This is me. I became a mother to my beautiful son Thomas when I was sixteen. I wanted to share this story with you because I feel like I had to face so much stigma over the years while I was raising him. I also wanted to share my story because I know how tough it is to be a young parent and I want to tell you that you can be an amazing parent and be successful, even if people tell you that you can’t or won’t be able to do it.
I used to feel like I wasn’t good enough or that other mothers were better than me. Mainly, I think it was because of our financial situation. I was always that mum who wasn’t part of the crowd in the school yard.
Except I wasn’t a bad parent. I was shy but kind and my son meant the world to me. I was young but I was mature and I was determined to prove to people that they were wrong about me.
As a young mum people assumed that I was selfish or they assumed I couldn’t be good mother. Perhaps it’s because when they were that age they couldn’t of done it. I find it astonishing that people try to crush you with shame when you’re in this situation. Believe me; life is already tough enough.
The stigma I faced wasn’t because I was young all the time, I think it was about being a single parent too. I became a single parent at eighteen. I used my savings to move out of my parents home. I moved into a rented flat and have been responsible for myself ever since.
I bought furniture from charity shops and accepted any hand me downs that came my way. It was difficult. At times I felt like the world was crushing me. I got depressed. I felt lonely. I felt like I was stuck in a hole and I’d never get out of it. I felt like my son would always grow up having nothing and I wouldn’t have anything to leave him when I left this earth. I felt crushing guilt and shame. And don’t get me started on relationships…
My son’s father was young too, we’re actually really good friends now. We realise now that we were too young to have a child when we did but there is no anger there between us. We were just incompatible and didn’t realise it yet. Now we’re just both kind of amazed that we created someone as amazing as we did.
I was always shocked when people judged me. I wasn’t confident enough to know my worth. I wasn’t brave enough to stand up for myself. I took their cruel comments as the truth and they hurt. I’ve read a lot about teenage pregnancies since and it seems they are common in young women with self esteem issues. My parents were very difficult to be around. Even more so after I had my son; they blamed me for making them look like they were bad parents, even though they kind of were. So all of this guilt that I felt, I internalised and my self esteem was barley existent.
It was difficult at times. For example I remember my son wanting to do football lessons when he was six; so I paid for the lessons. I bought him some football boots; then I was out of cash. I literally had zero in my bank account. He went to his first lesson. When I picked him up he started to cry. He was the only one who didn’t have a football strip and the other kids had laughed at him for not having one. I couldn’t afford one so he had to go without. I’ve never felt so low. Moments like that broke my heart. It took me years to become financially stable and independent, but eventually I did.
I’m sure life was difficult for my son too. The price of having a mother who looks like an older sister must be embarrassing. We usually get stopped when we travel together by passport control. They ask if he’s my brother. ‘No’ I reply, he’s my son. Any job I have, usually is shocked when I tell them I have a teenage son. ‘You’re too young’ they say.
I learnt a few years ago that guilt is a trap. Shaming, humiliation and guilt are weapons people use. They inflict these feelings onto you because there is something wrong with them not you. So don’t let people make you feel this way if you’re in that situation.
I took my son to Rhodes in Greece when he was seven. It was the first holiday I’d had as an adult and I’d saved for months to go. I met a lady there who worked in a cafe. She was stunned that I was there with my son. She excitedly asked me lots of questions. She told me I should be proud of myself and that I was brave. It was the first time someone had said that to me. I didn’t realise at the time but it set me on a path of self healing.
Since then my son and I have travelled a lot. We have also explored and fought conventional thoughts and stigma and I am so proud of my son…
To all the young women out there in this situation just know that it will get easier. You can change your life and money story. You can be a young parent and still have a normal life and a successful career. Give yourself a pat on the back and keep going. You’re doing an amazing job young momma. If I can do it so can you.