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The Misconceptions of young motherhood

For any new mum, the journey into motherhood is an alien one: if you are lucky enough to avoid a traumatic birth or postpartum depression, among many other things, becoming responsible for new life is an all-consuming and life-changing event. 

For the young people in our services, the pressure is twofold: not only are they navigating the demands of new motherhood, but they are often dealing with their own trauma, be it a family breakdown, fleeing violence, or the experience of rough sleeping. 

At such a young and pivotal age, it can be hard enough to know who you are with such instability in your life, but with a new baby many will go through a severe shift in their identity, dealing with feelings of stress and isolation. Teenage pregnancy continues to decrease in the UK, reducing by roughly 66% since 1998. But still, there are not adequate services in place tailored to those who do find themselves with child at a young age.

“Having [my son] at 15, you can only imagine that the first point of contact I would have was with social services, because there were concerns that a 15-year-old was having a child,” Jayde, a young mother from Croyden, recently told us on our podcast, Point Made. “But there wasn't that support for early help, or with my mental state… There was just no support for me.”

And mental health issues in young mothers is far more prevalent – a 2020 study from McMaster Children’s Hospital in Canada found two out of three mothers ages 21 and younger have at least one mental health issue after the birth of their child, with almost 40% of new mothers having more than one mental health problem.

Without a support network, it’s inevitable that young mothers will begin to struggle. “In our Barnsley services, I saw young mums face this problem again and again,” explains Hayley, Centrepoint’s Healthy Relationships advisor. “The Health team already provided practical help and advice to new mums, but it was still tough for them to cope with the physical, social, emotional and psychological changes that motherhood brings.”

Without the correct support, it can put the trajectory of a young mother’s life in jeopardy. Pregnancy often brings about a tricky dichotomy for young people: to try to continue with education or to drop out and care full-time for their child. Many, like Jade, persevere with their studies, but it’s not a simple process.

“I wanted so bad to be uni,” she said on our podcast. “I think people have this [preconception] that you want to sit at home – I didn't. There was a fight in me to carry on. I left [university] in the December I had my son in March, and I had to complete a full year's worth of work in 10 weeks. Otherwise I would have had to defer a year and I knew I would have dropped out. I don't think I think people realise how difficult it is to carry on and fighting to do it, because it's not made easy.”

We are endlessly in awe of the young mothers in our service, who do everything they can to provide the best life for their children – one they are often not afforded themselves. Centrepoint are here to support all new parents as they take the step into this daunting next chapter in their life. Our new parent’s service in London provides the support needed, providing young people with a place to call their own with their family and help in place.

And of course, the support doesn’t stop there – we want for new parents what we want for all young people who come through our doors: the ability to move on to independence. A home to call their own, and – crucially to many – support to get back or stay in education with help from our Centrepoint Works and Bursary teams.

As Jade says, “the [idea] of mums not wanting to do anything with their life is totally wrong. I had the fight in me.” Nature shows mothers to be the most tenacious there is, and we see this fight in so many of our young parents - to become the best version of themselves in order to give their child the best life possible. Emma, a Supported Housing Officer for Centrepoint’s Young Parent’s service, sums it up perfectly when she says: “It’s sort of nice to prove people wrong as well. You know you can do it. Just because you've got children, doesn't mean you can't.”

If you're interested in hear more about the young women navigating motherhood in our services, and a range of other fascinating topics, listen to our podcast, Point Made, here.

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