Teen mamas are everywhere. When we see each other on the school run, we nod as we rush by. When we notice someone else has a different last name to their child or is mistaken for a sister, we find each other somehow and have a giggle about it.
We give each other hand-me-downs and talk about financial woes and family drama. There's something unique about knowing that someone else woke up one day, to the same life-changing surprise as you.
However, there are also unique challenges- no worse or better than mums who had jobs and homes before they started a family- but certainly different. Here are five such challenges I faced, that many young mamas can relate to!
1. Ignorance is bliss...or is it?
On one hand, the lack of knowledge regarding childbirth and parenting meant less anxiety about what was to come. On the other hand, I had no idea about what was to come. After watching another expectant mum freak out about the whole pushing-a-watermelon-out-of-a-hole-the-size-of-a-grape thing, I honestly think ignorance is bliss when it comes to childbirth.
However, a little heads up about the emotional mess that is motherhood might have been nice. My own mother focused on the practical stuff like washing baby and sleep and feeding- invaluable wisdom I will always be grateful for.
2. Having no mum mates
Being a student parent, none of my friends or peers had kids. On one hand, I was the only one who knew about all things baby and therefore people listened. As if being a parent gave me some extra insight about life... OH, the irony!
However, there was no solidarity in venting. The empathetic people would say things like 'I can't imagine' and the others would say 'well if I were you...'. The latter was worse because, though well-intentioned, it sounded more like parent-shaming than advice.
I remember the relief I felt when I connected with another young mum during a summer job cleaning student accommodation. She understood the guilt of staying an extra hour in the library to finish an essay. The all-nighters and the crèche cough that always seemed to happen around exam time.
Finally, someone else whose college assignments were stained with cereal and formula instead of beer.
3. It takes a village
By village I mean the whole family, both mine and his. Everyone has a say. No parenting decisions are made without everyone's voice being heard. It is both wonderful and frustrating all at the same time and it took us a few years to learn how to deal with it.
Mums need all the support they can get, especially younger mamas. The boundaries between support and full-blown parenting cross every once in a while and keeping a cool head is vital. We tend to let our daughter lead the way, as she has the village wrapped around her little finger.
4. Not trusting myself
I thought this was a young-mum thing but if the MummyPages community has taught me anything, we all feel it- even those who look like they have it together.
I would get waves of panic when I watched her sleep: how dare they trust me- a child- with something so important?
I doubted every single move I made. I realise now that doubting one's self is an occupational hazard of being a mum!
5. Being a 'baby with a baby'
I love this term now and I love being a young mum. My heart hadn't grown up when I became pregnant and now thanks to my little girl, it never has to. However, ask any teen mum and they will tell you that the beginning of the pregnancy is nothing short of a nightmare.
The decision-making, the telling family and friends, not to mention the hormones. The only thing that keeps you going is the thought of holding your baby in your arms after nine months of crying.
You never know what to say to a pregnant teenager. Do you congratulate them? Do you sympathise? Here's the easy answer: If they are happy, you should be too. If there is a doubt about that, ask.
There are SO many things you shouldn't say, ranging from 'how could you be so stupid?' to 'are you going to keep it?' Yes, those are real examples and if you are not the teenager's parent, your job is to avoid anything along those lines at all costs.
It's important to remember that EVERY pregnancy will come with its own set of difficulties and being 'too' young might be one of them. We are all mums and support is the best gift we can give each other.