Written by Caitlyn McLeod, as part of the Beanstalk ‘Single Mums Sharing Stories’ series.
Caitlyn is a young single mother to Lochlan. As well as studying, working and being the best mum she can be, she also writes for her blog, Life With Lochlan.
Most of us dreamed of our fairy-tale ending from when we were children. Meeting our knight in shining armour, getting married, having our own house and then having kids, or something along those lines.
I know my fairy-tale ending didn’t involve finding out I was pregnant in a university halls of residence communal bathroom to a guy I had only known for three months at the age of 18. It also didn’t involve becoming a single teen mum 14 months later.
I have always been known as an overachiever in all aspects of life. I always strived to please people and do the best I could whether it came to school or dancing. I always had to be the best or on top. I was the last person people would expect to be ‘silly’ enough to get pregnant at the age of 18.
My son’s father and I decided to keep our baby with every intention to make it work and be a family, but no matter how old you are, or how long you have been together, having a baby puts a strain on your relationship.
When my son, Lochlan was seven months, an indiscretion on his father’s part came to light and after what had already been a rocky few months, I decided it was time to walk away. It’s a big call to separate your family. And the reality that we would be in each other’s lives for, well, ever as co-parents was so daunting, but I knew that I had to respect myself, my worth and my happiness by leaving.
Whatever your age and situation, you can still thrive as a single mother.
If you’re a young, single mum you would have felt judged at least once during your pregnancy, or when you are out and about with baby. The judging looks or even comments can be so hard to deal with. The classic ‘you’re kids having kids’ is the one that winds me up the most. I know it’s said in a light-hearted way, but it really hits home for me. I feel like it questions my ability as a parent, my ability to put my child before myself. I also feel like they are calling me immature, which I know I am the opposite of.
Some of the looks that I get when I am out shopping with Lochlan in our 20-year-old, second hand pram, can really get me down. I try to ignore them but sometimes it winds me up because they only see what’s on the outside. They see that I am young, they see that I am alone and they see my sweet baby in a hand-me-down pram.
“If you’re a young, single mum you would have felt judged at least once during your pregnancy, or when you are out and about with baby.”
What they don’t see is how happy and healthy my son is, how I work so hard to give my son what he needs and yes, I couldn’t afford a new pram for him but getting given one allowed me to buy him nappies and clothes. They don’t see that I do all the night wake-ups, all the nappies, all the bottles, they don’t see that I study full-time and work. They are still so quick to judge and comment and that is the thing that upsets me most.
The first few months of being a young single mum are definitely the hardest. You must come to grips with your new reality. Mine was moving two hours away, starting full time study and having all the responsibility of a baby by myself while Lochlan’s father went out drinking, moved into a flat with friends and tagged other girls in stuff on Facebook (something only our generation can relate to).
I feel like I have come out the other side. I have been one of the lucky ones that has awesome family support and things haven’t gotten too ugly between myself and Lochlan’s father. We have managed to come to an agreement outside of the courts for both custody and child support but I know some reading this won’t be in the same boat. My only advice for you is to stick to your instincts. You know what is best for you and your children, but also remember that it is both parent’s responsibility that the child has a mother and a father in their lives as long as they are willing to be there and the children are safe.
Having a baby young does not mean you must put your life on hold for too long if you don’t want to. I am a strong believer that if, as a mum you are happy and healthy, that can only be good for your children. As sole caregivers, we have to ensure our children see that personal happiness is one of the most important things. I know for myself I want to surround myself with positive, loyal people. I want Lochlan to know that his mother knew her worth and knew when enough was enough. But I also want to teach Lochlan to respect the world around him and everything within it.
For myself to be happy I had to move back to my hometown to be with my family, I had to start dancing again and I had to continue studying. I am currently in my first year of my Bachelor of Primary Teaching. It is hard work studying full time and being a full time mum but I know the kind of life I want myself and Lochlan to live. I want to be able to provide for us both and have a career I can be proud of.
“As sole caregivers, we have to ensure our children see that personal happiness is one of the most important things.”
So, find a way to do something you love or something that relaxes you.Take an hour aside each week to read a book, go to the movies or dance like I do. I understand that it can be hard to find time during the day, but I promise it will only make you feel better and happier with the life you’re living.
I would love to tell you that things will get easier, but I don’t believe they will. I think as our lives change and evolve, our challenges as young single mums will change as well. But we are women, we will adapt to whatever comes our way, that I am sure of.
It’s okay to have bad days, even weeks, but please make sure you notice when things are getting too much and go find help. We are so lucky in the Western world to have many different ways of getting and receiving assistance, whether that be financially, physically or mentally.
I am always only a click away online if you need someone to talk to whether it be through my blog, Life with Lochlan, on Facebook or Instagram. Feel free to get in touch anytime. There are also doctors, counsellors or family centres that are more than willing to help or send you to someone who can.
All our dreams and all our realities are different. The reasons or ways we became young, single mums are different, but we all face similar triumphs and trials and you are not alone.
My favourite quote, and one that has helped me get through the hard days is:
‘Women are like tea bags. You never know how strong they are until they’re placed in hot water.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt.