I never expected to be a young mum. I mean to be honest I never imagined myself even being a mum.
I was one of those girls at school that everyone said wouldn’t be a teen mum; I was too good for that. I kept my grades up, didn’t mess around with boys and focused on my future career. But at 19, I fell pregnant.
Society tells us that young mums are irresponsible young girls. Those ‘benefit scrounging’ kids that do it on purpose.
That they wander around with buggies full of babies, hair scraped back like Vicky Pollard with no ambition in their lives.
The media tells us they have no focus, no drive and are in it for free housing, free money and an easy life. Looking for handouts instead of paying back to society.
As I said, I never expected to be a young mum, but who really does?
I was in the middle of a degree and all of a sudden I was faced with the fact I was set to be not only ‘student and Laura’ but now ‘mum and Laura’, too.
At a time when I was at my most vulnerable, when my world had been turned upside down, I had people telling me that I was making a foolish mistake and throwing my life away.
It was tough being a young mum. I had jeers and stares, comments and murmurs about how I did it for benefits.
I was told I was throwing my life away by colleagues, and my university lecturers asked whether I was being responsible by returning to my course.
No one seemed to expect that I would actually do more than sit at home and live up to a stereotype that was placed upon me.
No one beyond my close circle of family and friends gave me the opportunity to prove myself before they labelled me as an irresponsible young mum. But they were all wrong.
When my son was born I knew I had made the right choice. Being a parent was everything I hoped for and more.
I had gone from being a partying student to a mum under a mountain of baby clothes. The postnatal depression was in full swing as I suddenly didn’t know where I belonged in the world.
My friends dropping me and the juggle of being a parent meant I hid myself away. I felt that everyone was looking at me and expecting me to fail.
I honestly almost gave up and listened to the voices that were telling me I was a scrounger and a dead weight on society.
But I fought through with sheer determination. I defied those expectations that others had placed on me.
I went back to university and worked my hardest to prove to my peers and other adults that having a child didn’t hold me back.
I found a job that valued me as an employee. I felt like people were looking beyond the label of young mum.
But I was then applauded. Told that I wasn’t like the other young mums in the world, those ones that sit and do nothing.
All because I graduated university and found work, built a future and worked hard. Because I chose my path and took it.
Because I supposedly broke the stereotype and didn’t sit and reap those non-existent benefit handouts that all young mums are handed on a silver platter.
But who really defines what a young mum should be like?
I’m fortunate to have a large group of friends that are young mums through the Young Women’s Trust, and all of my friends that are young mums are happy and successful in their own way.
Some have masters degrees, some own houses, some are their own bosses, and all of them are just amazing mothers.
At the end of the day we all clothe, feed, wash and love our children the same way that everyone else does. We take them to school, teach them to read and nurture them into fantastic young adults and beyond.
So if we, as young mums, do all of this the same as every other mum on the playground and in the baby groups, why are we penalised for how we choose to live our lives?
Mums come from all walks of life and all experiences, so why should we judge others without knowing them? Why do we put them into a box on the shelf and label them without a second thought?
I never expected to be a young mum.
People may have said I had ruined my life, but I can honestly say it has shaped me into who I am today.
It’s made me someone that campaigns for young women; that inspires others to talk about their experiences and who stands up and is proud of who she is.
And for that I am thankful and I wouldn’t have it any other way now.
Being a young mum was one of the most challenging but best turning points in my life. I am a young mum, and I am proud to be one.
You can find Laura’s blog here.[/metro-fact-box]
Labels is an exclusive series that hears from individuals who have been labelled – whether that be by society, a job title, or a diagnosis. Throughout the project, writers will share how having these words ascribed to them shaped their identity — positively or negatively — and what the label means to them.
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