Promoting Respect for Young Parents.

 For those of you that havent checked out a website I have reguarly promoted Prymface now is your chance to find a little bit more about the lovely Joelle who runs it and blogs over at Thirteen&Thirty. I posed a few questions to Joelle about how she came about with the idea of Prymface and what her background was and here were some of her answers:

How old were you when you had children?

I was 16 when I got pregnant and just turned 17 when I gave birth.

Did you find being a parent tougher than you expected?

I didn’t really have any expectations. I wasn’t in a good place when I was pregnant and thinking about the next day was hard enough. I love being a parent though and I love my relationship with my son. People always say ‘it must have been hard when you were young’ but I never thought like that. I just got on with it. He’s always been the best thing in my life. It would have been tough without him.

What has been your favourite stage so far in being a parent?

The day he was born was amazing and nothing will ever beat that-I tell him about it all the time! I don’t have a favourite stage though because each is different and always seems my favourite at the time. I loved being in my early twenties with a 4/5 year old. I love being 30 with a young teenager, and I’m looking forward to watching him become an adult-even though it terrifies me too!

What has been your greatest challenge as a parent?

Just the guilt that you constantly feel! I think that is just part of being a mum. You always think about what you could be doing better!

What does your day job involve?

I work as a Research Manager for a local council. I look at data and surveys and stuff and put it all together to try and understand what’s going on! Ideally it would then be used to make services for people better but I’m still working on that bit. I’ve never really known what I wanted to do but I’m happy in my job and I love the people I work with.

How have you balanced working with being a parent?

Personally I think I’ve done it quite well but that’s more down to luck than anything else! When I finished uni my son was 4 and starting nursery so I worked school hours till he was 8 which was perfect. I would have loved to carry on those hours but I was doing admin and hated the work! I was also rubbish at it! It was impossible to find a job I wanted part time so I took a full time job at Connexions as a Research Analyst and my mum would pick my son up from school. It worked well and I am eternally grateful to my mum! I loved that job so much more than doing admin! I did feel guilty though. In fact one of the main reasons I did a MSc was so that I would have the occasional day where I could pick my son up from school (I probably shouldn’t admit to that!). After a few years my partner had started working for himself and so could be home in time for when my son got in, so I was able to give my mum a break! I know I’m really lucky to have my mum just round the corner though. I don’t know how I would have coped otherwise…

How did you first come up with the idea of PRYMFACE?

I had known I wanted to do something for ages, I just didn’t know what. I would get really angry about all the stereotypes and discrimination about teenage parents and it didn’t seem like there was anyone just saying ‘so what if you’re young, age has nothing to do with whether you are a good parent or not’. For my dissertation for my MSc I spoke to some absolutely amazing young mums and I just wanted people to acknowledge how hard they had worked, often with no support.

People would say to me ‘you’re the exception to the rule’ and I always think ‘no, its just that you’ve not really heard from other young mums’. Everyone has their own story. They might be working, or studying or at home and I’ve realised that it really doesn’t matter. You don’t need to justify yourself to anyone. It’s not about proving other people wrong, its about proving yourself right, listening to your own instincts and doing what’s right for you. The constant judgment makes us forget that sometimes. So I wanted to set up a website that promoted respect to young mums because that’s what they deserve.

It’s good that there is now more support for young mums but I think there is sometimes this assumption that all young mums need a lot of support, whereas actually there are many young mums that are doing just fine….Prymface is about showing a different ‘face’ of young parents. We are all individuals afterall, and we don’t stay ‘teen’ age for long…

Where do you hope prymface will go in the future?

It’s become a bit of an obsession. I’m not really sure what I would like. The feedback from other young mums has been brilliant. But I’d also like to think we could change other people’s views. It’s tricky because people are so scared of ‘encouraging’ teenage pregnancy but often they don’t realise just how harmful the negative stereotype of ‘teenage parents’ can be. I was really lucky that my college tutor was willing to break all the rules at college and allow me to study part time but normally this wouldn’t have happened. (If it wasn’t for her then I would have had to drop out and then I wouldn’t not gone to uni). I think part of the problem is that the ‘reputation’ of young parents is that they wont commit to studying, so colleges don’t want to take the risk to be a bit more flexible, whereas the reality is the complete opposite!

I do think there is some really good work being done locally to support young parents and counter the negative image and things are getting better, but organisations are often restricted by government targets etc. Often their main focus is to reduce teenage conceptions so for them to then say they will also help or respect young parents can appear to be giving mixed messages if it isn’t understood properly. People want to see everything as black or white, good or bad, but it is much more complex than that. All kinds of girls become parents for all kinds of reasons.

The best thing about prymface for me though has been the young parents I’ve got to know and that when I asked everyone to write letters to their pregnant selves for a local project they ALL did. I guess maybe that’s where prymface should go in the future; feeding into and supporting local organisations and networks. Can you tell I’m making this up as I go along? If you have any ideas let me know!

What motivates you?

I don’t know. When I was pregnant and going to college it was really hard. For various reasons. Nothing since has been that difficult and so I kinda think if I got through that I can get through anything. Having my son has meant that I have always been focused on having goals that improve our lives and provide him with some stability. Even if I appear really scatty, most of the time I know what I’m doing really!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I am so scared to look that far ahead because I hope my son will be at uni or doing something that he loves and then I will have to think about what I want to do without having any responsibilities for the first time in my adult life. Who knows, maybe I wont like being ‘free’ and will start all over again and make some babies! Or maybe I’ll go off the rails and become a homeless alcoholic!

What do you find the most irritating thing in the world?

Judgmental people!


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