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15 Young Mothers Who Defy The Stereotypes

Jendella Benson, writer and photographer, speaks to women who became mothers at a young age.

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Photographer Jendella Benson started her photo project "Young Motherhood" to show how young mothers are currently perceived by the public.

She took portraits of the women with their children and found out about the experiences they have had of young motherhood.

"I have friends who had children at what most would consider to be a young age," Benson told BuzzFeed. "I really admired their perseverance in raising their children while also working, going to university, and generally striving after their goals.

"I was very aware that in society in general, young mothers are spoken about in a very negative way."

Amy on young mothers of today:

“I’m a teacher, so I deal with young people who become pregnant regularly. I just always say to them that things just take a little bit longer, you can achieve everything you wanted to achieve, but sometimes it will take a little bit longer. So I went to university, but I was just a few years behind my peers who went at the traditional age. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get there, but [also] you should enjoy your baby and not be ashamed of it.”

Angella on deciding to go through with her first pregnancy:

“We made our decision that whatever challenges come, we take [them] head on. I don’t think you can ever be prepared to have children, I think it’s just kind of like a day-to-day thing, you take the challenges as they come, you overcome, and you look back and say, ‘Man, that was hard, but we done it.’”

Chantell on growing up together:

“It’s a huge responsibility, but it’s what I know now, and I really enjoy the fact that I’ve got my daughter. I’m her first teacher, she looks up to me and I love it because it challenges me to be a better person in myself. She’s a really good girl. Sometimes maybe I wish I’d waited ‘til later, but now when I look at my daughter and she’s the age she is, I’m the age I am – we’ve grown [up] together. So I don’t wish I’d had her later, I’m glad I had her when I did.”

Charity on friends' reactions and advice:

“[I had] friends saying, 'No, no, you like to go out, you like to do this...' and I was like, 'Is that life though? I’ve got a life in me!' It annoyed me a bit and I was quite upset with a few people, and to be honest, even to the point where if they comment about him now, like 'Oh he’s so gorgeous!' – well you didn’t think I should’ve had him! At the beginning I was quite bitter towards [them] because it upset me, because I wanted support. I never considered [abortion], I had my beliefs and I [didn’t] see abortion as a way out.”

Dee on public perception of young parents:

“The stigma of being a young parent is increasing because of feelings about welfare. I think people really don’t like young parents for a lot of reasons, but most of it is economic. It’s not acceptable to be homophobic or racist or sexist any more, but you’ll often hear discrimination towards young parents. [You hear] that they’re scum of the earth and all the things that are said about their morality.”

Emily on the transition into motherhood:

“Throughout my pregnancy I definitely got more confident. I got more confident as a woman and I definitely felt the transition between being a teenager and being an adult. I had to leave a lot of friends behind, because it wasn’t about hanging out with your friends, having a drink and going to the pub, or messing about any more. It was all about planning for the future and settling down, and doing what you need to do.”

Grace on strangers' reactions:

“I remember being on a hospital ward on a shift, and I had my name badge and underneath my name badge there was a picture of Daniel on the other side. And one of the patients saw this picture of Daniel and she said, 'Oh, you’ve got a son.' I said, 'Yeah, he’s 2.' 'Oh, you’re not married?' I said, 'No, I’m not married, it’s just me and Daniel.' 'Oh, you must still love him though, mustn’t you?' Well, yeah! He’s my son, yes, I do still love him!”

Jennifer on working and motherhood:

“I gave up on my studying, I worked, I had my child, I took time off, and then when he was about 8 months, I went back to work full-time. I remember I would go to work with tears in my eyes, because I felt like I was forced to go back to work, I felt like the government was tying my hands. I didn’t want to leave him so soon. I didn’t have any financial support from the father, and it was really all on me. As tough and as challenging as it was, you just do it. Somehow you just find the strength to cope. Each time I was telling myself, ‘I’m not just doing this for myself, I’m doing this for my child. I’m his whole world, so I have to do what I need to do.’”

Justina on how motherhood changed her approach to life:

“It made me super determined to do something with my life. Essentially when I got pregnant everyone wrote me off except for my mum. They said I wouldn’t amount to anything, I’d ruined my life, I’d never have a career, I wouldn’t be able to get a decent job. At the time, because I wasn’t with her father, it was like ‘Nobody is ever going to want you, you’re never going to be able to get married, nobody’s going to take on you and a child.’ I was super determined to prove them wrong. When I was able to, I went back to college and I studied and I worked, and I worked, and I worked to not fulfil that kind of stereotype.”

Lucy on deciding to have a baby:

“Looking back now, I did it on purpose. I didn’t understand that was what I was doing at the time. There were lots of things going on in my life that I was very confused about and very worried about. With the hindsight of an adult, as someone who is much more mature and has had all the experiences that I’ve had as a mother and someone who has set their life up, I can see now what I was doing. I was trying to control my environment, and I was trying to control what was happening in my life.”

Modupe on her own perceptions of young mothers:

“Before I got pregnant, if I saw someone else who was pregnant and young I always thought, ‘How can they be pregnant? They’re so young!' And then when I was in the situation I was like, ‘Oh, so it can happen to anyone!’ So I was very conscious of people around me and what they would think of me as well. There was another girl and she fell pregnant shortly after me and I remember her telling me, and it’s really bad, but I wanted to be by myself. I didn’t want to be grouped [with her], like the 'teenage mums'. I didn’t want to be put into that stereotype. But I was put into it anyway, because I was a young mum.”

Naomi on government support:

“When I became pregnant I didn’t know anything about any government support. Even until after I had Ella, I didn’t know. I was totally unaware of so many things. A few weeks after I had her, my sister was like, 'Do you know about this and do you know about that?' and I was like 'No.' Even months after, I went to see a health visitor and she was like, 'Have you applied for this and have you applied for that?' And I was just like, 'I didn’t even know that existed.' It would have been a lot easier and a lot better if I actually knew before I gave birth.”

Natalie on appreciating opportunity:

“There is a sense now that I think, ‘Ah, I didn’t do the university thing, I didn’t have any of those opportunities.’ But then actually I had a whole load of other stuff. I know some people now who are really struggling to conceive, now I’m at an age where people are planning or trying to have babies, and so it is that sense of I do feel a real privilege and a real blessing that I’ve had the opportunity to do that, even if it wasn’t in the best circumstances or in the planned way.”

Sophie on support:

“Where I lived at the time was renowned for having the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, so all the support was pretty much where I was. Not only did I have my family, I had the help from Connexions, I had a specific midwife that was trained to deal with teenage pregnancies and she was fantastic and I’m still great friends with her now. I knew that I didn’t have to worry about school and [being] a mum and [doing] everything all at once. I had people that could set out for me a simple way of looking at it. Having specific teenage support stops you from feeling so alienated and isolated.”

Tanya on being and looking young:

“[I was 17 but] I looked about 13, so I think I felt very aware of that and I wanted people to see me as an adult. Even when I was in the hospital giving birth, I felt that the midwives were mistreating me a little bit because I was young. I wanted them to acknowledge that I was a woman giving birth, but they didn’t. I didn’t want to be a stereotypical young mum; I hated the fact that I looked so young pushing a buggy down the street and people [saw] that. So I was determined to not be what people expected me to be.”

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