What are the challenges that being a young parent bring? How do you deal with other people judging you? In our latest guest post, a member of Newport Parent Network shares their story and tips on how to cope.
My journey to becoming a young parent started around September 2014. I was 19 and travelling around Australia. My partner and I had been there for almost a year and we were staying in a party hostel on the beach. That’s when I noticed the smell of cigarettes and goon (a ‘wine’ in a box, the chosen beverage of a budget backpacker) had started to make me feel physically sick and not just mildly nauseous.
We’d confided in another couple who had become good friends. They were the only two people who were aware of our situation and were our rock in such a crazy unstable time. After seeing the POSITIVE on the clear blue we were in total shock. I was terrified! How am I going to tell my family and our friends?
It can be very hard to hear “I’m disappointed in you”.
It went so much better than I expected. When we broke the news to our backpacking friends and to mine and my partners’ friends back home the response was overwhelming. There were so many kind words and supportive comments.
Not all, however, were kind or supportive. It can be very hard to hear “I’m disappointed in you”. Even when people have given loving comments it was still such an isolating and scary experience. I had no idea what was going to happen next or had anyone close to me that knew what I was going through.
After returning to the UK in December 2014 my bump began to dance and grow.
Throughout my pregnancy walking down the street was such a beautiful experience. People would smile and ask me questions and try and touch my bump. I rarely noticed any judging looks and comment.
I didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously and often felt patronised.
Until I gave birth to my little one that was. We were in hospital for a few days after the birth and that’s when I began to notice that occasionally I was being treated differently to other new mummies on my ward. Specifically mums older than me. I didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously and often felt patronised.
I put this down to ‘baby blues’ and thought I was probably just tired and emotional. To be fair within a few days I’d gone from having a huge uncomfortable bump to a stressful birth with complications to having this delicate little mini me now crying, pooping and constantly hanging off my breast.
The first few weeks I was completely engulfed in all things baby; health visitor appointments and family visits and getting to know my baby. I barely left the house. It was around 12 weeks post birth when I started to notice people making comments, tutting at me in the street and giving me the judging stares.
Having someone openly judge and critisise you as a parent does hurt.
I was in the midst of my postnatal depression and would often feel I was a particularly bad parent. Add to this the experience of having people tut and shake their head at me made it a million times harder.
It’s easy for me to say “just ignore it” or “don’t let it get to you” but in reality having a baby can be exhausting and challenging and having someone openly judge and critisise you as a parent does hurt.
How did I cope?
1. Staring and tutting
I used to be really on edge when I went out. In reality, it’s only a minority that will openly judge and criticise. Most people have been lovely and my little one and I have had numerous acts of kindness from strangers.
But now when I get a judgmental stare or a stare that makes me feel uncomfortable, I smile.
Even if my little one is screaming her head off and I can’t do anything about it. If someone is ignorant enough to tut or give you a judging stare they don’t deserve your time or precious energy.
2. The comments
“You’ve ruined your life.”
One of the most frequent comments I come across are variations of “you’ve ruined your life” and “your life is over”. I can honestly say there isn’t one single moment I’ve felt like I’ve ruined my life and I don’t think anybody has the right to make any young parent feel like they have. Yes, it is harder to balance work/study when you have a baby but it’s absolutely achievable!
“You have to have your life exactly planned out”
There’s so much pressure to have your life career ready to get back into it after your little one is here or you’ll amount to nothing. This isn’t true. In my experience the best thing you can do for your baby is be happy. If that means taking some time out to figure out what you love and are passionate about then do it. If you find something you’re passionate about you will do well. One of the brilliant things especially about being a young parent is we do have the flexibility to find what we love.
“Your baby is hungry…”
Most of the time my Monkey is happy and smiley and chatty… other times she likes to treat us to a cry (now this is a high pitch screaming, run your nails down a chalk board kind of cry). I go through the routine, check nappy, give Dentinox for teething, toys, water, carrot stick, singing to her.
Sometimes she wants to be held or needs the toilet – not always something I can help with. That’s when I can get people tell me I need to feed my baby or it’s too hot/cold/windy/rainy for my baby to be out of the house.
I used to get so flustered and upset until one time while I was shopping and my baby was crying while I was paying and a woman told me to feed my little one. So I just turned to her and said ‘no, she just needs a big poop’, she didn’t know how to respond and I left unflustered.
Age does not define the parent you are. If you know you are doing the best for your child and you show them love no stare, tut or comment can take that away from you.
Want to find out about services available to you and your child in your area? Would you like to chat about family matters in general? Then get in touch with the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline.
- Phone: 0300 222 57 57
- Text: 07860 052 905
- Instant message (see top of page)
We are open 6pm – 10pm Monday to Thursday and 10am – 2pm Friday & Saturday.