quickly and I saw every single one.
The worst thing about being a young Mum is the judging. I remember taking the boys to nursery and someone asking me how often they see their Dads. They were shocked when i informed them that they had the same father who I lived with. I remember that really annoying me and then really upsetting me. Then off the back of the judging you then get paranoid.
The other time was when I was asked what benefits I was on. But that one I didn’t hold back on – the person asking that question got a bit of a mouthful….
Q7. How do you think we can challenge the stigma that surrounds young mums?
I honestly don’t think anything will change. And why? Because there are women out there that don’t pick other women up, that put them down and then without realising they teach their kids to do the same. Women always judge other women and there are some women that get a kick out of going a step further and making another human being feel bad about themselves. You won’t ever rid that stigma but as long as there are enough women there who aren’t judging and who are supporting young mums, that’s great – you need a support network and the confidence to know you’re doing a great job.
Q8. What are the main issues that young mums have to deal with, and how do you think they could be better supported?
Being scared to ask for advice – I remember not knowing how to deal with nappy rash once. No matter what I tried it wouldn’t go away. I didn’t want to ask anyone because I thought they would think “oh here we go, kids having kids and not having a clue” then I started panicking that because I let it go on so long that I would be judged for not asking for help sooner. Then the paranoia set in where I thought they’d think I was abusing my baby….
When all I really needed was someone to say “don’t worry love, he’s teething, get some teething powders and give him some nappy free time throughout the day…”
Lacking confidence – Young Mums need to have confidence in how they are bringing up their children. Older Mums need to respect young Mums. Mums need to help other Mums. We’re all bloody Mums for goodness sake!
My family were very supportive but I know of situations where the Grandmother is actively putting down her daughters parenting capabilities to other family members and that’s just horrible.
Isolation – Once you have a bad experience, it might look like the best option is to hole up and not do anything or go anywhere. I did that. It made things ten times worse. The kids would get cabin fever, I’d be in a mood by the evening, would probably have a row with Beard and then tell myself how crap I am for the rest of the night.
Head up high and ignore negativity.
Q9. Do you think that the support for young mums has improved over time?
I don’t know that it has improved but I think there’s more availability out there. Blogging, forums, social media… there wasn’t much of that when I had the boys but it’s a huge part of society today that gives young Mums access to advice, to knowledge, to friendships and to things you can do and places you can go.
Q10. If you were approached by a young mum asking for advice, what advice would you give them and why?
Just keep on trucking. You’ll have ups and downs. If you don’t have a friendship / support group now, you will soon enough. I didn’t have any likeminded parenting friends until my kids went to primary school – that may seem a long way off but thats because I didn’t put myself out there when taking them to nursery; in fact I avoided talking to anyone. I just took them in and picked them up. I never made conversation and that’s what you have to do. The rest all falls into place because you already have something in common – you obviously live locally and you are a Mum.
Age is just a number. I now have a lot of friends from the primary school my eldest attended, there is a big gang of us. All the kids are friends and all of us go out together, go on holiday together, the Dads are all great pals too – we see them all the time and what you don’t realise is that it doesn’t actually matter how old you are, its who you are and who you get on with. Our friendship group ranges from me (now 34) to 55 years old. The kids ages range from my youngest, Baby Moo who is 18 months to 24 year olds! You’d think maybe we wouldn’t have anything in common but we all do, it’s being a Mum.
If you want to learn more about Leanne and her family you can find her here.
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