Why We Need To Breakdown Stereotypes Of Young Mums

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Young artist Jendella Benson is challenging societies misconceptions about young mums through her photography project, Young Motherhood. Camila went down to the House of Commons to check out one of her exhibitions hosted by somewhereto_. Here she tells us why we need more projects like Jendella's

Stereotypes of young mothers

I was very excited to be invited to the House of Commons where the talented and young artist, Jendella Benson, had an exhibition on young motherhood. The main concept was about challenging false beliefs of young mothers and the stigmas that are attached to them. A few young mums shared their stories about their struggles trying to live in a society which looks down on them.

One of the mothers spoke of her memories of being thrown her benefit money every time she’d have to collect it and how belittled she would feel. Another spoke of a letter to her parents reading ‘unfortunately’ your daughter is pregnant. While I sat back and listened it dawned on me that from the moment we find out we are pregnant many of us are made to feel that we are doomed and that our lives have been written off. It saddens me to think that many other young girls will believe this.

The most common negative stereotypes associated with young mothers are that they get pregnant to secure a council flat, sit around claiming benefits and do nothing all day. I didn’t need any proof to know that these ideas are complete misassumption, but as each mothers story unravelled I realised that actually becoming a mother at a young age gives them a renewed focus as they are determined to succeed for the wellbeing of their children.

Stereotypes of young mothers 1

In the past I’ve been made to feel ashamed of myself for having had a child in my teens. But the truth is, there’s no law against having children young, we’ve not committed a crime so we shouldn’t be made to feel bad about ourselves. I think a lot of the negative responses I have received are mainly due to people who argue that their hard earned taxes are going to lazy young mums who know nothing at all. In reality many young mothers become extremely determined in finding a job and returning to education in order to avoid benefits, but we are faced with ridiculously high education and childcare costs which will mean sometimes we need some help in order to help ourselves.

Young mothers shouldn’t be attacked and put down by societies preconceived judgements. Instead they should be praised and celebrated for aiming for more. Somehow every woman is always doing wrong. We, as women, are always being scrutinised. What makes me sad the most, though, is that the criticism will usually come from another woman.

Jendella put together an amazing project along with some wonderful photographs of young mothers and their children. The truth is, we need more of this. I felt quite emotional hearing other mothers talk about their experiences, finding a strange comfort in knowing that many girls across the UK have to face the same issues and are in very similar positions as I am.

Young mothers need to stand up and unite to change societies view of us.  We too are raising the next generation, and if a 30 or 40 year old is looking down on teens for having a child, it’s about time they realise that both of our children will be playing together in the same playgrounds.

And, at the end of the day, it’s our children that really matter.


Feature image and inserts from Jendella’s Young Motherhood project

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