Things You Only Know If You Are A Teenage Parent

"On my maternity referral form, my GP wrote ‘unfortunately Lizzie is pregnant’" writes Lizzie Fry.

Young Teen Mum And Son

by Lizzie Fry |

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I had my son Alf when I was still doing my A Levels. I had been a promising student, so it was felt I had ‘let myself down’. I know this because one of my teachers said this to me. Other people asked, ‘I thought you were meant to be bright?’ On my maternity referral form, my GP wrote ‘unfortunately Lizzie is pregnant’.

Yet there was nothing ‘unfortunate’ about being a teen parent as far as I was concerned. After growing up in a deeply dysfunctional family, having my son young has ultimately been a very positive and healing experience for me. Alf is in his early twenties now and we are a close pair. Both of us feel like he’s ‘always’ been in my life because in real terms, he has – over half of it now!

Now I am the professional writer I always dreamed of being, plus my son is now at university himself. He is learning to be a music producer with his own band, HAAL. Alf comprehends the importance of going for your dreams. It is what I taught him!

I could understand Alf’s ambitions as it wasn’t that long ago I was doing the same and he was right there with me! Alf knows I would never tell him music is not a ‘real job’ or that he should ‘settle’ for less. He’s already made good in-roads, signing with a manager and working in promotions.

Practicalities can be very difficult as a young parent, it’s true. Crucially this is more to do with society’s perceptions of young parents and lack of support for them, rather than the child. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been told I am ‘promoting teen pregnancy’ or even that I should ‘feel shame’ just for telling my own story.

There’s also a lot of stereotyping and unfair assumptions about teen parents. ‘Babies having babies’ is a favourite catchphrase. Many like to pontificate ‘life experience’ is key to being a good parent, yet older parents often discover they have identical issues raising children. No one can be a parent without having a baby first. All of us come to this with zero experience and have to learn on the job. Most people would agree that just because many parents have to deal with poverty, this does not make them bad at looking after their kids. By the same token, age and parental ability are not automatically linked.

Another favourite catchphrase aimed at young parents is ‘You’ve ruined your life!’ Yet lots of pregnant teenagers find they level up when they become parents. This is my experience, plus the many teenage parents both male and female I am proud to know. They are now teachers, writers, solicitors, film producers, retail managers and staff, police, nurses, social workers, charity fundraisers … as well as parents to other children born at the ‘right’ time deemed by society.

Whilst parents are never ‘cool’ to their own kids, my son always knew he could come to me with any issues he was having with his peers and I would never belittle it as ‘kid stuff’. I could understand where he was coming from because I was not that much older.

Like many, Alf was a challenging teenager. Despite this, he was never able to go completely off the rails because I’d been the same age what felt like five minutes’ earlier. I remember him wailing when he was about thirteen, ‘It’s like you’re psychic, I never get away with anything!’

Lots of people like to ‘exceptionalise’ teen parents who do well for themselves. They will say they ‘got lucky’ or that they were ‘never like the others’. Yet many saying this forget most of our grandparents were young parents themselves.

It is definitely time for change and for young parents to get the support they deserve.

The Coven, by Lizzie Fry, is out now.

MORE: Looking for book recommendations for your children?

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