Jendella Benson: Thinking Of The Future
What does ‘the future’ mean when you’re 17?
When I was 17, I was trying to avoid doing a third year at college and working out how many pairs of Air Max I could buy with my £5.67-an-hour retail job. The future didn’t exist to me, not in any responsible way.Remembering what you were like at 17 can make you think that it’s not possible to be a mum when you’re a teenager. But a 17-year-old mum is very different to a 17-year-old without a child. The future takes on a totally different meaning when you have a beautiful little cherub to think about.
Many young mums talk about the drive their children give them. The stereotype of a teen mum who gets pregnant because all she wants is a free council house and benefits is so far from the truth that I would argue it’s an outright lie. As Teen Mom UK girls including Amber Butler and Naomi Konickova take bold steps towards their careers, they are not exceptions to this imaginary rule – they are just two examples of countless young mums who are doing the same, without TV cameras recording their journey.
While working on the Young Motherhood project, I’ve come across comments from people who are concerned that teen mums are not thinking about their or their child’s future. I’ve found myself explaining to people that just because someone has made a decision that you may not have personally made, it doesn’t automatically make them irresponsible.
In fact, in my experience young mothers might be thinking about their futures in more practical ways than their peers are.
Decisions about second children, buying a house, or working through relationship issues are not easy ones to make. Whatever you may think of their plans, the mums of Teen Mom UK are thinking hard about the kind of futures they want for themselves and their families. That’s the thing that matters above all else.
Even though I’ve not met any of the Teen Mom UK girls, I still try to avoid reading what people are saying about them on social media. It really annoys me that critics some refuse to open their minds to see beyond first impressions and the rubbish stereotypes that have almost become accepted ‘truth’.
I know first-hand what it is like to feel defined by the stories other people tell about you, and I know it can be painful when people have already made up their mind about you and your life, not caring about the truth or your side of the story. I did a TEDx talk on why it is so important for us to reclaim our stories and tell our truth boldly.
The opinions of strangers will not determine the future for these young women and their families. But still, it can be very vulnerable to put your life out there like that. This is why I admire the mums of Teen Mom UK for letting us witness the ups and downs of their lives even more. While other people debate the details of their lives, teen mums are just getting on with it, and that's another reason why they don't have anything to worry about when it comes to the future.
Words: Jendella Benson, Young Motherhood
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