I remember throwing my hand up in the air whilst sitting at the front of my Society and Environmental Sciences class, in response to the question “Who’s parents are younger than 35?”
I turned around to see who had raised their hands, only to realise I was one of only a few. The teacher began to ask how old our parent were, as he started to get closer to me I realised my mum was most likely going to be the youngest. As the teacher got to me I replied with the answer “32”, with discreetly whispered gasps and shocked faces looking back at me.
My mum was 17 when she was married, and gave birth to me when she was 18. Growing up, this felt completely normal and in no way was it an odd or shameful fact about my life. As I grew older ,I realised that that wasn’t necessarily the case in all settings. You see, getting married and having kids at a young age in an ethnic community 20 years ago was a common practice, and it often still is. However, throughout my high school years it became apparent to me that there was a stigma that came with being the child of a teenage mother.
It became common practice for me to witness shock, horror and confused faces looking back at me when they found out my mums age. I found myself explaining the reason for my mum being so young and later I began avoiding the topic.
Often in society we are well aware of the stereotypes faced by young mothers but look past those attached to their children. Too many people would assume my mum had had me due to some ‘unfortunate’ circumstance, that I was some mistake or that I had somehow taken her teenage years away from her.
I also found myself trying to prevent certain stigmas from being attached to my mum, not wanting people to think that she was a “slut” for having a baby at such a young age. Often the stigmas were removed as soon as I reassured people that she was married when she had me.
Now that I’ve passed the age my mum was when she had me, I have come to realise that teenage mothers are one of the most resilient and determined people on this planet. Rather than attach negative stigmas, they deserve to be commended for their hard work at such a young age, married or unmarried.