Yes, that’s right. I know I’m a mum and many other things, and I was going to use my Story of Mum mini-exhibition to tell you all about my secret ninja double life, but then it wouldn’t be very secret. I was also going to use it to list all of the fabulously cool and fun things I am aside from being a mum, but I’m far too modest. Besides, you’ve probably already noticed how fanbloodytabulous I am anyway, so I’ve decided to use it to tell you that I am proud. This coincides with both my Story of Mum mini exhibition and the #NoTeenShame campaign that I’ve been reading up on lately.
Until fairly recently, I’ve been ashamed of the fact that I was a teenage mother. When I was pregnant, I got the stares, I got the whispers, I got the lectures. I was told “well that’s the end of your life now then.” I hid my pregnancy with clothes as much as I could, and rarely left the house other than to go to sixth form.
I thought that this might change when I had my daughter, but it didn’t. I told myself that it was because I wasn’t doing anything “other than being a mum”, so I avoided places that I could bump into too many people that I knew.
This would clear up when I finished my gap year and started uni though, right? Wrong. While it did shock the doubters into silence, it didn’t stop me from feeling the shame that had been built up for so long. I realised that I was slightly nervous when explaining to the students of my own age why I couldn’t come out for drinks after lectures. I could feel my face burning as I picked up my daughter from the university nursery and pushed her through crowds of classmates at the bus stop. While they probably weren’t judging me at all, the shock on their faces took me back to being the pregnant seventeen-year-old who was told she had no future. I was embarrassed.
It wore off. I started getting good grades at uni and the nursery staff were forever commending me on how bright and well behaved my daughter was. I was proud. I am proud; I just wish that I had enjoyed motherhood properly from the start.
This is why I was so saddened by @CandiesOrg’s #NoTeenPreg campaign. They are using tactics that will make other young mothers feel ashamed of what should be the most joyful experience possible. Why should a mother not enjoy parenthood just because of her age? Young women and teenagers have been having children since man begun, why has it been made so taboo today?
Using posters with comments such as “You think being in school sucks?” followed by a picture of a bottle is offensive. School didn’t suck, and neither does motherhood. Putting pictures of celebrities who are idolised by teens next to these quotes won’t stop teens from having children, it will just make other teens look down on them more. Having Carly Rae Jepson tell them that they should be “changing the world, not diapers” is not going to stop teens from changing diapers. It will stop many young mothers from feeling like she can change the world though. Bullying and isolation is not going to create brighter futures for anyone. We all have a right to enjoy parenthood.
I’m a teen mum and proud.
I created this:
I curated this:
As part of my StoryOfMum mini-exhibition, I’m sharing this photo from the Brit Mums tour (I think!) What I love about this is how happy this mum looks. She’s on child number six, and – while she may not be a teen mum – she’s a mum and NOT ashamed! And what a beautiful bump she’s sporting.
As you may or may or not know, last week I appeared on the panel for BBC Newsnight. Interviewed by Jeremy Paxman. Live. Yes, I nearly crapped my pants.
The topic was sex education in schools, and, more specifically, how it can be improved to reduce levels of unwanted pregnancies. Now, by “unwanted”, you would assume that they meant pregnancies that lead to abortion. No. Somehow, the term “unwanted pregnancies” includes not only pregnancies which lead to abortion, but teenage pregnancies too. I’m not sure whether by “unwanted” they mean “unplanned”, or just the fact that our pregnancies (and, in turn, our children) are simply “unwanted” by the general public. Of course, personal experience has shown this to be true, but it’s still quite brass to say it.
The Unwanted Pregnancy Inquiry: A cross-party inquiry intending “to produce a series of recommendations to Government departments on ways to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the UK.” The concern is that abortion rates are rising in some age groups (note: this age group is women between 30 and 34, not those under the age of 20), and that teenage pregnancy rates are too high (although rates actually decreased by around 20% between 1999 and 2010, and are continuing to decrease). To be honest, I’m neither pro-life nor pro-choice; I’m just pro-do-what’s-best-for-you. For me, abortion was not best. The idea had crossed my mind on finding out that I was pregnant when I was 17, but once I really thought about the fact that I had a child growing inside of me, my decision was made. And now that decision has become the best thing in my life. So, obviously me and thousands of other females out there just like me, are going to be a little more than offended when we’re being told that our pregnancies are “unwanted”.
Of course, I can see why in the current economic climate many may see unplanned teenage pregnancies as a problem; often young parents have no choice but to rely on state benefits, which does cost money. This is not an issue generalised to teenage parents. Thousands of families of all ages rely on benefits to support them. The difference is older families have had the time in their lives to gain work experience or qualifications, or both. Young parents have not. All of the young mothers that I know are in education, work, or both. If they are receiving benefits, I doubt that they will be for long. And, if they’re not, why was their pregnancy so unwanted?
However, I can’t be too anti towards the entire inquiry, as Amber Rudd, the Conservative MP running it, actually made sense. Yes, I agreed with a Conservative MP. She concluded that sex education in schools needs to have more focus on relationships. It also needs to bring in the role of the male more. I couldn’t agree more. As I mentioned, the only issue I can see people really having with young parents is the financial implications on the country. Perhaps if young people were guided more on relationships, there would be less young single mothers. With both parents around full-time, having a stable income would be far easier, and shock horror, young parents would rely on benefits less.
Being taught about relationships in school probably does sound absolutely absurd, especially to the older generation who were just about taught about sex in school. But I’m sure that seeing people have sex on television programmes like Geordie Shore would sound absolutely absurd to the older generation too. Which would they prefer?
I’m aware that my view won’t be one which is shared by many. I’m also aware that, for some teenage parents, becoming a parent can turn their worlds upside-down. Better sex education with less biology and mechanics and more relationship and emotion focus can and will also reduce teenage pregnancies. Things in the real world are changing when it comes to sex, things need to change within schools too.
I was going to post a link the the show on BBC’s iPlayer, but unfortunately it is no longer there. Yes, my fifteen minutes of fame is over. When I get my hands on a copy, I’ll put a clip up.
What I have included though, is a few screen shots of nice things people tweeted about me during the show. What? It’s not often a teenage mother has people say nice things about her you know…