While other 16-year-olds were picking year 12 subjects, getting their first jobs and navigating raging hormones, I was expecting my first child.
At the time the test came back positive, I was already living in the Blue Mountains, away from my family. I hadn’t been trying to get pregnant, but then again, I don’t remember acting overly cautious either.
Perhaps it was because my own childhood growing up with my single mum and grandma had been a little unconventional, but when I found out I was pregnant I was a little surprised but not shocked – I certainly didn’t have any negative feelings about the pregnancy. I knew from the get go I would be doing this on my own – when you’re 16, you think you’re 6-foot tall and bulletproof. I barely questioned my situation; instead, I threw my ‘mum’ hat on and got to work.
Now, of course, I can’t imagine things any other way. I’m proud of my kids and of myself, and I’m completely comfortable being a young mum (although, at 35, I’m not so young anymore!). That’s not to say having kids at a young age didn’t completely change my life. I stepped away from my friendship circles and made new friends through a young parents’ group in the Blue Mountains.
I grew up quicker than most, but I received some incredible support along the way.
Here’s what being a young mum has taught me.
1. Practice resilience
Having to take on an adult role from a young age isn’t always easy, but building resolve is key to getting through the more challenging times. Build a support network of people that you trust, and ignore the funny looks or occasional rude comment someone throws your way at the station when you’re just trying to get your pram on the train.
2. The #fomo is real, but it’s only temporary
Being a young mum does take up a lot of your life. Fact. I’m now coming to the end of my run (my kids are turning 16 and 18 in June this year), which means I’ll be more free to catch up on the things I missed out on in my twenties. Seeing all your friends go off and travel the world wasn’t necessarily difficult because of what I had with me at home, but I’m definitely looking forward to travelling more once they leave the nest.
3. No matter how old you are, parenting teenagers is hard
People always say to me, “at least you’re closer to your kids in age.” Little to do they know being close in age doesn’t really help when your teenagers are being the worst. I will always be 17 years older than them, and they will always think I’m lame, or out of touch. I will always be their mum. Teenagers are really hard, but for me it’s the most important time and it’s a priority for me to support them through this. I’ve been working full time since my youngest was about 4, because I always wanted to show my kids that you can do whatever you want – work, raise a family, all of it. On the flip side, that perhaps indicated that work was more important than them at certain times. Now in their older years, I’ve been able to step back and go part time, because it really is the most important time to be there with them.
4. You can have a family and a career
Having a family at a young age certainly isn’t right for everyone, but it was right for me. What I liked was that I didn’t have to take any pauses in my career – I was able to be a stay-at-home mum when my children were younger and then make inroads in my career as they were growing up. I don’t want any more children – I am very much done – so now I can focus on my career while I’m still at a good age to do so.
READ MORE: Newborns 101
5. Trust your own judgement
As a teenage parent, you’re constantly trying to prove yourself to other people. Working too hard during this special time and refusing to accept help in order to prove you’re not the stereotype is not only stressful, but it could even be counterproductive – if someone’s decided you’re a stereotype you’re probably not going to change their mind, and you don’t need them in your life anyway. I was lucky in that I didn’t cop a lot of negative feedback in my community, but I know other young mums don’t always have it so easy. Hold your head high, but be kind to yourself, too.